Police in the Indian technology hub Bangalore have arrested a 32-year-old man for homosexuality after his wife installed secret cameras in their house and recorded him having sex with another man.
This may be the first case of someone arrested for consensual sex under India's law criminalizing "sex against the order of nature" since it was reinstated by India's Supreme Court in December.
The wife said in a statement filed with police on October 20 obtained by BuzzFeed News that she decided to install secret cameras because, after one year of marriage, "there is no sexual contact between me and my husband." She said she had been "suffering thinking that my life was ruined," and called for the police to "take legal action against my homosexual husband." She also said her parents, who arranged the marriage with his parents, "have suffered mental trauma," and asked police to take action against her in-laws for having "cheated me and got him married to me."
A lawyer for the husband could not be immediately reached. The couple's names have not been released, and the copy of the police complaint shared with BuzzFeed News had been redacted to conceal their identities. The wife describes herself as a 31-year-old "dental doctor," and the husband is software engineer for the Indian company Infosys.
India has had a law against homosexuality on the books since it was a British colony, but prosecutions under the code, known as Section 377, have been relatively rare. More often, the provision has been used by police for extortion or harassment of LGBT people, according to Indian human rights activists, such as occurred in November 2013 when 13 people were arrested under the provision in the middle of the night in the city of Hassan in the state of Karnataka. The law was technically unenforceable at the time of this sweep, because the Delhi High Court had struck down 377 in 2009 as a ruling as a violation of LGBT people's human rights.
A two-judge panel of the Indian Supreme Court reinstated the provision in December, however, saying that "Section 377 … does not criminalize a particular people or identity or orientation. It merely identifies certain acts which if committed would constitute an offense." The court agreed in April to hear one final challenge to this ruling, but hearings have still not been scheduled.
Danish Sheikh, a lawyer with the Bangalore-based Alternative Law Forum — which worked on the challenge to 377 and is offering legal support to the arrested engineer — said that this arrest challenges some of the logic used by the judges to uphold 377. During arguments on the provision, Sheikh said in an email, Justice Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya implied that the law would never result in prosecutions of private, consensual sex because "If something is [done] in private, who knows?"
"The Supreme Court in its deliberations felt that the dangers of Section 377 existed only through blackmail and extortion," Sheikh said. "What is particularly significant in [this] case is the blatant scale of intrusion of privacy which has allowed for prosecution under 377 to take place."
Neither the accused nor his attorney have made public statements since his arrest this month, but the wife has spoken to Indian media outlets including the Bangalore Mirror and the radio station 93.5 RED FM.
She said she "never wanted him to go to jail," but was responding to accusations from her husband and his parents that she was at fault for their failing marriage. That's when, she said, "I decided that he should be punished."
"I did ask him many times, 'are you gay,' very politely I asked him," she told 93.5 Red FM's Disha Oberoi. "I asked him, 'if that is so, please ... confess it to me. We will sort it out,' something. He said to me, I am having some illicit affairs, I am not performing duties as a wife, I'm very arrogant, I've been always quarrelsome right from the beginning. All these accusations. I just wanted to see, there was no sign of remorse. He told me right away — very harshly he told me — 'If you want a divorce, I'm ready to give you a divorce. Walk out of my life.'"
She said she had also confronted her mother-in-law, who responded, "If you're not interested to stay with my son, then you're free to walk out."
"I saw the arrogance and attitude from him and from his family — that is why I took this step," she said, adding that she was afraid people will treat her poorly as a divorced woman.
J. Lester Feder is a world correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. His secure PGP fingerprint is 2353 DB68 8AA6 92BD 67B8 94DF 37D8 0A6F D70B 7211
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