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Criminalization of sodomy - Its impact on the LGBT community

Warning: This article contains references to various sexual acts. If you are not comfortable with the same,please feel free to click out of this article.


A sodomy law is essentially a law that defines certain sexual acts to be crimes.


The precise sexual acts meant by the term "sodomy" are rarely spelled out in the law, but are typically understood by courts to include any sexual act deemed to be unnatural or immoral.


More specifically, sodomy is often defined as deviate sexual intercourse, such as non-

reproductive, non-commercial sexual behavior between adults in private.


In the archaic language of India's harsh 1861 law that came to be known as Section 377, finally repealed by the Indian High Court in September 2018.


… Unnatural offences: Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.


Not only does such a law give individuals belonging to the LGBT community a 'bad reputation' due to the criminality of the sex acts associated with them, it also hinders their ability to access medical help for HIV/AIDS due to their aforementioned sexuality.


Sodomy laws are inhumane laws that discriminate against sexual minorities, specifically people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender.


Since their enactment, restrictions against sodomy between unmarried individuals have typically served the purpose of dictating ‘normative heterosexuality.’


In fact, such laws are rarely enforced in the case of married, heterosexual couples engaging in oral or anal sex. Not only are these aforementioned restrictions used in those cases when sexual acts occur between members of the same gender, but they have been used to justify legal discrimination against homosexual people, as well as deny gay men and lesbian women a range of other rights.


The efforts made to repeal such laws that are colonial, archaic and discriminatory in nature is not only to ensure that individuals present within the LGBT community are not associated with 'criminal repute' or 'criminal behaviour' simply due to their sexual identity but also an essential part of the effort to expand HIV services and to reach LGBT persons and communities who continue to be left behind.

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