On Thursday, September 6th, India’s Supreme Court overturned a 150-year-old law that criminalized consensual gay sex. Although the law, which burdened those found guilty with a potential life sentence, was rarely put into practice, its dismissal is a gigantic step forward for human rights and the Indian LGBTQ community.
The law, known as Section 377, was first instated in India during the colonial era under British rule and has been used to ostracize LGBTQ+ people for decades. CNN reports that lawyers who fought the law in court stated that 377 caused societal fear of homosexuals and implied that they went “against the order of nature.”
Members of India’s Supreme Court voted unanimously to end the ban, and India’s chief justice, Dipak Misra, declared Section 377 “irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary.”
The court then agreed that gay citizens of India are entitled to all constitutional protections, and discrimination against citizens based on sexuality is now deemed illegal. The New York Times reported that Indian justices said homosexuality is “natural” and that the Indian Constitution is not a “collection of mere dead letters.”
Crowds of supporters and activists stood outside the courthouse on Thursday, anxiously waiting to hear the final verdict. When the Section 377 ban was lifted, many erupted in cheers, tears, and joy.
Though there are still of course many conservative factions within India (as within all countries) this monumental ruling has bashed down a societal wall. Members of the LGTBQ+ community are now free to live their truths (and full lives) without fear of punishment.