Gay sex verdict a step backward for India: UN

A decision by the Supreme Court to reinstate a ban on gay sex represents a "significant step backwards for India" and violates international law, United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay said on Thursday, suggesting the case be reheard.

Reuters| Last Updated: Dec 12, 2013, 16:19 PM IST

Geneva: A decision by the Supreme Court to reinstate a ban on gay sex represents a "significant step backwards for India" and violates international law, United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay said on Thursday, suggesting the case be reheard.

In a major blow to gay rights in the world`s largest democracy, the Supreme Court on Wednesday threw out a 2009 ruling by a lower court that had decriminalised gay sex.

"Criminalising private, consensual same-sex sexual conduct violates the rights to privacy and to non-discrimination enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which India has ratified," Pillay said in a statement issued in Geneva.

"Yesterday`s Supreme Court decision in this case represents a significant step backwards for India and a blow for human rights."

The top court stated that only India`s government could change the law, deeming the Delhi High Court had overstepped its powers with the decision four years ago.

Section 377 of India`s penal code bans "sex against the order of nature", which is widely interpreted to mean homosexual sex. The colonial-era rule dates back to the 19th century.

Pillay, who previously served on the high court of her native South Africa, said: "The Supreme Court of India has a long and proud history of defending and expanding protection of human rights. This decision is a regrettable departure from that tradition."

She voiced hope that the court might exercise its review procedure, in effect agreeing to rehear the case before a larger panel of judges.

This would provide an opportunity for judges to reconsider whether the Supreme Court`s initial decision took sufficient account of all relevant arguments, she said.