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Gay-sex law sent to India’s justices

NEW DELHI — India’s government on Wednesday asked the country’s top court to rule on whether to repeal or keep a contentious law that criminalizes homosexual acts.

Government attorney Tushar Mehta asked the court to rule on the issue of consensual sexual acts between two adults.

He urged the five justices not to widen the scope of the court decision to issues like gay marriages, adoption and inheritance.

The Supreme Court is hearing petitions by activists challenging the law that makes gay sex punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

“We leave to the wisdom of the court to deal with the validity of Section 377 (of the penal code) so far as it relates to consensual sexual acts between two adults,” the Press Trust of India news agency quoted Mehta as telling the five justices hearing the matter.

The justices said the court would test the validity of the law in relation to consensual sexual acts between two adults. They said that if they decided to strike the law down, they would also remove the ban on homosexuals joining the defense services, contesting elections or forming associations, the Press Trust of India reported.

Activists cheered in 2009 when the New Delhi High Court declared the law unconstitutional. But the judgment was overturned in 2013 when the Supreme Court decided that repealing the law should be left to Parliament, not the judiciary.

Over the past decade, homosexuals have gained a larger degree of acceptance in India, especially in big cities. Still, being gay is largely seen as shameful for people in most of the country.

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