This decision overturns a 2009 Delhi High Court ruling that decriminalized homosexuality in the world’s second most populated nation. India’s top court also said only lawmakers can repeal the colonial-era sodomy law that has been in place since 1860.
NDTV reported LGBT rights advocates who had gathered outside the court began to cry when they heard the ruling. Others gathered in the streets of Mumbai to protest the decision.
NDTV said the Naz Foundation Trust, an HIV/AIDS advocacy group that sought to overturn the sodomy law, plans to challenge the ruling.
“It is a tragedy that this judgment forgets the vision of the founders of the Indian republic which was so eloquently captured by the Delhi High Court,” a group of Indian LGBT advocates that includes Voices Against 377 and the Alternative Law Forum said in a statement.
Sapna Pandya, president of KhushDC, a group for LGBT South Asians who live in the Washington metropolitan area, also criticized the decision.
“Today’s ruling is a setback,” Pandya said.
Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association applauded the ruling.
“What India’s Supreme Court has done is entirely right,” he said on his Twitter account. “Homosexual conduct should be contrary to public policy everywhere.”
More than 70 countries continue to criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity. Homosexuality remains punishable by death in Mauritania, Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and northern Nigeria.
“To criminalize the criminalization of LGBT status is not cultural imperialism,” said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power on Tuesday as she spoke to a group of LGBT rights advocates the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission brought to the U.N. for the 65th anniversary of the ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “To deny gays and lesbians the right to live freely and to threaten them with discrimination and even death is not a form of moral or religious Puritanism. It’s in fact barbarism.”
President Obama earlier in the day made a veiled reference to anti-gay persecution during his speech at the memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela.