‘We are free’: India celebrates Section 377 verdict

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The Guardian reports India's highest court has struck down a 160-year-old law banning consensual gay sex, with another justice noting that "history owes an apology to members of the [gay] community for the delay in ensuring their rights" by keeping Section 377 on the books.

Prof.Bhim Singh expressed not only surprise but shock on this judgment by five-judge bench of the Supreme Court opening the gates of freedom of sex with same gender which has been described and taken as uncivilized, unnatural and unacceptable not only by Indian Penal Code but by all cultural, social beings which constitute the civilization of the world. The judgement announced that gay sex is no longer a crime in India and is legal.

The trial is expected to be called off once the Supreme Court order is mentioned before a judge hearing such a case where there were involvements of consensual adults, the official said.

On July 11, the centre handed over to the wisdom of the Supreme Court to analyze the constitutional validity of the penal provision that criminalized "consensual acts of adults in private", saying this was the question under section 377 which shall be answered by the bench of the constitution.

Despite the pressure on the LGBT community, India has quietly made some strides in sexual rights in recent years. Earlier in 2009, the Delhi High Court had said that Section 377 violates the fundamental rights of the people mentioned in the Constitution.

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Prosecution under Section 377 is, however, not common, but activists complain that authorities use the law to harass or scare gay people.

LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community faced the stigma because of the criminality attached to consensual same-sex relationship, the bench had said.

He further said that the issue is how do you deal with sexual orientation with an expression of sex in Article 15 of the Constitution.

Fellow justice Indu Malhotra acknowledged that the ruling was long overdue.

Under what legal system the Hon'ble Supreme Court admitted almost five petitions on the same subject challenging the validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

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The netizens too took to several social media to express their happiness over the Supreme Court's decision to legalise gay sex. You can't change the mindsets of the people with the hammer of law", said Pandit Ajay Gautam of the fringe Hum Hindu group.

However, then BJP President Rajnath Singh, months ahead of coming into power, was quoted in December 2013 as saying, "We will state (at an all-party meeting if it is called) that we support Section 377 because we believe that homosexuality is an unnatural act and can not be supported".

Anwesh Pokkuluri, another petitioner, said, "Based on how the proceedings have gone, we do not see how they can uphold (the ban)". "We welcome the progressive & decisive verdict from the Supreme Court & hope this is the beginning of a more equal & inclusive society", it said, adding intersex and asexuality to LGBT.

In 2011, the then Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, at a convention attended by former Congress President Sonia Gandhi and a host of other Union ministers, had said homosexuality is a "disease" and it is "unnatural".

"Justice Chandrachud also said that due to Section 377, the LGBTQ members were forced to live in hiding and as second class citizens, while the others used to enjoy the right of sexual orientation".

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