Published: Fri, September 07, 2018
Global | By Craig Ferguson

India decriminalises gay sex in a historic ruling

India decriminalises gay sex in a historic ruling

As the news spread, the streets outside the courthouse erupted in cheers as opponents of the law danced and waved flags. And we will be equal. "What happens in our bedroom is left to us".

"Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a violation of freedom of speech and expression", said Chief Justice of India Misra and Justice Khanwilka in their judgment.

Michel Sidibé, executive director of UN AIDS, added: "I applaud the fearless activists, civil society organizations and community groups that have fought long and hard for this injustice to be reversed".

Section 377 of the IPC refers to "unnatural offenses", saying whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the "order of nature" with a man, woman or animal can be punished with life imprisonment or 10 years imprisonment and a fine. "The judges in the case had previously said that gay people in India face deep-rooted trauma and live in fear". It is okay with consensual acts in private.

Homosexuality has a tangled history in India, with some of Hinduism's most ancient texts accepting of gay sex.

A transgender judge, Joyita Mondal Mahi, presides over courts in West Bengal state, Indian passports now state whether a holder is "male", "female" or "other", and the city of Raigarh, with 139,000 people, has a transgender mayor. They are shunned by the wider community and often forced to work as beggars and prostitutes, but are also sometimes embraced because they are believed to bring powerful blessings.

Welcoming Thursday's verdict Ashok Row Kavi, Founder Chairperson of The Humsafar Trust, said in a press statement, "We waited 18 years for this but it was worth every minute to be finally free of Section 377".

During the last hearing session seeking the scrapping of Section 377, the Centre passed the buck on Supreme Court and said that the Constitutionality of 377 is to be decided by the Court. "We need a lot of advocacy to spread awareness on the issue that gay people have equal rights like any other individual in India". It said that prosecution under Section 377 was significantly less and it only affected "a minuscule fraction of the country's population" comprising lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgenders. Since the ruling, lawyers and human rights advocates have worked tirelessly to decriminalize gay sex.

"This will obviously open the doors for a lot of more things, more civil rights". We will fight together. "This may not be the ideal way to come out to my parents but yes, we are not criminals anymore. we are who we are", said Smriti adding that the war was not won yet, it was only a battle. "For sure", he said. Bollywood celebrities like Karan Johar, Dia Mirza, Sonam Kapoor, Abhishek Bachchan and many more took to their social media handles to celebrate the verdict.

The apex court was emphatic in his opinion that Section 377 of the IPC was a weapon to harass members of the LGBT community, resulting in discrimination. "The country gets its oxygen back!" he wrote on Twitter.

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