India's Supreme Court Rules That Gay Sex Is No Longer A Crime

The country's Supreme Court struck down a century-old law this week.

India's Supreme Court Rules That Gay Sex Is No Longer A Crime

India's Supreme Court unanimously voted to strike down a century-old law criminalizing consensual gay sex this week, marking a groundbreaking victory for LGBTQ rights in the country. 

The landmark decision, which follows several weeks of deliberation in the Supreme Court, was announced on Thursday. "We have to bid adieu to prejudices and empower all citizens," India's chief justice, Dipak Misra, told citizens in the Delhi courtroom, according to The New York Times. He also went on to call the colonial-era ban against gay sex, known as Section 377, "irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary."

Section 377 was written in the 1860s to counteract what were then considered unnatural sex acts. Though the court says the law will still be applied in cases like bestiality, it will no longer be upheld to prevent consensual gay sex. 

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The new ruling also entitles members of the LGBTQ community to all constitutional protections under Indian law. It also makes any discrimination based on sexuality illegal — a hugely significant move for one of the world's most highly populated countries. 

The historic decision, which overturns over 150 years of discrimination against LGBTQ people in India, sparked celebrations all over the country — and the world. While activists and supporters rejoiced in the streets of cities like Mumbai and Bangalore, many, including several public figures, also took to social media to express their joy at the decision. 

"This is the India I want to live in. Not one filled with hate, bigotry, sexism homophobia and intolerance. THIS is the India I love," Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, one of Bollywood's highest-paid actresses, wrote on Twitter. 

The ruling could also have important implications on a global scale. As activists pointed out after the announcement, the decision could set a precedent for other traditionally conservative nations to adopt more progressive attitudes towards gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens. 

Section 377 has been at the center of legal debate in the country for several years now. In 2009, the Delhi High Court ruled that the ban violated fundamental rights, making it temporarily illegal in the Delhi region. But after Hindu, Muslim and Christian groups filed appeals, the Supreme Court opted to reverse the decision in 2013

During Thursday's announcement, the justices regretfully acknowledged the years of back-and-forth in court. As Justice Indu Malhotra said, "History owes an apology to members of the community for the delay in ensuring their rights."

Cover image via DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images.

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