India Decriminalises Gay Sex. But Where Does Asia Stand On The Subject?

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Homosexuality in Asia is still a taboo

Homosexuality in Asia has been a taboo since time immemorial. Conservatives have often touted the LGBTQ community as “unnatural” and/or “mentally unwell.” But after long-drawn moral and judicial battles between the so-called moral police and beleaguered activists, it seems that the light at the end of tunnel is finally visible. 

At least, in India. 

India Decriminalises Consensual Gay Sex: No Longer A Crime

In a landmark judgement, the honourable Supreme Court of India reportedly ruled that consensual gay sex is not a crime. The judgement by a bench of five honourable judges defanged the colonial-era Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. 

“The law must be interpreted as per the requirement of changing times,” the SC noted. 

“Consensual sex between adults in a private space, which is not harmful to women or children, cannot be denied as it is a matter of individual choice. Section 377 results in discrimination and is violative of constitutional principles,” the bench added.

The five judges who unanimously heralded a new era of personal victory included Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra. They also added that the LGBTQ community was owed an apology by the Indian society for long been denied their human rights. 

Section 377 of the IPC Was An Aberration To Humans Rights 

homosexuality in asia

India has still paced ahead of its Asian counterparts; many of whom still look down upon the LGBTQ community. | Image courtesy: Unsplash

For the uninitiated, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code came into force in 1862 (under the British colonial era) and branded transexuals and homosexuals as criminals. 

The provision reportedly stated, “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.”

Even though this section was followed as s for many years post independence, in 2009, the Delhi High Court read it down.

The court noted that Section 377 will “apply only to non-consensual, penile, non-vaginal sex, and sexual acts by adults with minors.”

In 2013, however, a two-judge bench set aside the High Court’s judgement. Nd now finally in 2018, homosexuality is decriminalised and the LGBTQ community has legally been allowed a right to live a life of equality, in a way. 

And even though there is still a long way to go and the battle has only just begun, India has still paced ahead of its Asian counterparts; many of whom still look down upon the LGBTQ community.

In a way, homosexuality in Asia is still considered a taboo and activists are still fighting long-drawn battles.  

Homosexuality In Asia: Being Gay Still A Taboo In Most Nations 

Apart from India, the only other Asian country that has managed to give a fair change at love to the LGBTQ community is Taiwan.

Last year, it reportedly became the first Asian country to authorise same-sex marriage, a feat only achieved by 20 countries around the world.

Unfortunately, same-sex unions are still illegal in many parts of the world including many countries in Asia. After Taiwan, India, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Japan, Nepal, and Cambodia are the only countries that are now openly accepting of the LGBTQ community and some even of procreation and adoption.


The country of smiles openly accepts their homosexual community it was decriminalised in 1956. Their is also no legal prohibition of adoption of children by gay couples. However, same-sex unions are still illegal in Thailand. 


This communist country is slowly is quietly working towards the LGBTQ issues. In 2013, it allowed same sex couples to live together, and even abolished fines levied on homosexual weddings. 

And while it decriminalised same-sex marriage in 2015, legally married homosexuals are not protected under the law. 


Although China hasn’t banned or called homosexuals illegal, at least it has stopped classifying it as a mental disorder.  However, same-sex marriages are still very much illegal and homosexuals are still do not enjoy full freedom to come out. 


Leading the baton for the LGBTQ community, Japan legalised homosexual sex back in 1880. However, being gay is still a taboo in the progressive country. 

In 2015, two Tokyo districts became the first in the country to allow gay couples the same right as heterosexual married couples. But there is still a long way to go for Japan. 


No law in Cambodia bans gay sex, but the community as such as still largely marginalised. The LGBTQ community still does not enjoy basic rights and are still struggle to fight their cause. 

While most of these countries may have accepted homosexuality, there is still a ling way to go before they are given equal human rights. Which means a right to marry who they want, live together and even have children.

We hope that this small win will lead to a ripple effect in the Asian society.  

Source: Reuters, Times of India, The Hindu 

(Feature & lead images courtesy: Unsplash)

Written by

Deepshikha Punj