Indians Laugh, Cry And Celebrate After Gay Sex is Decriminalized

Sunday, 09 Sep, 2018

Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the law was "irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary". It was reinstated as a criminal offence in India in 2013, punishable up to 10 years in prison, after four years of decriminalisation.

Equal rights activists had argued that the very existence of such a law was proof of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The highest court of the land on Thursday read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, decriminalising "unnatural sex" between consenting adults, leading to celebrations across the country. "It is hard to right the wrong of history, but we can certainly set the course for the future", said Justice Dhananjaya Chandrachud.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party had said it would support any decision by the Supreme Court but one prominent member of the party criticized the court ruling. Opponents said the law "served as a weapon for police abuse", and called for it to be scrapped. In its decision on Section 377, the Supreme Court justices noted that the Indian Constitution is not a "collection of mere dead letters".

While the LGBTQ community won a battle that lasted decades, the question now is whether the judgment would pave the way for same sex marriage.

"That we can do by saying, as I propose to say in this case, that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders have a constitutional right to equal citizenship in all its manifestations", he wrote, supporting partial striking down of Section 377. The court has declared that an individual's sexual orientation is a matter of privacy and also an essential facet of one's dignity.

LGBT community members and supporters cheer the ruling in Mumbai, as the chief justice characterized the colonial-era law as a tool to harass gay and lesbian Indians.

"Sexual orientation of an individual is natural and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a violation of Freedom of Expression", the court said.

It is noteworthy that the verdict on gays has come close on the heels of the judgment which described the right to dissent as a "safety valve" which the government can only shut off at its peril lest there is an explosion. Now, the historic verdict by the Supreme Court should bring peace to all the ordinary LGBTQI women and men of India, those who have suffered in silence and fear.

Across the country, gay people gathered in front of their television sets, waiting anxiously for the verdict to be announced.

The Milli Council Leader said that courts just look at the legal aspect however there are social, cultural, religious, civilisational and many other aspect in the society.

The Congress, during the first term of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, had opposed the decriminalization of homosexuality with two of its key ministries-home and health-contradicting each other.

Latest verdict on Section 377 clearly states that homosexuals enjoy the same rights enjoyed by others.

"LGBTI communities in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh are also working to repeal similar remnants of British colonisation in their own country and the ruling from India will feed into more dialogues, at least among LGBTI civil society across these countries", she added. "This is the first battle that has been won and there are many more battles that we are going to fight". "Now we'll see who really cares".

Five Supreme Court judges will decide whether to strike the law down, following weeks of careful deliberation in New Delhi.

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