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US voices 'concern' at India gay sex ban

December 12, 2013

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“We oppose any action that criminalises consensual same-sex conduct between adults,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.  — File Photo
“We oppose any action that criminalises consensual same-sex conduct between adults,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. — File Photo

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday voiced concern about a ruling by India's Supreme Court which reinstated a colonial-era ban on gay sex which could see same-sex lovers imprisoned.

“We oppose any action that criminalises consensual same-sex conduct between adults,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. “The United States places great importance on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people. And ... that includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons around the world.”

A two-judge bench in India earlier Wednesday struck down a landmark 2009 Delhi High Court ruling which had found that a section of the Indian penal code prohibiting “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” was an infringement of Indians' fundamental rights.

The bench ruled Wednesday that the High Court had overstepped its authority and that an 1860 law passed by the British was still valid.

“Any action that criminalises consensual same-sex conduct between adults that doesn't recognize that fundamental freedoms of people include their right to sexual orientation - those are issues that we certainly would be concerned about,” Psaki added.

US concerns had been expressed to Indian authorities, she added.

The court ruling came a day after Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh met with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington.

The ministers had discussed ways to deepen the US-India partnership, and Washington had also accepted an invitation to serve as a partner country for India's technology summit and expo in New Delhi in late 2014, Psaki said.

Gay sex has long been a taboo subject in conservative India, where homophobic tendencies abound and many still regard being gay as a mental illness.