Jai Ho! after Winning a Protracted Legal Fight to End Delhi's Ban on Sodomy, Indians Prepare for Their Next Battle: Ensuring the Victory Sticks

Article excerpt


WHEN ANJALI GOPALAN FIRST FILED HER PETITION to end the criminalization of consensual gay sex in New Delhi and the immediate area surrounding the Indian capital, George W. Bush was in his first year in the Oval Office and Slumdog Millionaire wasn't yet a twinkle in director Danny Boyle's eye. But in July the 52-year-old executive director of the nonprofit HIV prevention group Naz Foundation finally tasted victory when the Delhi high court, under Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah, ruled that Section 377, a 148-year-old British colonial law, was unconstitutional.

A renowned AIDS activist honored by India's parliament for her work and short-listed for a Nobel Peace Price in 2005, Gopalan filed a petition in 2001 to repeal the law as a matter of public health, not just civil rights: The stigma of gay sex under a state-sanctioned ban discourages safer-sex practices, she argued. That it took eight years for the high court to consider her petition didn't surprise her. "I never thought we would get this far this fast," Gopalan says. …


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