Campaigners in India celebrate historic ruling to decriminalise gay sex

Saul Bowman
September 6, 2018

Supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community celebrate after the Supreme Court's verdict of decriminalizing gay sex and revocation of the archaic Section 377 law, at an NGO in Mumbai, India, September 6, 2018.

A five-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, had concluded hearings on the contentious issue and reserved its verdict on July 17.

In July this year, the court heard a series of petitions asking it to review a previous ruling that upheld the 1861 British colonial era law, under which "unnatural sex" is a criminal act punishable by 10-year prison term and a fine.

However, the Supreme Court had reversed the High Court order in December 2013 and pointed out that those indulging in gay sex will be prosecuted and sentenced under Section 377. He said, "Once again, Supreme Court treads where few politicians have dared".

This 2009 judgement of the high court was overturned in 2013 by the apex court which had also dismissed a review plea. "That was one thing that would have forever pinched me", he said.

History owes an apology to the LGBT community.

Balachandra isn't the only one who has been optimistic and eager about the judgement. It said that the homosexual community has the same rights as everyone else.

However, certain clauses of the Section 377 like unnatural sex with animals or children are still in place.

"Privacy is a fundamental right under Puttawamy case".

CJI Misra and Justices Nariman, Chandrachud and Malhotra delivered separate, concurring judgments. "I don't know how it will change our lives yet but it helps us lead them without fear or depression".

Activists in Muslim-majority Bangladesh and Pakistan said they planned to push for reform of the laws that their countries also inherited from colonial Britain. "CPI (M) Welcomes the Historic Supreme Court Judgement on #Section377", tweeted the party. "It will also pave the way for anti-discrimination laws and equal opportunity laws for LGBT persons", said Gowthaman Ranganathan, a lawyer who represented one of the interveners. By passing this landmark judgment, the Supreme Court has put India on a progressive path, finally giving many citizens the right to choose their partners and be treated as equals in the eyes of the law.

Bismaiya Kumar, holding back tears, said that it was important for society to be educated that homosexuality was not a disease and we as a community must work towards reaching that goal.

While India's law only legalizes sexual acts between adults, gay activists have hailed the verdict as a major boost in the deeply conservative country where religious groups have fiercely opposed any liberalization of sexual morality.

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