India’s Supreme Court has decided to re-examine Section 377 of the Indian Constitution, a law it reinstated two years ago that criminalizes LGBTQ sexuality.
The law, which dates back to 1860, refers to oral and anal sex acts as “unnatural” and carries a potential punishment of up to life in prison. This includes sexual activity conducted in private by consenting adults.
In 2009, the Delhi High Court ruled against the law, saying that it undermines the rights laid out in the Constitution. But the Supreme Court in December 2013 overturned the Delhi court’s ruling, reinstating the law.
Earlier Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard a “curative petition” from activists who called for the court to reconsider its decision. Under this type of petition, the Supreme Court could reverse a previous decision.
But the Los Angeles Times noted that there is only a small legal precedent for this kind of ruling, with only three previous curative petitions resulting in reversed decisions.
The Supreme Court said a panel of five judges, headed by India’s chief justice T. S. Thakur, will look at the law. Judges have not yet been appointed, nor dates set for future hearings.
The court said in its 2013 ruling that the law did not specifically target members of the LGBT community, and prosecutions under Section 377 are uncommon, in part because it requires forensic evidence. But members of the LGBTQ community and human rights activists say the law encourages harassment and blackmail of gay people and that people do not often bring those cases to police.
India is one of 75 countries with laws that criminalize LGBTQ sexuality, according to a 2015 report from the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.
Amnesty International India tweeted its support for the decision Tuesday.
The Supreme Court has another chance to correct a grave error, which continues to put LGBTI people under physical, mental and legal threat.
— Amnesty India (@AIIndia) February 2, 2016