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India Court Decriminalizes Gay Sex!

Celebrations break out all over India as Supreme Court repeals 150 year old Section 377

Celebrations break out all over India as Supreme Court repeals 150 year old Section 377- a colonial-era law that penalizes intercourse “against the order of nature” under which offenders could be sentenced to life.

On Thursday, September 6, 2018, the five judge constitution bench comprising of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra unanimously passed the decision to repeal the law, saying that sexual orientation is natural and people have no control over it.

“Consensual sex between adults in private space, which is not harmful to women or children, cannot be denied as it is a matter of individual choice. Section 377 results in discrimination and is violative of constitutional principles,” said the SC.

History

The battle against Section 377 has been a long one, starting in 1861 when it was introduced as a section of the Indian Penal Code. The timeline of the struggle after is given below:

1994                  –       ABVA, an NGO, files petition in Delhi HC seeking repeal of Sec 377, after                                                         male inmates denied condoms; fails to follow through

2001                  –       PIL by Naz Foundation in Delhi HC seeks repeal of British-era Sec 377,                                                           around since 1862

2004-2008         –      HC dismisses petition
–       Activists move SC, which asks it to reconsider
–      Center plays for time; home health ministers file contradictory affidavits
–      Center submits gay sex is immoral, argues against decriminalization
–      HC shoots down ‘immoral’ argument, calls for scientific evidence
–      Center says Parliament must decide

2009                  –      Delhi HC decriminalizes homosexuality

2009-2012         –     Religious groups, individuals challenge SC’s decriminalization verdict

2013                  –     SC sets aside 2009 Delhi HC order, leaves matter for Parliament to decide

2015                  –     Lok Sabha votes against introduction of private member’s Bill by Congress MP                                                Shashi Tharoor to decriminalize homosexuality

2016                  –    3-judge SC bench says all pleas will be reviewed afresh by a 5-judge                                                                 constitutional bench

2017                  –   SC upholds right to privacy, says sexual orientation is an “essential component of                                            identity” and the rights of LGBTQ persons are “real rights founded on sound                                                            constitutional doctrine”

Jan 2018           –   SC bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra says 2013 ruling to be reconsidered, sends                                              it to larger bench

Jul 2018            –   SC says it’s up to bench to take a call on the 150-year-old ban on gay sex

Sep 6, 2018      –   SC decriminalizes homosexuality

India Court Decriminalizes Gay Sex
Indian LGBT activists react after the hearing at the Supreme Court, at the Humsafar Trust in Mumbai, India.

Public Response

The emotional crowd gathered outside the court could not contain their ecstasy, wiping away tears, while some were still in shock at the magnitude of the positive outcome. The law, although rarely enforced in full, had helped perpetuate a culture of fear and repression within the LGBTQ community.

“It’s a mix of feelings, it’s been a long fight. There was not enough media or society support either but we have it now. People will not be seen as criminals anymore,” said rights campaigner Rituparna Borah.

gay sex legal in india
Gay rights activists celebrate outside the Supreme Court.

Some took to twitter to celebrate their victory:

Celebrities also took to twitter to address the historic moment:
Long time supporter of gay rights, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said his stand is now vindicated.

Actor Sonam Kapoor joined in:

Celebrations were seen throughout the nation 🌈

gay sex legal in india
LGBT supporters in Mumbai react to the Supreme Court ruling that gay sex is no longer a criminal offence.
gay sex legal in india
Crowds in Mumbai cheer the Supreme Court announcement.
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