Saturday, August 16, 2008

Gays in India seek British apology for law

Gay activists in India say they want Britain to apologize for introducing anti-sodomy laws that still makes homosexuality illegal there.

Organizers were to call for an apology during their first gay pride march Saturday in Mumbai. It is part of a campaign to abolish Section 377 of the Indian penal code outlawing "unnatural sexual offenses,"

Indian law, adopted when Britain ruled the country, calls for up to 10 years in prison for engaging in oral or anal sex, the newspaper reported. India has kept the law since gaining its independence in 1947.

Gay rights campaigners also argue that because Section 377 enshrines homophobia in India's legal systems it also legitimises the continued repression of gay men and women in wider Indian society.

A draft copy of the statement accuses Britain of exporting homophobia during the 19th century when colonial administrators began enforcing Victorian laws and morals on their Indian subjects. It reads: "We call on the British Government to apologise for the immense suffering that has resulted from their imposition of Section 377. And we call on the Indian government to abandon this abhorrent alien legacy of the Raj that should have left our shores when the British did."

Gay rights activists argue that Hindu, Buddhist and early Muslim cultures on the subcontinent had a long history of tolerance towards same-sex relationships.