India Decriminalizes Homosexuality: Country’s Top Court Throws Out Section 377

India Decriminalizes Homosexuality: Country’s Top Court Throws Out Section 377

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India’s Supreme Court has decriminalized homosexuality, throwing out Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a holdover from British rule. The court ruled discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a fundamental violation of human rights.

“Criminalizing carnal intercourse is irrational, arbitrary and manifestly unconstitutional,” said outgoing chief justice Dipak Misra.

Justice Indu Malhotra, said she believed “history owes an apology” to LGBT people for ostracizing them.

“We are witnessing history being made,” tweeted journalist Anna MM Vetticad. “Hats off to all my #LGBT rights activist friends who have battled hard to get here. You have saved India from the shame of being one of the remaining countries in the world that criminalizes #homosexuality.”

I’m delighted that Indian laws have finally caught up with Indian culture,” tweeted author Amish Tripathi. “Traditional ancient Indian culture did not criminalize LGBTQs. I am proud to see modern India finally live up to the liberal values of our great ancestors in this regard.”

Section 377 criminalized “voluntarily carnal intercourse against the order of nature” with any man, woman or animal, and levied punishments ranging from a fine to 10 years in prison for consensual same-sex relations. In addition to those penalties, it emboldened harassment and stigmatization of LGBTQ people in Indian society. The court said other aspects of section 377, dealing with sex with animals and children, remain in place.

Homosexuality was first decriminalized in India in 2009, when a Delhi court struck down Section 377. But that decision was reversed by a two-judge Supreme Court decision in 2013, in the case of Suresh Kumar Koushal vs Naz Foundation. In May of this year, the high court decided to hear another petition to scrap the discriminatory statute.

Photo: NBC News

Manvendra Singh Gohil, the first openly gay royal in India, was optimistic about today’s ruling about Section 377.

Manvendra Singh Gohil

“The section is based on Victorian moralities, not Indian moralities,” the prince told Gay Star News, arguing that India accepted LGBTQ people centuries ago, as evidenced in the Kama Sutra. Section 377 “completely violates the human right to have the freedom to fall in love.”

But the ruling is just the beginning, says Manvendra, who came out in 2006. “Gay rights cannot just be in the court room, but in the hearts and minds of the people.”

Do you think the repeal of Section 377 will change attitudes toward LGBTQ people in India?

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