Some people, usually for religious or social reasons, see same-sex relationships as shameful or sinful. Usually these attitudes are linked to myths and misinformation. Gays, lesbians and bisexuals can face prejudice and discrimination, hatred and violence.
On the other hand, many people all over the world see homosexuality as just a normal part of life. They think gays and lesbians deserve the same respect as heterosexuals.
In almost 60 percent of countries in the world, being gay is legal. In many of them, it’s widely accepted. Gay and lesbian couples can now get married in the same way as straight couples in a long list of countries in Europe, North and South America and also South Africa and New Zealand. But in some places homosexuality is illegal, and gays, lesbians and bisexuals can face imprisonment.
To read news and updates about gay rights around the world, go to
More articles on attitudes towards homosexuality:
Section 377: Is it right to ban gay love?
Day of rage against 377 gay sex ban
Being legally gay in New Delhi
Will there be a Mr Gay in India
Out and proud in India
The law in India
Gays and lesbians in India face discrimination in education, health care, housing and employment, and are sometimes victims of physical or sexual violence. They are not protected by law, and complaints are usually dismissed by the police.
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code makes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” illegal. This is generally understood to mean that homosexual behaviour is against the law.
In practice, this law is rarely enforced. But its existence means that gays, lesbians and bisexuals are vulnerable to harassment and abuse from the police.
This law may soon be repealed, however. In February 2016 the Supreme Court agreed to review the criminalisation of homosexual activity, and the issue is now being debated.
How does the law treat homosexuality where you live? You can check lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) rights around the world
Gay and Indian
Some people are gay. This is true in every country in the world, and India is no exception.
You may have heard people say that homosexuality is not part of Indian culture. But gay and lesbian love and sex are discussed in Indian literature dating back over a thousand years. The Kama Sutra, for example, devotes an entire chapter to oral sex, much of which concerns oral sex between two men. Lesbian sex is also described in detail. And look carefully at the sculptures in some medieval Hindu temples: in Khajuraho, for example, there are scenes of women having sex with women, and of men giving each other oral sex.
Gay relationships are not a Western invention, but the laws that criminalise them are: the first anti-homosexuality laws in India were introduced by the British. Homosexuality was taboo in 19th century Europe, and the British brought their ideas of sexual morality with them to India.
And being gay is just one part of a person’s identity. No one can be reduced to just one thing: you can be a straight woman who’s also a mother, a sister, a Hindu, a singer, a runner, a businesswoman, an Indian, and much more. Or a gay man who’s also a football fan, a Christian, a son, a political activist, and a cook. We are all constellations of different identities, and sexual orientation is one element of that – but it’s not the whole, and not the only thing that defines you.
Cultures change! People create culture, and people can change it too. It’s only recently that some parts of Indian society became intolerant of gays, lesbians and bisexuals, and it doesn’t have to stay that way. Things are already beginning to change again and there is growing understanding and acceptance of homosexuality.