B-64 Second Floor
Sarvodya Enclave
New Delhi 110017

Date: 2 Sep 2008


Shri Hansraj Bharadwaj
Honourable Minister for Law & Justice
Ministry of Law and Justice,
4th Floor, A-Wing, Shastri Bhawan
New Delhi-110001

SubDecriminalisation of adult and consensual same-sex sexual acts by reading down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

RefGays have no legal rights: ministry”, Hindustan Times, 28 Aug 2008.”

Dear Sir

We write to you as child rights groups, groups working on issues of child sexual abuse, women’s groups, sexual rights groups including groups working for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, NGOs working on a range of issues including health and HIV/AIDS prevention, human rights groups and concerned citizens from across the country.

This bears reference to a newspaper report titled “Gays have no legal rights: ministry”, published in the Hindustan Times on 28 Aug 2008. It reports the Law Ministry’s opposition to “scrapping of section 377 of the Indian Penal Code” and quotes an unnamed senior Law Ministry official thus, “… it [S. 377] acts as an effective deterrent against paedophiles and those with sick minds”.

We write this letter to clarify some common misconceptions and to humbly urge you to view the matter more favourably please.

  1. The PIL in the Delhi High Court related to S. 377 does not ask for its repeal. It seeks to read down the section in order only to remove consenting sexual acts between adults from its purview. In terms of such reading down, it would still be possible to prosecute instances of child sexual abuse under (an amended) S. 377.

  2. S. 377 is not an effective deterrent against paedophiles. S. 377 was not intended to prosecute child sexual abuse, but has served as a partial means to do so in the absence of a specific law on the subject. While it has been used to deal with child sexual abuse that involve non penile-vaginal penetration, for example, penile penetration of the anus, it cannot be used to respond to other rampant forms of abuse, such as fondling, penetration with objects, fingers, etc. Unfortunately, such grave abuses in the case of girls, can only be prosecuted under S. 354 IPC (a lesser offence onoutraging modesty), that has much lower punishment or at most, under S. 319 or 320 (for simple or grievous hurt), both very inadequate for addressing the offence in question. Likewise, most sexual abuse for boys would only be prosecuted inadequately if at all, under simple or grievous hurt, mentioned above. Therefore, and at best, in cases of child sexual abuse S. 377 is effective only in partial legal recourse.

    In this context, we the undersigned are concerned about the absence of a comprehensive law on child sexual abuse. For child sexual abuse to be addressed in all its dimensions, for children to be protected and for child molesters and paedophiles to be dealt with appropriately, there is an urgent need for a new law. Retaining an outdated and unjust Victorian law (S. 377) that was not designed to address child sexual abuse, but has due the absence of such a law served to provide an inadequate and partial legal remedy is not the solution.

    The legislative scheme of section 377, 354, and 376 are grossly inadequate to cover the range of sexual violence that children and women are subject to. Recognising the lacunae in the present framework, the 172nd Law Commission Report and the National Commission for Women in its ‘Recommendation on Amendments to Laws Relating to Rape and Related Provisions’, recommended the deletion of section 377.

In view of the injustice resulting from the absence of law on child sexual abuse, as well as injustice resulting from the criminalization of adult, consensual sex by S.377, we urge your support and urgent action in this matter of public interest.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely,

On behalf of

1. Astitva, An NGO for Rights of Sexual Minorities, Mumbai

2. AALI, Association for Advocacy and Legal Initiative, U.P

3. Aangan, An NGO for children and Youth in state run Institutions

4. Askios, Group for adult survivors of child abuse, Bangalore

5. Arpan, Spreading awareness to Prevent and Heal Child Sexual Abuse, Mumbai

6. Akshara, Women’s Organization, Mumbai

7. Child Rights, Mumbai

8. CEHAT ,Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes, Mumbai

9. Enfold, Health Trust, Bangalore

10. India Centre for Human Rights and Law, Mumbai

11. Centre for Women’s Development Studies  (research institute under ICSSR), New Delhi

12. CREA, Women’s Organization, New Delhi

13. Gujarat State AIDS Control Society (GSACS)

14. Indian Association for Women’s Studies (National association of academics, activists and professionals engaged in the field of women’s studies and established in 1982)

