Published: Sun, September 09, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Indian Supreme Court decriminalises homosexuality in landmark verdict

Indian Supreme Court decriminalises homosexuality in landmark verdict

"We have to bid adieu to prejudices and to empower all citizens", Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said while reading the judgment, according to NDTV.

"Social stigma will go if criminality of gay sex under Section 377 goes".

Equal rights campaigners have also argued that the very existence of such a law is proof of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Supporters and members of the LGBT community celebrate after the country's top court struck down a colonial-era law that makes homosexual acts punishable by up to 10 years in prison, in Mumbai, India, Sept. 6, 2018. "It is hard to right the wrong of history, but we can certainly set the course for the future", said Justice Dhananjaya Chandrachud. "Such discriminatory laws have no place in the 21st century, and I'm delighted the Indian Supreme Court has recognised that".

"History owes an apology to members of the community for the delay in ensuring their rights", for denying them their rights and compelling them to live a life of fear, said Justice Indu Malhotra, who was part of the five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that delivered the judgement, capping a 17-year legal struggle.

The High Commissioner also paid tribute to the LGBT community in India, "particularly to the many LGBT activists and their allies in the human rights movement who worked so hard and waited so long for this moment". The court has declared that an individual's sexual orientation is a matter of privacy and also an essential facet of one's dignity.

In a unanimous decision, five Supreme Court justices ruled that the law was a weapon used to harass members of India's gay community and resulted in discrimination.

It said the State can not persecute people and decide the boundaries between what is permissible or not and observed that section 377 was based on "deep-rooted stereotypes of the society".

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"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. Section 377 is a 146-year-old law which prohibited 'carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, ' taken to mean homosexual sex and all anal and oral sex.

"So proud today! Decriminalizing homosexuality and abolishing section 377 is a huge thumb up for humanity and equal rights!"

Interestingly it was supported by the RSS that it should not be criminalise, when Arun Kumar, Akhil Bhartiya Prachar Pramukh of the RSS, said, "Like the Supreme Court, we also do not consider this to be a crime". In its 493-page judgement, the bench said aspects of Section 377 dealing with unnatural sex with animals and children remain in force.

Strongly repealing Section 377, he added that "denial of self-expression is like death".

On the other hand, Lucky Neog, a budding filmmaker and activist attributed the verdict to the hard work of activists.

During one hearing, Justice Chandrachud observed that "our focus is not only on the sexual act, but the relationship between two consenting adults and the manifestation of their rights under Articles 14 and 21 ..."

Whether gay Indians succeed in that battle, he said, will be up to judges and "brave souls willing to fight and put themselves out there for equality."Akhilesh Godi, 25, a data scientist in Bangalore who also was part of the case, was a bit more sober". We will win each one of them.

It was in 2009 when the Delhi High court took a look on the same issue, however, the bench of the Supreme court has controversially undone the rule stating that it was best to leave parliament with the changing mores.

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