Landmark Verdict in India Scraps Law Criminalizing Homosexuality

They ruled that as the 1861 law had been used fewer than 200 times, it was such a small proportion of the population that it couldn't actively violate Indians' constitutional rights.

"The law had become a weapon for harassment for the LGBT community", Chief Justice Dipak Misra said as he announced the landmark verdict. One of the judges, Indu Malhotra, said she believed the LGBT community was owed an apology.

India is now one of more than 120 countries to have effectively decriminalised homosexuality.

Bollywood celebrities, authors, advocates, teachers, politicians and people from all walks of life joined the activists, who have been fighting a long-drawn battle against a colonial era law, in their celebrations after the apex court's historic verdict granted them "a basic human right".

Indian religious groups have fiercely opposed any liberalisation of sexual morality.

In August 2017, a Supreme Court ruling for the fundamental right to privacy put things in motion to quash Section 377 once again.

Gay sex is considered taboo by many in socially conservative India, as well as in neighboring Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

The members of LGBTQ community were forced to live in hiding and as second class citizens, the top court observed.

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In Chennai, gay activists handed out chocolate.

Undergraduate student at Delhi University, Raabiya (one name only), who came to the court to "celebrate our first day of acceptance in the country", said they often face ridicule in college from other students.

Activists had been fighting the ban since the 1990s, suffering several court reversals before Thursday's verdict.

A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court unanimously struck down a part of the 158-year-old law under Section 377 of the IPC, which criminalised consensual unnatural sex. "I think the next step would be to get anti-discrimination laws in place, or anti-bullying laws". Society is now better for individualism."-India's chief justice".

Activists have been trying to strike down Section 377 since 2001, when the Naz Foundation (India) Trust, a sexual health organization, argued that the laws prevented them from accessing communities affected by HIV/AIDS. Transgender people known as "hijras" have been a common sight in India for centuries.

As legal experts pointed out, changing this colonial law was nearly a foregone conclusion after a nine-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court ruled in August 2017 that privacy is a fundamental right.

A ruling past year that individuals have a right to privacy, and that sex is private, helped form the basis of the legal argument in favor of repealing the gay sex ban.

Amid all celebrations, many also acknowledged their fight may still go on as a complete equality remains some distance away due to fears of police and mob violence and continuing legal obstacles to right to adoption and to gay marriages. A member of the gay community who requested anonymity said the decision was long due.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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