15. LABIA, Lesbians and Bisexuals in Action, Mumbai

16. Mitr Trust, MSM Organization, New Delhi

17. Nigah Media Collective, New Delhi

18. Nirantar, Centre for Gender and Education, New Delhi

19. Nation MSM & HIV, Policy, Advocacy, and Human Rights Task Force

20. Network of Asia pacific Youth, Bangkok

21. Partners for Law in Development, New Delhi

22. People Like Us (PLUS), Kolkata

23. People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), Delhi

24. Point of View, Gender and Media Collective, Mumbai

25. Population Foundation of India

26. PRTHOMA, An NGO for transgender community, Kolkatta

27. Recovery and Healing from Incest (RAHI), New Delhi

28. Sahayatrika, An NGO for sexual minorities and women, Kerala

29. SAHAYOG, a group working on gender equality and women’s health, U.P

30. Saheli, Women’s Organization, New Delhi

31. Sama, Women’s Organization, New Delhi

32. SUTRA, Community based NGO, Himachal Pradesh

33. TARSHI(Talking About Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues), working towards expanding Sexual and Reproductive choices

34. Vikalp, Women’s Organization, Baroda

36 WeMove Foundation for Performing Arts, Bangalore.

37 Women’s Centre, Bombay

38. Healthwatch Forum,

34.Youth for Change, Uttar Pradesh

35. Zubaan, Feminist Publishing House, New Delhi


1. Abha Iyengar, Writer and Poet, New Delhi

2. Abhay Dang ,Student, IIT Roorkee

3. Abhijit Majumder, Research Fellow,IIT Kanpur

4. Amit Varma, Writer, Mumbai

5. Ammel Sharon, Student, Tata Institute of Social Sciences

6. Anindita Sengupta, Freelance Writer, Bangalore

7. Anita Vasudev. Writer and Consultant, New Delhi

8. Annie Zaidi, Writer and Journalist, Mumbai

9. Anu Malhotra, Share Trader, Mumbai

10. Ashim Lal, Marketing Head in a leading IT MNC, New Delhi

11. Atiya Bose,Child Rights activist, New Delhi

12. Chandni Parekh-Psychologist,Mumbai

13. Commander Balaji Masilamani, Bangalore

14. Dr. Dominic Franks, Copywriter, New Delhi

15. Debraj Roy,Junior Research Fellow,SN Bose National Centre for BasicSciences,Kolkata

16. Deepika Tandon, Lecturer, Miranda House, Delhi University

17. Dhoundup Dolma Bhotia, Delhi

18. Dina Mehta, Market Researcher, Mumbai

19. Dr. Sarada Balagopalan,Associate Fellow,CSDS

20. E. Venkat, Investment Banker, New Delhi

21. Elizabeth Thomas, Graphic designer, New Delhi

22. Gaurav Gogoi,Student,Master’s of Public Administration, New York University

23. Gita Sahni, Designer, New Delhi

24. Gowri Sinha, Consultant, New Delhi

25. Himanshu Verma,Director, Red Earth

26. Iona Sinha, Communication Professional, New Delhi

27. Ishieta Chopra, Researcher and Consultant, New Delhi

28. Jai Talwar, Advertising Professional, Mumbai

29. Joanita Pinto, Writer, Mumbai

30. Manjula Padmanabhan, Author/Artist, New Delhi.

31. Mohua Chaterjee, Writer and Mother, New Delhi

32. Niti Saxena, Consultant – Human Rights (Women and Child Protection), Lucknow

33. Parvathi Menon, Lecturer in Law, Bangalore

34. Pawan Sony, Writer, Mumbai

35. Peter Griffin, Writer, Journalist, Communications Consultant, Bombay

36. Ipsita Pal Bhowmick

37. Kapil Advani, Chartered Accountant, New Delhi

38. Kumkum Roy,Centre for Historical Studies, School of Social Sciences, JNU
Leena Uppal Thongam,Development Professional, Guwahati

