Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Rights
The term LGBT is a loose acronym denoting lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgenders and is inclusive of all forms of diverse sexualities. The operation of Section 377, Indian Penal Code (1860) that criminalised all forms of non-peno vaginal sexual acts, till recently, remained the biggest impediment to the full expression of sexuality and personhood of LGBTs. In July, 2009, the Delhi High Court in the Naz Foundation v. Government of NCT, Delhi and Others (160 DLT 277) decriminalized adult consensual same sex relations in private, thereby paving the way for the recognition of constitutional rights of equality, liberty and dignity of LGBT persons.
Section 377, IPC was ostensibly applicable to both heterosexuals and homosexuals but it was mostly used as a tool by police to harass, extort and blackmail men having sex with men. It also prevented homosexual men from seeking legal protection; for fear that they would themselves be penalized for sodomy. The law made consent and age of the person irrelevant by imposing a blanket prohibition on all non-peno vaginal sexual acts under the vague rubric of ‘unnatural offences’.
In 2001, the Lawyers Collective on behalf of Naz Foundation (India) Trust, an NGO working on male sexual health and sexual minorities, filed a writ petition in Delhi High Court challenging the constitutionality of Section 377 on grounds of violating right to equality, right to non-discrimination, right to freedom of expression, right to life and personal liberty that included right to privacy, dignity and health. In July 2009, the Delhi High Court held that “Section 377 IPC, insofar it criminalizes consensual sexual acts of adults in private, is violative of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution. ” Read more
15 Special Leave Petitions (SLPs) have been filed against the High Court’s decision in the Supreme Court of India. The Government of India has, however not filed an appeal. A few interventions in support of the judgment have also been filed. On behalf of Naz, the Lawyers Collective has filed a comprehensive counter affidavit against the SLPs. The matter is scheduled to be heard on 19th April 2011.
In another case, the Lawyers Collective moved the Allahabad High Court to defend the right to equality and non-discrimination of a gay University Professor. Read more
Besides, the Unit provides legal aid and representation to lesbian and transgender persons, who predominantly complain of intimidation and violence by the family, gender discrimination including access to sex re-assignment and detention on charges of begging or causing public nuisance. The Unit also conducts sessions on law and rights of LGBT persons, on request