India celebrates gay sex ruling with dance, chocolate and tears

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A senior party member, Shashi Tharoor, said the "government has no space in bedrooms as this is a private act between consenting adults".

The law, while in existence, called for a maximum sentence of life in prison if one were caught taking part in homosexual acts.

The court observed that Section 377 forced the LGBTQ community to "live in hiding" and as "second class citizens" while "others enjoyed right to sexual orientation". While, in recent times, the law was rarely enforced fully, many members of the LGBT community of India believe that its mere existence helped spread hate, fear and repression of homosexuals.

Justice Malhotra reportedly said that history owed an apology to the members of the LGBT community and their families for the delay in providing redressal for the ignominy and ostracism that they have suffered through the centuries.

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"Any consensual sexual relationship between two consenting adults - homosexuals, heterosexuals or lesbians - can not be said to be unconstitutional", said the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, as he read out the judgment.

Reading down Section 377 IPC, the Constitution Bench said its provision will however continue to govern sexual acts against minors besides acts of bestiality. The netizens too took to several social media to express their happiness over the Supreme Court's decision to legalise gay sex.

He also said that homosexuality can not be regarded as a mental disorder and gays have the right to live with dignity. "But decriminalisation is a first step", says Justice Chandrachud's judgment.

The Lalit hotel's Keshav Suri, one of the court's petitioners, entered the lobby to rousing applause, gave his husband a peck on the cheek and declared: "It is time to celebrate". In 2009, the Delhi High Court decriminalised sex between consenting adults of the same gender.

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Human rights activists hoped the impact of lifting the ban on gay sex would be felt beyond India and prompt other countries that outlaw homosexuality to reconsider their laws.

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".

"Supreme Court verdict on Section 377 is momentous. You can't change the mindsets of the people with the hammer of law", said Pandit Ajay Gautam of the fringe Hum Hindu group. India now has openly gay celebrities, and some high-profile Bollywood films have dealt with gay issues.

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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