LGBT activists are celebrating in India in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning a 157-year-old law banning homosexual acts between consenting adults.
According to the Los Angeles Times, a five-judge panel “voted unanimously to overturn Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.” The statute had been on the books for 157 years after being introduced by the British Empire during the Victorian era. It was upheld by the same Supreme Court just five years ago.
“The law criminalized intercourse ‘against the order of nature,” which was taken to mean same-sex relations even between consenting adults, and imposed a punishment of up to 10 years in prison,” reports the Times. “Prosecutions were rare, but many gay and transgender Indians said the law was sometimes used as a tool of intimidation and extortion.”
Chief Justice Dipak Misra denounced the law as “irrational, arbitrary and incomprehensible” in the decision while adding that India’s LGBTQ community possesses the “same equality as other citizens.”
Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud wrote: “What makes life meaningful is love. The right that makes us human is the right to love. To criminalize the expression of that right is profoundly cruel and inhumane.”
Laws upholding traditional marriage remain on the books. Same-sex couples are also still not permitted to adopt children or inherit property.
Suri, a homosexual Indian man, celebrated the decision for allowing him to live out in the open. “I’m illegal no more,” he said. “I’m in the shadows no more. I’m in the darkness no more.”
Opponents of the law expected a narrow victory, if at all. Many expressed surprise at the sweeping victory. “This is not a narrow, do-what-you-want-in-your-bedroom type of decision,” said Menaka Guruswamy, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “This is so much wider than that, and the fact that many of the justices linked this to the idea of freedom and consent, that it was unanimous, that all of them looked to India as a constitutional democracy … it’s huge.”
“Activists have battled to overturn Section 377 in the courts for decades,” reports the Times. “In 2009, a court in Delhi overturned the law, only to have the Supreme Court reinstate it in a controversial 2013 decision, arguing that the legislature should decide the law’s fate. In February 2016, the high court said it would re-examine its decision, reflecting the growing acceptance of LGBTQ Indians.”
The South Asia director for Human Rights Watch, Meenakshi Ganguly, tweeted that India’s Supreme Court had “taken a momentous step that will resonate around the world.”
Two former British colonies, Malaysia and Singapore, still have laws on the books prohibiting homosexual acts.
Reported by: The Daily Wire