Historic Ruling: India Lifts Ban on Homosexuality

Members and supporters of LGBT community celebrated in India after supreme court overruled a colonial-era law that criminalized homosexuality

Members+of+the+LGBT+community+dance+to+celebrate+after+the+country%27s+top+court+struck+down+a+colonial-era+law+that+made+homosexual+acts+punishable+by+up+to+10+years+in+prison%2C+in+Bangalore%2C+India%2C+Thursday%2C+Sept.+6%2C+2018.+The+court+gave+its+ruling+Thursday+on+a+petition+filed+by+five+people+who+challenged+the+law%2C+saying+they+are+living+in+fear+of+being+harassed+and+prosecuted+by+police.+%28AP+Photo%2FAijaz+Rahi%29
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Historic Ruling: India Lifts Ban on Homosexuality

Members of the LGBT community dance to celebrate after the country's top court struck down a colonial-era law that made homosexual acts punishable by up to 10 years in prison, in Bangalore, India, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. The court gave its ruling Thursday on a petition filed by five people who challenged the law, saying they are living in fear of being harassed and prosecuted by police. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Members of the LGBT community dance to celebrate after the country's top court struck down a colonial-era law that made homosexual acts punishable by up to 10 years in prison, in Bangalore, India, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. The court gave its ruling Thursday on a petition filed by five people who challenged the law, saying they are living in fear of being harassed and prosecuted by police. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Aijaz Rahi

Members of the LGBT community dance to celebrate after the country's top court struck down a colonial-era law that made homosexual acts punishable by up to 10 years in prison, in Bangalore, India, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. The court gave its ruling Thursday on a petition filed by five people who challenged the law, saying they are living in fear of being harassed and prosecuted by police. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Aijaz Rahi

Aijaz Rahi

Members of the LGBT community dance to celebrate after the country's top court struck down a colonial-era law that made homosexual acts punishable by up to 10 years in prison, in Bangalore, India, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. The court gave its ruling Thursday on a petition filed by five people who challenged the law, saying they are living in fear of being harassed and prosecuted by police. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

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On Wednesday, September 6th, India’s supreme court lifted the 157-year-old law banning homosexuality, making it legal across the country.

Until now, gay relationships were punishable by up to 10 years in prison under Section 377 of the Indian constitution, Victorian-era laws imposed by the British Empire. It outlawed sexual activities “against the order of nature” and was interpreted as referring to homosexuality.

Reading out his judgment on the case, the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, said interpreting Section 377 to criminalize homosexuality was “irrational, arbitrary and indefensible.”

“Any consensual sexual relationship between two consenting adults – homosexuals, heterosexuals or lesbians – cannot be said to be unconstitutional,” Misra stated.

This ruling is hugely significant,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director for Human Rights Watch. “With restrictions on gay rights toppling in country after country, the ruling in India, the world’s second-most-populous nation, may encourage still more nations to act.”

However, many of India’s population are extremely socially conservative, going to great lengths to arrange marriages. Countless people who identify themselves as LGBT+  have been shunned by their parents and persecuted by society.

The day after the hearing, conservative Christians, Muslims and Hindus blasted the ruling as shameful and vowed to fight it.

“We are giving credibility and legitimacy to mentally sick people,” said Swami Chakrapani, president of All India Hindu Mahasabha, a conservative group.

Paul Dillane, director of the international LGBT+ rights charity The Kaleidoscope Trust, said the ruling had “truly global repercussions” for the 70 other countries in the world whose laws continue to criminalize consensual same-sex acts. Experts say India will now be used as a case study in legal battles brought by LGBT+ activists in other places.

“Thanks to all that fought for this, braving the worst sort of prejudice,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director for Human Rights Watch. “This is a good day for human rights.”

 

 

 

 

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