India’s Supreme Court has ruled to decriminalise gay sex, in an historic and unanimous verdict handed down by a five-judge panel that will have a profound impact both here in India and across the world.
The courtroom in Delhi was overflowing with LGBT+ activists who have battled for 20 years for this moment, and a cheer erupted as word came from inside that consensual sex between adults of any gender was no longer deemed a crime.
Until now, gay sex had been punishable by up to 10 years in prison under Section 377 of the Indian constitution, a relic of the Victorian-era laws imposed by the British Empire. It outlawed sexual activities “against the order of nature” and was interpreted by police and courts as referring to homosexuality.
Celebrating under a sweltering sun on the lawns outside the courtroom, LGBT+ activists said they were finally free from a law that, though rarely enforced, was the foundation for systemic discrimination and harassment of gay Indians.
Reading out his judgment on the case, the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said interpreting Section 377 to criminalise gay sex was “irrational, arbitrary and indefensible”.