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India Supreme Court to hear homosexuality decriminalization challenge

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of India [official website] on Thursday accepted a petition challenging a lower court ruling declaring [JURIST report] India's anti-sodomy law unconstitutional. Sushil Kumar Kaushal asked the Court to set aside a ruling [judgment, PDF] by the Delhi High Court [official website], which found that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code [text, PDF], outlawing "carnal conduct against the order of nature," runs counter to Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Article 21 of the Indian Constitution [text, PDF]. In his petition, Kaushal argued that decriminalizing homosexual conduct will increase the spread of HIV, and will lead to calls to legalize beastiality. Chief Justice of India Konakuppakatil Balakrishnan [official profile] asked the Indian government and the Naz Foundation [advocacy website], the plaintiff in the original case, to appear during a scheduled July 20 hearing. The Delhi court's ruling is binding only in the Union Territory of Delhi [official website], while the Supreme Court's ruling would be binding nationwide.

The criminalization of homosexuality has been a divisive issue around the world. In April, an appeals court in Senegal ordered the release [JURIST report] of nine members of AIDS awareness group AIDES Senegal who had been convicted of sodomy and sentenced to eight years in prison. In November, the parliament of Burundi voted to criminalize homosexuality, a move condemned [JURIST reports] by human rights groups. In December, the UN General Assembly [official website] was divided [press release; JURIST report] over the issue as 66 nations signed a statement calling for decriminalization, and nearly 60 nations signed an opposing statement.

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