India's Anti-Gay Ruling is Setback in Fight for Equality

Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images

When you compare our time to other, much darker periods in human history, the 21st century is not that bad.

But then other things happen that, frankly, make me think we are actually back in the 16th century, or before that even.

Just look at what happened in India today.

The Indian Supreme Court overruled a lower court's decision that intended to decriminalize homosexual conduct, i.e. gay sex. According to the judges, only legislators - and not the judicial system - could alter the law that censors homosexuality; a law that dates back to the 1860's when India was a British colony.

This means that gay sex is now punishable in India with up to a decade in jail.

Today's ruling is a historic defeat in the fight for equality in the world.

In 2008 the United Nations told Indian leaders that decriminalizing homosexuality would help the fight against HIV and AIDS. India had in fact lowered new infection rates in recent years, but with the this week's reinstatement of the ban on homosexuality, they're also putting their people's health at risk.

It is the world largest democracy. And it will now be added to the list of at least 75 countries that have laws discriminating and harassing the LGBT community or outright banning gay sex.

The Washington Post created a map to show which countries have anti-gay laws on the books. Countries in gray, pink and red are ones with discriminatory anti-LGBT laws. As you can see, being gay is censored in most of Africa. With India in the mix, now most of the Middle East and southeast Asia are anti-gay as well. Many of these countries actively persecute gay men and women.

If you add Russia to the list, that map is going to start looking awfully anti-gay.

The question, of course, is what is driving this new wave of anti-gay discrimination. Sadly, some of these countries have cultural or religious prejudices. But others have simply chosen to take institutional stands against the freedoms of gay and lesbian men and women. That should be unacceptable.

Jeff Krehely, the Chief Foundation Officer of the organization Human Rights Campaign, had this to say:

“It is incomprehensible that a court of law would take the side of discrimination against LGBT citizens. Criminalizing LGBT relationships leads to dangerous situations, not just for committed couples, but also for LGBT youth, who today received a deeply harmful message that they are less than equal.”

He's right.

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