Gay sex in India has been legalised... but where else in the world is it still an offence?

Georgia Chambers
India's Supreme Court decriminalised gay sex in a historic ruling: AFP/Getty Images

India's Supreme Court has legalised gay sex in a landmark ruling.

The ruling overturns Section 377 - a 157-year-old colonial law on consensual gay sex.

The Indian chief justice, Dipak Mishra, said in his decision: Sexual orientation is one of the many natural phenomena. Any discrimination on basis of sexual orientation amounts to violation of fundamental human rights."

The ruling will effectively allow gay sex among consenting adults in private.

The ruling marks a huge victory for India's gay community, who are still fighting the social stigma around homosexuality in their country. But where else in the world is gay sex still illegal? Here's everything you need to know:

What is section 377?

Section 377 is a colonial law which criminalises certain sexual acts as "unnatural offences," which are punishable by a 10-year jail sentence.

The law forbids, in its own words, "carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal."

Section 377 has massively influenced attitudes towards homosexuality in a country which, at some points in history, had a more tolerant view of homosexuality.

In ancient Indian poetry, for example, there are same-sex depictions and unions by gods and goddesses.


When did the UK legalise gay sex?

Up until 1967 in the UK, gay and bisexual men could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

In 1967, gay sex was partly decriminalised by the Sexual Offences Act, but gay people living in the UK still faced discrimination.

In 2002, the law was changed to allow gay people to adopt children.

And it was only in 2003 when the 1988 ban on 'promoting' homosexuality in schools was overturned.

In 2013, gay marriage was made legal in England and Wales, and later in Scotland. In Northern Ireland, gay marriage is still not legal.

Where else in the world is homosexuality still illegal?

Homosexuality is still outlawed in the following countries:

  • Botswana
  • Cameroon
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Malawi
  • Mauritius
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • Sierra Leone
  • Swaziland
  • Uganda
  • Tanzania
  • Zambia
  • Bangladesh
  • Brunei Kingdom
  • Malaysia
  • Pakistan
  • Singapore
  • Sri Lanka
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Barbados
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Jamaica
  • St Lucia
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Kiribati
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu

In Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, homosexuality is still punishable by death, under sharia law. The same applies in parts of Somalia and northern Nigeria.

In Syria and Iraq, the death penalty is carried out by non-state actors, including Islamic state.