Home Institution

Whitman College

Publication Date

Spring 2012

Program Name

India: Sustainable Development and Social Change


Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was created in 1860 and outlawed “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.” In the following years, even after independence, India used Section 377 to prosecute child sexual abusers. While the law was rarely used to prosecute adult same-sex intercourse, it created widespread homophobia and harassment for LGBT Indians. Finally, in 2001 the Naz Foundation filed a petition against Section 377. On July 2, 2009 the Delhi High Court struck down Section 377 in its application to adult consensual same-sex intercourse. The decision sparked celebration within the LGBT community, a massive media response, and widespread public discussion. This paper studies the impact of the 2009 decriminalization of homosexuality upon the gay community in Delhi. Beginning with harassment and discrimination before 2009, this study then looks at the level of increased self-confidence, social awareness, visibility in public spaces, decreased discrimination, and continued struggles that arose out of the court decision. In addition, this paper analyzes whether law or society causes social change and creates recognition of a marginalized group. Information was gathered for this project in April 2012, through background research and individual interviews with activists, lawyers, kothi and gay men.


Family, Life Course, and Society | Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Politics and Social Change | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration