India celebrates gay sex ruling with dance, chocolate and tears

SC likely to decide on validity of section 377 which criminalises gay sex on Thursday

SC likely to decide on validity of section 377 which criminalises gay sex on Thursday

India's Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a colonial-era ban on gay sex at the centre of years of legal battles.

"Private acts between consenting adults is something which no government should have criminalized as unfortunately we have done", he said.

The Supreme Court said other aspects of Section 377 remain in force. Some of them welcomed it after almost two decades of legal battle as a victory of marginalised and vulnerable people and sexual minority while maintaining that a long battle for real equality and non-discrimination awaits them at societal, governmental and legal levels in coming days.

Activists and well-wishers outside jumped for joy while waving gay pride flags and placards reading "Love Wins" and "LGBT rights are human rights".

LGBT community members and supporters cheer the ruling in Mumbai, as the chief justice characterized the colonial-era law as a tool to harass gay and lesbian Indians. One of the judges, Indu Malhotra, said she believed the LGBT community was owed an apology. The netizens too took to several social media to express their happiness over the Supreme Court's decision to legalise gay sex.

The judgement came on a batch 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. "Criminalising carnal intercourse under section 377 Indian penal code is irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary", said Chief Justice, Dipak Misra.

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

Even as the community celebrates, it will have to gear up for other battles, said another gay rights activist, Ruth Chawngthu."A lot of people think that this is the end and everyone is going to have rights now, marriage, equality and whatever, but this not the end, this is just the beginning and we have a long way to go". In 2009, the Delhi High Court decriminalised sex between consenting adults of the same gender.

On its official Twitter handle, the Congress said, "We join the people of India & the LGBTQIA+ community in their victory over prejudice".

The other challenge that lies ahead for LGBT members will be with respect to acceptance in jobs and in family gatherings. Describing Section 377 as a "terrible colonial legacy", they said it violated Articles 14 (equality), 15 (discrimination), 19 (freedom) and 21 (life and liberty) of the Constitution and has a "chilling effect" on the sexual minority.

Breaking down after hearing the verdict outside the Supreme Court in New Delhi, corporate employee Ali Ahmad Faraz, said "I am no longer a criminal in my country for a crime I never committed".

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