39. Lesley A. Esteves, Journalist, New Delhi

40. Naman P. Ahuja,Associate Professor,Indian Art and Architecture,School of Arts and Aesthetics,Jawaharlal Nehru University

41. Pramada Menon, Activist, New Delhi

42. Nivedita Menon- Professor SIS, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

43. Nupur Chaturvedi, Entrepreneur and Writer, Gurgaon

44. Priyanka Mukherjee, Social Worker, New Delhi

45. Priyanki Mehta, HR professional

46. Rachana Kamtekar, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Arizona

47. Rachna Chawla, Educator and Trainer, New Delhi

48. Rahi Goswami, HR Counsultant, Gurgaon

49. Rahul Rao,Lecturer, School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London

50. Rajnish Mehra

51. Ram Rahman, New Delhi, Photographer and Activist

52. Ramachandra Guha, historian and writer

53. Rashmi Dhanwani, Media Professional, Mumbai

54. Ritambhara, Student, New Delhi

55. Ritu Bhatia, Writer, New Delhi

56. Ritu Chugh, Media Professional, New Delh

57. Rohini Kandhari,Documentation Consultant (Health), New Delhi

58. Saleem Kidwai, Historian, Lucknow

59. Salim Yusufji

60. Sandeep Kumar Singh

61. Sandeep Vegad, Social Worker, Bangalore

62. Sanghamitra Chowdhury, Software Professional, Kolkata

63. Sharmi Surianarain

64. Shelly Jain, Training Consultant, New Delhi

65. Shivangini Tandon, Social Worker, Mumbai

66. Shrimoyee Nandini Ghosh, Lawyer, New Delhi

67. Shubra Chaturvedi, Media Professional, New Delhi

68. Sophia Kamaruddin,Trichur, Kerala.

69. Sophie Murphy, Journalist, New Delhi

70. Sreela Das Gupta, Activist

71. Suchetana Ghosh,,Research scholar & activist,Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

72. Suchitra Chari,Social Worker,Melbourne

73. Sunita Bhadauria, Documenter, New Delhi

74. Supriya Varma,Associate Professor,Centre for Historical Studies,School of Social Sciences,Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

75. Sushmit Ghosh

76. Svati P. Shah, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Duke University, USA

77. Thomas Joseph, Aid Worker, New Delhi

78. Trisha Gupta,PhD student and Freelance Writer, New Delhi

79. Trupti Chengalath Sreedharan, Researcher, Bangalore

80. Udayan Dhar,SGSITS Indore

81. Udit Bhatia,DPS, RK Puram

82. Vibha Mitra, Education Trainer, Kolkata

83. Vidhu Singh, College Professor/Theatre Director, New Delhi

84. Vineet Trikha, Trainer

85. Vipin,Director (Ashoka’s youth venture)



Shri Shivraj V. Patil
Union Home Minister
Room 103
North block
New delhi 110001

Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss
Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare
Ministry of Health & Family Welfare
Nirman Bhavan
Maulana Azad Road
New Delhi – 110011


The Prime Minister
South Block, Raisina Hill,
New Delhi,
India-110 011
14 October 2008

Minister for Health and Family Welfare
Minister for Home Affairs
Minister for Law and Justice


Ever since the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships were first given to Indian students in 1947, its recipients have contributed in many different ways to the progress of India, in education, the civil service, science, and business. We, the undersigned, belong to this diverse community of Indian Rhodes Scholars but write in our individual capacity as Indian citizens with a commitment to public service and the fundamental principles of the Indian constitution — liberty, equality, justice, and the dignity of the individual. We believe that it is clear what these principles demand of us today: to join the growing body of concerned citizens that calls for the decriminalisation of consensual sex between adults of the same sex by the reading down of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

