India’s Supreme Court Says Sexual Orientation Is a Fundamental Right

India’s Supreme Court Says Sexual Orientation Is a Fundamental Right

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We’ve got some great news out of India. Thursday, India’s Supreme Court ruled sexual orientation is covered under the clauses in the Indian Constitution relating to liberty. The Court also affirmed the right to privacy in spite of the Indian government claiming no such legal right exists.

The Court ruled:

“Sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy.

“Discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual. Equality demands that the sexual orientation of each individual in society must be protected on an even platform.”

The ruling will likely cause India to amend some of its laws. One of the laws in question is Section 377 of the penal code. Due to its vague language about sexual activity “against the order of nature,” the section is considered to ban homosexual sex, with a potential penalty of life imprisonment.

The government argued the constitution didn’t include a right to privacy. The issue of privacy has been in the Indian news, as the country has launched Aadhaar. Aadhaar is a identification program which collects retinal scans and fingerprints to assign each Indian citizen a 12-digit identification number.

Whether or not the privacy element will have much effect remains to be seen. Though the government says it will respect the ruling, Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s Law and Justice Minister said “The right to privacy is not absolute. It is to be determined on a case by case basis.”

Though the ruling may change things in the future, currently same-sex marriage is illegal in India. However, India does legally recognize Hijras as having a third gender. Hiras are people who in Western society would be considered transgender — but there’s culturally more to it than that.

The ruling does not directly overturn laws criminalizing same-sex relationships — however, the wording makes clear the Court does not stand for discrimination. Presumably, should any discriminatory laws come before the Court, they’ll strike them down.


Photo by Jedraszak via iPhoto

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