Published: Sat, September 08, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

Section 377 and homosexuality: What the Supreme Court said | Read detailed judgment

Section 377 and homosexuality: What the Supreme Court said | Read detailed judgment

"The United Nations in India welcomes the landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of India striking down a key component of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalized specific sexual acts between adults, a law dating back to British colonial rule that has targeted in particular lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals and communities", it said in a statement. A senior party member, Shashi Tharoor, said the "government has no space in bedrooms as this is a private act between consenting adults".

Although the law was seldom enforced, the gay community said it opened them to harassment and discrimination, and made it impossible for them to seek justice if they were victims of violence, rape or other crimes like blackmail. That the law must not discriminate is one aspect of equality.

"LGBT Community has same rights as of any ordinary citizen".

"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.

Justice Malhotra reportedly said that history owed an apology to the members of the LGBT community and their families for the delay in providing redressal for the ignominy and ostracism that they have suffered through the centuries.

In four separate yet concurring judgements, the top court overturned its 2013 verdict which had re-criminalised consensual unnatural sex. "Therefore, Section 377 IPC in its present form violates Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution".

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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.

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.

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

The issue was first raised by the NGO, Naaz Foundation, which approached the Delhi High Court in 2001.

Human rights activists hoped the impact of lifting the ban on gay sex would be felt beyond India and prompt other countries that outlaw homosexuality to reconsider their laws. Social morality can not be used to violate the fundamental rights of even a single individual. "You can't change the mindsets of the people with the hammer of law", said Pandit Ajay Gautam of the fringe Hum Hindu group. That judgment sent shockwaves through the gay community, but also made them more assertive.

The Supreme Court verdict is being cheered by millions across the country, far beyond the gay community, which has fought for decades for the right to be treated equally.

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