India: Supreme Court transgender verdict must lead to repeal of criminalization of homosexuality

Millions of lives would improve thanks to Supreme Court’s recognition of transgender people’s human rights, Amnesty International India said today. 

A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled that discrimination based on gender identity violated constitutionally guaranteed rights to equality, free expression, privacy, autonomy and dignity. The Court directed central and state governments to grant legal recognition to transgender persons’ self-identification as male, female or a ‘third gender’; and put in place affirmative action and social welfare policies for them. 

“This ruling has the potential to significantly alter the lives of people who have suffered oppression for years,” said Shashikumar Velath, Programmes Director of Amnesty International India.   

“It reaffirms constitutional values of inclusion and equality but as long as Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code stays on the books, discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity will remain a threat,” said Shashikumar Velath. 

“With elections ongoing, today’s ruling should provide the impetus for a new government to repeal this absurd law.” 

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which was upheld in a Supreme Court ruling in December 2013, criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct between adults.