Vikram Seth leads fight against anti-gay law | india | Hindustan Times
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Vikram Seth leads fight against anti-gay law

Vikram Seth launched a campaign against a legislation making homosexuality a criminal offence in India, saying the country must fight laws that abuse human rights.

india Updated: Sep 22, 2006 12:37 IST

Leading Indian writer Vikram Seth launched a campaign Saturday against legislation making homosexuality a criminal offence in India, saying the country must fight laws that abuse human rights.

In an open letter signed by more than 100 influential Indians and supported by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, Seth said the law banning homosexuality had led to public intolerance and abuse of homosexuals in the country.

"This is why we ... support the overturning of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a colonial-era law dating to 1861, which criminalises romantic love and private, consensual acts between adults of the same sex," the letter said.

The legislation, which came into effect during British rule in India, bans "carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal".

The novelist, who divides his time between India and Britain, said he launched the drive because he was gay.

"The reason why I decided I would participate in this is that I am gay or at least partially gay," Seth, author of the best-selling novels A Suitable Boy and An Equal Music.

Seth, whose writing has touched upon the theme of homosexuality, said the law would affect millions in a country of 1.1 billion people.

"It (homosexuality) has to be discussed, it's going to basically be discussed more and more -- one cannot suppress the happiness of 50 or a 100 million people," he told private NDTV network.

The Delhi High Court is to hear a petition challenging the law next month.

The Indian government, in response to a petition in the Supreme Court, last year said public opinion in the conservative country did not favour a change in the law.

"We want to raise public discussion ahead of the court hearing," gay rights activist Gautam Bhan said of the motive behind the letter.

Other signatories to the letter, to be circulated among members of parliament and the judiciary, include Booker prize winner Arundhati Roy and Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri.

While few prosecutions are brought, activists say police use the law to harass gay people in India where the topic is considered taboo in many communities.