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Indian Supreme Court decriminalises same-sex conduct

India: I look forward to a good night's sleep for I am no longer a criminal

In a landmark judgement, India’s Supreme Court has decriminalised same-sex relationships.

The five-judge bench declared Section 377 – a colonial-era law imposed by Britain which criminalised “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” – as unconstitutional and in violation of fundamental rights. 

Same-sex relations had been previously legalised in India by the Delhi High Court in 2009. However, same-sex relationships were recriminalized in 2013 after the Supreme Court overturned the Delhi High Court’s decision. 

Lesbian, gay, bi and trans people in India are widely stigmatised and subject to systematic discrimination and harassment in many spheres of life, including education, employment and healthcare. For 160 years, Section 377 reinforced the idea that discrimination and mistreatment of LGBT people was acceptable. This decision is the first step to improving the lives of LGBT Indians. 

Campaigners are already gearing up for the next battles that need to be fought to ensure LGBT equality in the country, including for legal recognition, marriage rights, employment rights and anti-discrimination laws. 

Ashok Row Kavi, of LGBTQ rights group Humsafar Trust and one of the petitioners before the Supreme Court said:

"18 years of hard work has finally paid off but this is just the beginning of a long journey for equal rights in society. There is so much more to do, so many dreams have to come true, but today I look forward to a good night's sleep for I am no longer a criminal!"

Section 377 was imposed across the British empire. Many LGBT people across the world are still criminalised under this legislation. Earlier this year, Theresa May said she deeply regrets Britain’s legacy of anti-LGBT laws.

You can read Humsafar Trust’s statement here.