India same sex reform is the “single most significant” in world history, says LGBT campaigner

Friday, September 7, 2018

An LGBT campaigner has called India’s same sex relations law reforms the ‘most significant’ gay law reform in “world history”.

Longtime human rights and LGBT campaigner Peter Tatchell has said that India legalising same sex relations will have an impact “all across the region”.

Talking to James Whale on talkRADIO, he said: “This is probably the single most significant gay law reform in world history, in that the decriminalisation of homosexuality in India removes the threat of prosecution and imprisonment from nearly 20% of the world’s entire gay population that’s because India is such a huge country with 1.3 billion people.

“The second thing to say, of course, is that it does mean that this will send a signal throughout all those former British colonies that have retained anti-gay laws similar to India, that legal change is the right thing to do because the constitutional position agreed by the Supreme Court was that this law against same sex consenting adult relations was not only a violation against human rights, but also against the internationally agreed principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination, including those enshrined in India’s own constitution."

He added: “It is a terrific day and it’s really going to have an impact all across the region because all the surrounding countries have similar laws; Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore.

“I think the chances of decriminalisation in those countries, I’m not going to say it will happen soon, is definitely going to increase and it’s going to really inspire and empower people both LGBT people to push for changes in those countries as well.”


'Britain imported these laws'

Activists in India celebrate the change in the law. Image: Getty

The law, which made same sex relations punishable by up to life imprisonment, was exported into Indian law during British colonisation.

“Britain did export these laws, these anti-gay laws to dozens of countries around the world,” said Tatchell.

“There are still 35 commonwealth countries that criminalise same sex relations, and a further 35 non-commonwealth countries who do the same, so a total of 70 countries that still have laws against consenting adults same sex relations.

“Theresa May, to give her the credit, at my request and the request of others, in April at the Commonwealth summit in London she did express regret for Britain’s role in exporting these laws, because none of these countries had anti-gay laws prior to the advent of British colonisation.

“In fact in India there’s a very strong tradition of embracing same sex relations if you go to some of the ancient Hindu temples you will see remnants of the relieved sculptures that celebrate gay sex, I say remnants because when the British arrived, they smashed many of them because they thought it was disgusting that Indian culture should celebrate sexual relations of the same gender.”


'Gay people could be sentenced to death' 

While the law reform in India saw the LGBT in the streets celebrating, Tatchell has said that it is "scary" that some countries in the Commonwealth can sentence people to death for being gay. 

 “Well, there are certainly parts of Nigeria, Pakistan and Brunei, although the laws are unclear where Sharia law prevails. In theory, gay people could be sentenced to death, and that’s pretty scary because the Commonwealth is supposed to be an association of nations committed to universal human rights, equal treatment and non-discrimination.”