Indian Coming Out Day Date in the current year: July 2, 2024

Indian Coming Out Day Indian Coming Out Day is observed by the Indian LGBTQ+ community and allies on July 2 every year. It commemorates the decision in the 2009 landmark case Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi that decriminalized same-sex sexual activity involving consenting adults throughout the country.

“Carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, i.e. all forms of sexual activity other than heterosexual coitus, was criminalized in India during the British rule according to the Indian Penal Code that was codified in 1860 and came into force in 1862. Interestingly, even though sodomy was sometimes prosecuted in England under common law, it was not actually codified as a crime. The codification of sodomy (“buggery”) first occurred in the British Raj and was then exported to other colonies and even to England itself.

When India gained independence, it inherited the colonial Indian Penal Code. Section 377 of the Code, prohibiting “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, remained in force and was used to prosecute homosexual activity even though it did not explicitly include the word “homosexual”.

The first organization in India to challenge the constitutionality of Section 377 was the HIV/AIDS movement AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan (ABVA). ABVA filed a petition in the High Court of Delhi, but it didn’t lead to anything. Seven year later, the Naz Foundation (India) Trust, another organization focused on sexual health and solving the HIV/AIDS crisis, filed a lawsuit with the same court, seeking to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults.

In 2003, the Delhi High Court refused to consider the lawsuit, claiming that the petitioners had no standing in the matter. Naz Foundation appealed to the Supreme Court that decided the foundation did have the standing and sent the case back to the Delhi High Court. The case eventually came up for hearing in the Delhi High Court in 2009, and on July 2, 2009, a two-judge bench decided that treating consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults as a crime violates the Constitution of India.

This verdict decriminalized homosexual sexual activity involving consenting adults in India. In 2012, the country’s LGBTQ+ community celebrated its anniversary as National Coming Out Day for the first time. The celebration became especially poignant when the Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Delhi High Court in Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Naz Foundation. In the next few years, Indian LGBTQ+ rights organizations celebrated Coming Out Day to protest against the overturn.

Finally, in September 2018, the Supreme Court of India once again decriminalized homosexual sex between consenting adults by its decision in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, as well as banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Of course, there is still a long way to go because Indian LGBTQ+ citizens face various legal and social challenges. India does not recognize same-sex marriage or at least civil unions, same-sex couples cannot adopt, LGBTQ+ individuals are not allowed to serve openly in the military, men who have sex with men are not allowed to donate blood, and there are no hate crime laws including sexual orientation and gender identity. Indian Coming Out Day serves as a reminder that there is much to be done regarding LGBTQ+ rights in India.

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Indian Coming Out Day, Coming Out Day in India, LGBTQ+ observances, observances in India, coming out