Published: Thu, September 06, 2018
World | By Camille Rivera

India decriminalizes homosexual acts in landmark verdict

India decriminalizes homosexual acts in landmark verdict

Activists had been fighting the ban since the 1990s, suffering several court reverses before Thursday's verdict which sparked celebrations among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups (LGBT) across India.

People celebrate after the Supreme Court's verdict of decriminalizing gay sex and revocation of the Section 377 law, inside the Supreme Court premises in New Delhi, India, September 6, 2018.

Reading out the judgement, Chief Justice Misra said attitudes and mentality have to change to accept others' identity and accept what they are, and not what they should be. The co-author of a homophobia report tells CNN 30 of almost 50 former British colonies still have the colonial-era anti-LGBT laws on the books; Al Jazeera notes nearby Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh still consider homosexuality illegal.

"I don't want to sound pessimistic but I don't think we will see gay marriage in my lifetime", he said.

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"The UN in India sincerely hopes that the court's ruling will be the first step towards guaranteeing the full range of fundamental rights to LGBTI persons". However, India's struggle against this archaic law dates back to at least a couple of decades when activists and NGOs came together to fight the law that criminalises homosexuality. But over the years, many Indians feared that if they reported crimes such as rape, they, too, would be arrested or harassed by police officials.

Clauses which deal with unnatural sex with animals and children still remain in force.

In 2013, the Supreme Court had set aside a verdict passed by Delhi High Court in 2009 which decriminalised consensual sex between two adults of the same sex, and reinstated Section 377. "An age-old colonial law, that was an anachronism in today's modern times, ends restoring the fundamental rights and negating discrimination based on sexual orientation".

The Supreme Court's decision prompted a long-awaited release for LGBT+ people in the country, after years of campaigning in the face of state-legislated discrimination.

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After the ruling, opponents of the law danced and waved flags outside the court.

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 recognition of equal citizenship, that is the business of life, so that they know they are loved, protected".

Today's verdict was hailed by top political parties, celebrities and even the United Nations, which said that the verdict will help eliminate social stigma. In recent years, leaders from a far-right Hindu nationalist group associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party have come out in support of decriminalisation.

Justice Indu Malhotra said that "history owes an apology to the LGBTQ community for denying them their rights". On the day, the bench struck down Section 377 as being violative of right to equality.

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