What’s next: Supreme Court says decriminalising gay sex is the first step

Supreme Court decriminalises Section 377, declares homosexuality legal

India's top court scrapped a colonial-era ban on gay sex on Thursday, in a landmark judgment that sparked celebrations across India and elsewhere in South Asia, where activists hope to push for similar reform. Some of them welcomed it after almost two decades of legal battle as a victory of marginalised and vulnerable people and sexual minority while maintaining that a long battle for real equality and non-discrimination awaits them at societal, governmental and legal levels in coming days.

The CJI also said: "Section 377 IPC subjects the LGBT community to societal pariah and dereliction and is, therefore, manifestly arbitrary, for it has become an odious weapon for the harassment of the LGBT community by subjecting them to discrimination and unequal treatment".

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.

"History owes the LGBT community an apology for their sufferings", said Justice Indu Malhotra, who was also part of the bench.

In four separate yet concurring judgements, the top court overturned its 2013 verdict which had re-criminalised consensual unnatural sex.

Reading down Section 377 IPC, the Constitution Bench said its provision will however continue to govern sexual acts against minors besides acts of bestiality.

The Congress hailed the SC verdict decriminalising consensual gay sex as "momentous" and said that it is an important step forwards towards a liberal and tolerant society.

He also said that homosexuality can not be regarded as a mental disorder and gays have the right to live with dignity.

"Any consensual sexual relationship between two consenting adults - homosexuals, heterosexuals or lesbians - can not be said to be unconstitutional", said the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, as he read out the judgment.

But the union government, which left it to the court to decide on Section 377, has indicated that it is likely to oppose any petition for same-sex marriage.

The Lalit hotel's Keshav Suri, one of the court's petitioners, entered the lobby to rousing applause, gave his husband a peck on the cheek and declared: "It is time to celebrate".

"We were granted a basic human right today and we can't express just how happy we are", Nazia told PTI.

Lawyer Anand Grover, who was representing Naz Foundation against Section 377, talks to the media after the Supreme Court verdict.

Undergraduate student at Delhi University, Raabiya (one name only), who came to the court to "celebrate our first day of acceptance in the country", said they often face ridicule in college from other students.

Breaking down after hearing the verdict outside the Supreme Court in New Delhi, corporate employee Ali Ahmad Faraz, said "I am no longer a criminal in my country for a crime I never committed".

Thursday's judgement is a shot in the arm for India's gay community.

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