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Section 377: Gay rights landmark victory in India

INDIA: The world and the people of India are celebrating victory against Section 377. Indian lawmakers have created history by doing away with a colonial law that criminalized LGBT sexual relations.

A five-judge Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday, in four separate but concurring judgments, legalised same-sex relations between consenting adults.

It termed the 2013 judgment constitutionally impermissible. The apex court was hearing a clutch of petitions challenging criminalisation of homosexuality. The five-judge bench was headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and comprised Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra. The bench had reserved its verdict in the case on July 17.

Indian Spice, a digital news agency in South Africa whose publisher, Naufal Khan who is openly gay, states,

#Section377 in protest was reason I have not visited India until now. Today #LGBT South Asians across the world celebrate this landmark victory as their own & we remember those whose lives were taken away violently for their choice of who to love. #JaiHind#GayHind!”

UN welcomes SC verdict on Section 377

United Nations on Section 377 verdict: “Welcome today’s landmark ruling by SC. Sexual orientation and gender expression form an integral part of an individual’s identity the world over and violence, stigma and discrimination based on these attributes constitute an egregious violation of human rights.”

The verdict Thursday was on five petitions moved by dancer Navtej Jauhar, journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hoteliers Aman Nath and Keshav Suri and business executive Ayesha Kapur.

During the four-day hearing earlier this year, the Centre had said it would not contest the petitions, and left the decision to the “wisdom of the court”.

In its affidavit, the Ministry of Home Affairs said: “I state and submit that so far as the constitutional validity (of) Section 377 to the extent it applies to ‘consensual acts of adults in private’ is concerned, the Union of India would leave the said question to the wisdom of this Hon’ble Court.”

What does the colonial Section 377 law actually state?

Section 377 of the IPC states: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal inter­course against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with 1[imprisonment for life], or with impris­onment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

This archaic British law dates back to 1861 and criminalises sexual activities against the order of nature and the ambit of this law extends to any sexual union involving penile insertion.

Unanimous verdict on Section 377, top quotes from today’s ruling

Four opinions will be read out by the judges. CJI Dipak Misra says there is a consensus among the judgments, which means all the judges are in agreement.

“I am what I am. So take me as I am.”

“Only Constitutional morality and not social morality can be allowed to permeate rule of law…Sexual orientation is one of the many natural phenomena…any discrimination on basis of sexual orientation amounts to violation of fundamental rights.” – Justice Khanwilkar

“Homosexuals have right to live with dignity. They must be able to live without stigma.” – Justice Nariman

“Human sexuality cannot be reduced to a binary formulation and decriminalising Section 377 is but a first step.” – Justice Chandrachud

“History owes an apology to members of the community for the delay in ensuring their rights.” – Justice Indu Malhotra:

Here’s a visual timeline of the history behind the 150 year old colonial law, Section 377

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