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India reinstates gay sex ban

India's Supreme Court on Wednesday reinstated a colonial-era law banning gay sex, which had been thrown out by a lower court in 2009.

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Indian activists console each other during a protest against the Supreme Court ruling reinstating a ban on gay sex, in Mumbai on December 11, 2013. India's Supreme Court reinstated a colonial-era ban on gay sex on that could see homosexuals jailed for up to ten years in a major setback for rights campaigners in the world's biggest democracy. (PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images)

India's Supreme Court on Wednesday reinstated a colonial-era law banning gay sex, which had been thrown out by a lower court in 2009.

The ruling was seen as a major setback for gay rights in the world's largest democracy and shocked activists, who had expected the court to uphold the decision made four years ago.

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"We see this as a betrayal of the very people the court is meant to defend and protect," said Arvind Narayan, one of the lawyers representing the consortium of gay rights groups that was defending the 2009 judgment.

"In our understanding, the Supreme Court has always sided with those who have no rights."

Section 377 of India's penal code — a 153-year-old colonial law — bans "sex against the order of nature," which is widely considered to mean gay sex. Anyone who breaks the law can receive a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

"One would never expect the Supreme Court of India to make such a retrograde order, that is so against the trend internationally," said rights lawyer Colin Gonsalves.

"This takes us back to the dark ages. This is a day of mourning for us in India."

According to the Supreme Court's Wednesday ruling, the law, passed by the British in 1861, can only be changed by Parliament. But both those for and against it agree that there is no chance the Parliament will act when the Supreme Court did not.

And with conservative Hindu nationalist group Bharatiya Janata Party expected to win India's national elections this spring, the possibility of any legislative change happening for years is considered highly unlikely by analysts.

In an apparent protest against the Supreme Court decision, suspected hackers posted the phrase "supremecourt is so gay" on Pepsi India's Twitter account on Wednesday. The post has since been deleted and Pepsi India said its account had been "compromised."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/india/131211/india-reinstates-gay-sex-ban