One of India’s top hoteliers has decided to take the fight for the decriminalisation of gay sex to India’s top court.
Keshav Suri, executive director of The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, filed a petition with the supreme court on April 23 challenging Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that criminalises a consensual relationship between consenting adults of the same sex. The court has agreed to hear his plea and has sought a response from the government.
The 33-year-old Suri is the son of the late hotelier, Lalit Suri, the founding chairman and owner of Bharat Hotels, which runs the Lalit Suri Hospitality Group. The company runs close to a dozen luxury properties in Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Bengaluru, London, and other cities.
Suri reportedly identifies himself as a part of India’s LGBTQ community and is understood to be living with a partner of the same sex. He wants India to allow an individual the right to choose his or her partner.
His counsel told the supreme court on April 23 that the “petitioner himself has suffered mentally and been stigmatised on account of his sexual orientation at personal and professional fronts…”
India criminalises “unnatural” sexual intercourse under Section 377. Under this law, “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.”
Members of the LGBTQ community also face severe harassment in India’s widely conservative society. So much so that the associated taboo makes it hard for them to get equal job opportunities or pursue an open lifestyle. Indeed, homophobia costs the country billions of dollars, a 2014 World Bank report said.
Section 377 was drafted by India’s British administration in the 1860s, and there have been many attempts in recent years to have it scrapped, citing it as a direct violation of the fundamental rights promised under the constitution.
In 2013, the country’s LGBTQ community suffered a blow after the supreme court overturned a 2009 order by the Delhi high court that sought to legalise gay sex. However, the supreme court is now considering reviewing the section after a group of five petitioners again sought to get it scrapped in January this year.