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India's Supreme Court strikes down law that punished gay sex

08 September 2018

Indian members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community hold placards outside the Supreme Court building in New Delhi as crowds gathered to celebrate the decision to strike down the colonial-era ban on gay sex.

"Private acts between consenting adults is something which no government should have criminalized as unfortunately we have done", he said. "Any kind of sexual activity with animals shall remain a penal offence under Section 377 of the IPC", it said.

"I am astounded at people who say that we can not get these rights", said Sunil Mehra, a petitioner in the section 377 case told the Hindustan Times.

The law, while in existence, called for a maximum sentence of life in prison if one were caught taking part in homosexual acts.

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

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"Any discrimination on the basis of s3xual orientation violates fundamental rights", Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, who was head of the five-judge bench, said in Thursday's ruling, Al Jazeera reported.

"History owes an apology to members of the community for the delay in ensuring their rights", said Indu Malhotra, who was another judge on the bench. The netizens too took to several social media to express their happiness over the Supreme Court's decision to legalise gay sex. "Therefore, Section 377 IPC in its present form violates Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution".

The judgment came on a clutch of writ petitions filed by dancer Navtej Jauhar, journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hoteliers Aman Nath and Keshav Suri, and business executive Ayesha Kapur as well as 20 former and current students of the IITs.

"This verdict could give rise to other issues such as an increase in the number of HIV cases", member of parliament Subramanian Swamy told CNN-News18.

The bench said courts must protect the dignity of an individual as right to live with dignity is recognised as fundamental right.

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"Supreme Court verdict on Section 377 is momentous".

Seeking decriminalisation of consensual homosexuality, the NGO Naaz Foundation had first challenged Section 377 in the Delhi High Court in 2001.

Now, the next step in the legal fight will surely be for civil rights such as same-sex marriage, inheritance of property, and sharing insurance, among others.

While India's law only legalises sexual acts between adults, gay activists have hailed the verdict as a major boost in the deeply conservative country where religious groups have fiercely opposed any liberalisation of sexual morality.

Quoting an instance of a petitioner who qualified for the IAS exams but chose to forgo his dream for fear that he would be discriminated against on the ground of his sexuality, Justice Chandrachud says, "providing support to homosexual clients to become comfortable with who they are and get on with their lives" will be more important.

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India's Supreme Court strikes down law that punished gay sex