India's Supreme Court Decriminalizes Same-Sex Relations
India's Supreme Court ruled Thursday that homosexual sex, relationships and acts are no longer a criminal offense punishable by law. This historical ruling overturns a 2013 judgement that upheld a colonial-era law written in 1866, known as Section 377, under which homosexual sex and relationships were categorized as an "unnatural offense". India's highest court has now ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a fundamental violation of rights.
Similar to the U.S. Supreme Court, India's Supreme court is made up of several judges, however this particular decision was made by 5 Judges and was a unanimous decision. The public commentary from the judges has been overwhelming, as some of them expressed sincere apologies, unfairness and inequity in Section 377.
As Chief Justice Dipak Misra delivered the verdict he stated "Criminalizing carnal intercourse is irrational, arbitrary and manifestly unconstitutional...Constitutional morality cannot be martyred at the altar of social morality [and] social morality cannot be used to violate the fundamental rights of even a single individual."
Justice Indu Malhotra said, “History owes an apology to members of the community for the delay in ensuring their rights.”
Menaka Guruswamy, one of the lead lawyers representing gay petitioners, proclaimed “This decision is basically saying, ‘You are not alone.' The court stands with you. The Constitution stands with you. And therefore your country stands with you.” Campaigners outside the court cheered and some broke down in tears as the ruling was handed down.
Although public opinion in India's biggest cities has been in favour of scrapping the law, there remains strong opposition among religious groups and in conservative rural communities. Nonetheless, this is a historic victory that has already impacted and shaped the world immensely.