India: Legal gay sex ruling challenged

A landmark ruling that legalized gay sex between consenting partners in India was challenged Thursday in the country's high court, lawyers said.

The supreme court issued a notice to the nonprofit Naz Foundation that had won a lower-court verdict after a seven-year legal fight to decriminalize gay sex.

Notices also were issued to the federal government and the New Delhi high court, which ruled last week that consensual sex between partners of the same gender was legal.

An astrologer filed a petition challenging the ruling. The petitioner argued that no constitutional right is violated by the Indian penal code's Section 377, which had outlawed gay sex, said his lawyer Praveen Agrawal.

The petition also cited Indian culture and health as grounds for seeking a stay on last week's ruling, he said.

The supreme court posted the next hearing for July 20.

Last week's ruling meant the law -- Indian penal code section 377, which had previously criminalized consensual homosexual acts between adults -- was partly struck down but remains in place as far as forced homosexual acts are concerned.

The verdict affects law enforcement all around India because it deals with a law enacted by the federal parliament.

India's Ministry of Home Affairs opposed changes to the law on grounds that decriminalizing homosexual conduct would "open the floodgates of delinquent behavior."

But Human Rights Watch called the ruling "a victory for basic rights to privacy, non-discrimination and liberty."

UNAIDS, the joint United Nations program on AIDS, also applauded the ruling, saying it restored dignity and human rights.

It was not immediately clear whether the ruling would eventually lead to legalization of gay marriages in the country.

"This, I think, will be the next level of demand from the gay community," Jaisingh said.

Jaisingh said she had fought for legalization of homosexuality for seven years on behalf of the Naz Foundation. The group says its "primary aim is to improve the sexual health and human rights of marginalized males who have sex with males, their partners and families in South Asia and elsewhere."

Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh leaders had warned that they will oppose moves to decriminalize homosexuality.

(Published by CNN - July 10, 2009)

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