India's armed forces have received the Delhi High Court's judgement
decriminalising homosexuality with a resounding "no", with armed
forces acts saying such behaviour is deemed unnatural and can be a
Gay rights remain a largely metropolitan phenomenon and
homosexuality is strict taboo for a majority of India's 1.1 million
soldiers, the Indian military stresses. Citing global trends, it
contends that legalising homosexuality in the services is not
"No armed force in the world has legalised homosexuality as in an
institution like this it can have adverse consequences. Soldiers are
posted in the remotest of areas and have to live in close proximity
for long. Any legalisation of homosexuality would adversely impact
inter-personnel relations," a senior official of the Indian Army
told media, requesting anonymity.
"Moreover, our jawans come from a rural background and they do not
consider homosexuality normal behaviour."
During recruitment, the Indian military establishment does not ask
the sexual orientation of the applicant. But in the forces,
homosexuality is deemed "indecent" and "unnatural" behaviour and can
lead to court martial.
Though the Armed Forces Act does not mention homosexuality, it is
illegal under sections 45 and 46 (a) of the Army Act, 1950, and the
Air Force Act, 1950, which deal with "unbecoming conduct" and "any
disgraceful conduct of a cruel, indecent or unnatural kind".
Offenders are liable to face court martial. They may also be
cashiered or suffer other punishment.
The Navy Act, 1957, makes "indecent act" and "unbecoming conduct"
illegal, which effectively includes homosexuality.
The Delhi High Court ruled July 2 that gay sex among consenting
adults is not a crime. The court sought changes in the Indian Penal
Code's Section 377, a relic from the British Raj, which relates to
"unnatural offences" and says that "whoever voluntarily has carnal
intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or
animal should be punished".
The British Army now openly welcomes gays into its ranks.
In the US, the policy of 'don't ask, don't tell' is followed - gays
are prohibited from speaking about their sexual orientation while
serving in the armed forces. They face dismissal if they do so. The
US Congress has passed a specific law that homosexuals are
ineligible to be enlisted in the armed forces.
"The repercussions (of legalising homosexuality in the armed forces)
in India would be very serious. There may be cases when a senior
forces a junior into the act
and proves it to be consensual," another official of the Indian Army
According to the officials, there have
been several incidents of homosexuals being asked to put in their
papers and cadets being expelled from the National Defence Academy (NDA),
Khadakvasla, for their "unbecoming conduct".
"Though we think that sexual
preferences are a matter of personal choice, legalising
homosexuality in the armed forces is a big no. Just think about the
NDA where one remains in close proximity with other cadets.
Legalising homosexuality would certainly increase sexual harassment
cases," an Indian Air Force (IAF) official added.