As the historic case over the constitutionality of Section 377 now awaits the attention of the Delhi High Court, we write to register our profound disagreement with the language of the Additional Solicitor General P. P. Malhotra, who, in articulating the government’s stance, has argued that reading down the section could ‘open the floodgates for delinquent behaviour and be misconstrued as providing unbridled licence for homosexual acts’. He has argued, in addition, that strong social disapproval and the ‘right to health of society’ is sufficient reason to justify the treatment of homosexuals as criminals.

We have long been grateful for your involvement in the selection process for the Rhodes Scholarships, some of whose recipients are gay or lesbian. We greatly respect your contributions to the public life of our country and find it difficult to believe that you and your cabinet share the views expressed by the Additional Solicitor General.

Contrary to Shri Malhotra’s insinuation that opposition to Section 377 comes from some vocal minority of ‘delinquent’ individuals and interest groups, this campaign is a grassroots movement uniting people from every section of society. Moreover, the demand to read down Section 377 comes not only from civil society but from within the highest circles of government — including the National Commission for Women, the 172nd report of the Law Commission of India, the Health Ministry in this government, and the Planning Commission in its recommendations for the 11th Five Year Plan. The undersigned wish to add their voices to the chorus calling for an end to a law that, as the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has pointed out, ‘goes not only against fundamental human rights [but] also works sharply against the enhancement of human freedoms’.

The health of our society, our democracy, and our polity, requires that we recognise the historic nature of this moment. Section 377 is a colonial relic, an imposition of un-Indian Victorian attitudes towards human sexuality that even the United Kingdom rejected in 1967. The government today has the unique chance to extend the fundamental right to equality and freedom to Indians who have long been discriminated against. This discrimination is real and manifests itself in police arrests, the threat of blackmail, and brutal violence, among other things, relegating India’s sexual minorities to second-class citizenship. We recall the courage of earlier governments in putting principle above immediate popularity in fighting for an end to institutionalised caste- and gender-based discrimination. We urge this government, a government committed to the cause of social and political justice, to seize the moment and make the historic decision to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Yours sincerely,

Abhilash Mishra (2008), Oxford
Amal Isaiah (2006), Oxford
Amit Upadhyay (2001), Hyderabad
Anasuya Sengupta (1996), Berkeley & Bengaluru
Anisha Sharma (2007), Oxford & Kolkata
Antara Datta (2002), Cambridge (MA) & Kolkata
Arghya Sengupta (2008), Oxford
Aveek Sen (1989), Kolkata
Dev Gangjee (2000), London
Dev Lahiri (1975), New Delhi
Girish Karnad (1960), Bangalore
Lavanya Rajamani (1996), New Delhi
Megha Kumar (2003), Oxford
Meghana Narayan (2000), London & Bangalore
Nakul Krishna (2007), Oxford & Bangalore
Neel Mukherjee (1992), London
Neha Jain, Freiburg, Germany
Niharika Gupta (2001), New Delhi & Kolkata
Prashant Sarin (2001), New Delhi
Prithviraj Datta (2004), Cambridge (MA)
Raghav Shankar (2007), Oxford
Rahul Rao (2001), London & Bangalore
Rakesh Ankit (2005), Oxford
Rakhi Mehra (2001), Boston (MA)
Rishab Gupta (2008), New Delhi
Sandeep Sreekumar (1999), India
Saranya Sridhar (2003), Berkeley (CA)
Seshadri Vasan (1998), Reading
Skanda Gopal (2004), London
Somak Ghoshal (2004), Kolkata
Sudhir Krishnaswamy (1998), Bangalore
Tarunabh Khaitan (2004), Oxford
Thomas Sebastian (1999), Geneva
Upamanyu Mukherjee (1996), Coventry