Homosexuality is no longer a crime in India after landmark court ruling

India's top court to rule on decriminalizing gay sex

Reactions poured in from all quarters - of relief, joy and of finally being able to identify, and hailed the Supreme Court for its verdict. Our fight for equality doesn't end with the reading down of section 377.

CJI Deepak Mishra and Justice DV Chandrachud will give their separate judgments.

The bench, which also comprised Justices R F Nariman and A M Khanwilkar, besides the CJI, Malhotra and Chandrachud, said that part of Section 377, which prohibited sexual relationship between consenting adults of the same sex, was violative of the right to equality and the right to live with dignity.

As the news spread, the streets outside the courthouse erupted in cheers as opponents of the law danced and waved flags. The five petitioners who challenged the law said it was discriminatory and led to gays living in fear of being harassed and prosecuted by police.

What Happened In The Court That Day?

For instance, in February 2017, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said, "The Supreme Court should not have reversed the Delhi High Court order which decriminalised consensual sex between gay adults".

"LGBT Community has same rights as of any ordinary citizen". In the judgement on privacy as a fundamental right, the apex court's nine-judge bench had said the right to privacy can not be denied to members of the LGBT community merely because they have unconventional sexual orientation and form a miniscule fraction of the over 1.32 billion Indian population. He noted, "Human sexuality can not be confined to a binary".

Amazingly, one of the judges, Justice Indu Malhotra, called for an apology to the LGBT community.

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After the apex court had set aside the Delhi High Court's 2009 judgement decriminalising sex between consenting adults of the same sex by holding Section 377 of IPC as "illegal", review petitions were filed.

Gay sex is considered taboo by many in socially conservative India, and despite opposition to lifting the ban from some lawmakers, activists had hoped the ban would be lifted.

During a hearing in July this year in the Supreme Court, Advocate Menaka Guruswamy, representing a group of IIT students, argued that Section 377 curtails the freedom of expression and the right to form associations under clauses (a), (b) and (c) of Article 19 [right to freedom of speech] of a sexual minority.

"Historical judgment! So proud today!"

Many cut cakes and unfurled rainbow flags, a symbol of gay pride, to welcome the verdict, which also said society can not dictate a sexual relationship between consenting adults.

While the penalty of jail time for gay sex had been rarely applied in recent years, India's LGBTQI community reported it was used to harass and intimidate them. "Sexual orientation is natural and people have no control over it".

But while global human rights groups are celebrating the ruling, they are also drawing attention to other former British colonies, including Bangladesh and Pakistan, that still have Section 377 as part of their penal code.

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