Journal of South Asia Women Studies

Inclusive Rights: On Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code on Sexual Activities

Editorial Note by Enrica Garzilli

On December 11, 2013 the Supreme Court of India, the so-called “world's largest democracy”, has overturned the judgment of the High Court of Delhi of July 2, 2009, which had declared unconstitutional Chapter XVI, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code dating back to 1861, during the British Raj, which criminalized sexual activities "against the order of nature", including homosexual acts.1

The news raised a big debate not only among LGBT organizations all over the world and in media, but within India. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came out strongly in support of Section 377. The party chief Rajnath Singh in an interview to the Telegraph said that "we will state that we support Section 377 because we believe that homosexuality is an unnatural act and cannot be supported".2 Congress chief Sonia Gandhi issued a statement on the verdict saying that she felt “disappointed that the Supreme Court has reversed a previous Delhi High Court ruling on the issue of gay rights” hoping that “Parliament will address this issue and uphold the constitutional guarantee of life and liberty to all citizens of India, including those directly affected by this judgment”.3

On December 12, 2012 the new Aam Aadmi Party issued a declaration that “it is disappointed with the judgment of the Supreme Court upholding the Section 377 of the IPC and reversing the landmark judgment of the Delhi High Court on the subject. The Supreme Court judgment thus criminalizes the personal behavior of consenting adults”.4

In my opinion, the Indian Parliament will not resolve the matter soon. However, I think that gay rights, which were hardly discussed in India before the Supreme Court’s judgment, have finally become a political issue and entered the arena of the public debate. This is the very positive side of the issue.

In this issue you can read the paper “European Union and Empowerment of Women in Afghanistan: Issues and Challenges” by Sheetal Sharma. This paper attempts to delineate that empowerment of women is important to make them active participants and stakeholders in the process of reconstruction of war torn-Afghanistan, although the concept of empowerment cannot be defined in abstraction and cannot be applied universally. Dr. Sharma is Assistant Professor at the Centre for European Studies, School of International Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi, India). She has published articles on social and cultural issues in contemporary Europe and South Asia, multiculturalism and diversity, and gender issues.

The paper “Deconstructing Social Media in India” by Alessandro Cisilin analyzes the role of social networks in India, debunking the myth of the impact of the fast-growing IT sector on poverty reduction. Dr. Cisilin is currently a journalist working for the Italian radio news agency Area. He holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris, France). He has written scientific articles for Cambridge University Press, L'Harmattan, Franco Angeli, Feltrinelli. He collaborates to newspapers such as Il Fatto Quotidiano and the monthly Galatea European Magazine .


  1. Supreme Court of India, Suresh Kumar Koushal and another vs NAZ Foundation and others. (PDF)
  2. The Telegraph, BJP comes out, vows to oppose homosexuality.
  3. First Post, Full text: Sonia Gandhi’s statement on SC verdict on Section 377.
  4. Aam Aadmi Party, Aam Aadmi Party's Statement on Supreme Court judgement upholding Section 377. The Hindu,Going against the tide of history.