India order on gays a transformational step: Canadian media

TORONTO - The Canadian media has welcomed the decriminalization of homosexuality in India, calling it a transformational step for the entire third world.

In an editorial titled ‘India overcomes an archaism,’ the respected Globe and Mail said Friday: “The idea that the state has no place in a nation’s bedrooms, and that homosexuals are entitled to the same dignity as any other human beings, is about to transform India, as it has transformed Canada and other western democracies.

The rest of the developing world still lies ahead.”

The paper said the Delhi High Court has struck a blow for progressive ideas in India. “Homosexual sex was a crime throughout India until yesterday, when the New Delhi High Court ruled that provision unconstitutional.

“It was an archaic provision - rooted in a bizarre definition of ‘unnatural offences’ - and yet it was on the books in Western countries until recently,” the editorial said.

In the face of widespread changes sweeping the globe, the editorial said, “India’s defence of its archaic law wilted under scrutiny. Each argument made by the country’s home affairs ministry - that gay sex is immoral according to the majority in India, and that allowing it would lead to a flood of flagrant homosexuality, with a resulting rise in HIV-AIDS - was quickly shot down by the New Delhi court, citing court decisions in Canada and other democracies.

“Even the country’s Health and Welfare ministry argued in court against the Home Affairs ministry, saying that criminalizing gay sex drives it underground, and leads to more HIV-AIDS, not less.”

The paper said, “The ascendant idea now is that the state must not undermine human dignity by singling out homosexuals for different treatment. Its time has come in India, and its travels are far from over.”

Tracing the journey of anti-sodomy laws, the editorial said gay sex was recorded as a crime by English common law as far back as 1290. Anyone engaging in homosexuality was burnt alive.

By the 1500s, gay sex was penalized by hanging under the Buggery Act of 1533. The death penalty remained until 1861, the same year the ‘unnatural offences’ proscription against gay sex was introduced in British India, the editorial wrote.

Canada decriminalized homosexuality in 1969 and legalized same-sex marriages in 2003.

But anti-sodomy laws stayed in the US as recently as 1986. Those laws continued in 13 states until 2003 when the US supreme court struck them down, the l editorial said.

It lamented that even the World Health Organization kept homosexuality on its list of mental disorders as late as 1992.

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