India's top court legalises gay sex in landmark ruling

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 INDRANIL MUKHERJEE  AFP  Getty Images

View Slideshow INDRANIL MUKHERJEE AFP Getty Images

India's Supreme Court is due to deliver a landmark verdict on Thursday, when it will decide if gay sex should remain a criminal offence in the country.

It said that prosecution under Section 377 was significantly less and it only affected "a minuscule fraction of the country's population" comprising lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgenders.

Along with the CJI Dipak Misra, the panel of judges also included A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud, R.F. Nariman, and Indu Malhotra. "Social morality can not be used to violate the fundamental rights of even a single individual".

The judgment reflects rapid social change in India, where only five years ago, the top court upheld the same law.

Justice Chandrachud, while reading out the operative portion of his verdict, said members of LGBTQ community were targeted and exploited due to Section 377. "What happens in our bedroom is left to us".

In its ruling, the court said sexual orientation was a "biological phenomenon" and that discrimination on that basis violated fundamental rights. What we need are systemic policy changes that are more inclusive.

The law known as Section 377 held that intercourse between members of the same sex was against the order of nature.

"Although members of the public who regard homosexuality as immoral may be shocked, offended or disturbed by the commission by others of private homosexual acts, this can not on its own warrant the application of penal sanctions when it is consenting adults alone who are involved", the court had said.

A family including supporters and members of the LGBTQ community celebrate outside the Supreme Court. The court heard the case due to a petition filed by five people who challenged the law. They said they lived in fear of being harassed and prosecuted
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Transgender people known as "hijras", for example, have always been a common sight in India. They are shunned by the wider community and often forced to work as beggars and prostitutes, but are also sometimes embraced because they are believed to bring powerful blessings. The RSS on the other hand said that while it doesn't see homosexuality as a crime, such relationships were not "compatible with nature" and so it does not support them.

Many gay activists said Friday that they were unsure how far the ruling would be applied or whether it would eradicate other forms of discrimination.

Section 377 is a repressive British-era law that survived for over 158 years, including 71 years in independent India, until Thursday. After the decision announced by the apex court, There have been some reactions came that you will find compassion towards the thinking of civilized people.

Although public opinion in India's biggest cities has been in favour of scrapping the law, there remains strong opposition among religious groups and in conservative rural communities. Some high-profile Bollywood films have dealt with gay issues.

As people filed out of the court room, the landing of the Supreme Court was filled with people exchanging hugs and taking photographs to commemorate a historic day not just for human rights in India, but for the ideas of dignity, liberty and self-determination for people all over the world.

Recent Supreme Court judgements recognising transgenders as a third gender (in 2014) and making the right to privacy a fundamental right (in 2017) have opened hitherto-closed doors for legislative and judicial reforms for LGBT members. We reached heaven-with our two sons watching and the law on our side at long last. This is the firsts of many firsts. "For sure", Mr. Singh said.

Welcoming Thursday's verdict Ashok Row Kavi, Founder Chairperson of The Humsafar Trust, said in a press statement, "We waited 18 years for this but it was worth every minute to be finally free of Section 377". This led to a fresh bunch of petitions which cited the 2017 historic judgment to read down Section 377 and decriminalize homosexuality.

Paul Ryan on Trump tweets: 'Justice should be blind'
Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona tweeted that Trump was "looking to use the Department of Justice to settle political scores". Pat Leahy of Vermont compared Trump's comment to North Korea, and noted his previous experience as a prosecutor.

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