Indian government may review ban on gay sex

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The Indian government must take swift action to challenge a Supreme Court decision banning gay sex, its law minister has said.

Kapil Sibal said he was in favour of decriminalising homosexuality, hinting that the government could seek a judicial review of Wednesday’s court decision or that Parliament could enact a new law.

“We need to take quick and firm action,” he told reporters, noting that millions of people in India do not want homosexuality to be a criminal offence.

The Supreme Court ruled that only MPs could change a colonial-era law that bans same-sex relations and makes them punishable by up to a decade in prison.

The ruling dealt a blow to gay activists who have fought for years for the chance to live openly in India’s deeply conservative society.

Sonia Gandhi, chief of the governing Congress party, also lent support to the activists and expressed her disappointment with the court order.

“I hope Parliament will address this issue and uphold the constitutional guarantee of life and liberty to all citizens of India, including those directly affected by this judgment,” she said.

India’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community reacted to the decision with defiance.

“We cannot be forced back into the closet,” said activist Gautam Bhan. “We are not backing off from our fight against discrimination.”