Glaring colonial vestige buried: How foreign media covered the Section 377 verdict

Glaring colonial vestige buried: How foreign media covered the Section 377 verdict

A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously decriminalised part of the 158-year-old colonial law under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which criminalises homosexuality.

'It is not only about decriminalising but recognising our fundamental rights, ' Akhilesh Godi, one of the petitioners in the case, told Reuters shortly before the judgement was announced.

During the last hearing session seeking the scrapping of Section 377, the Centre passed the buck on Supreme Court and said that the Constitutionality of 377 is to be decided by the Court. Though the decision technically only applied to the Delhi region, it was quickly overruled by the Supreme Court in 2013, following a petition launched by a loose coalition of Christian, Hindu and Muslim groups.

Taking to Twitter, actress Dia Mirza said, "May today be the beginning of EQUAL rights".

Homosexuality has a tangled history in India, and some of Hinduism's most ancient texts are accepting of gay sex.

First introduced in 1861, colonial-era Section 377 law, stated that gay sex and homosexual acts were considered criminal activities, arguing that, by engaging in these acts, LGBT people were living "against the order of nature", the archaic legislation carried a high tariff, with gay sex punishable with up to life imprisonment.

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To deny members of LGBT community the full expression of right to sexual orientations is to deny them right under constitution, it's denial of the right to privacy.

"Constitutional morality can not be martyred at the altar of social morality", Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, reading out the verdict. The decision stated that social regulations can not function with the liberties of the constitution and granted constitutional rights to everybody without bringing up civils rights.

As the New York Times notes, the justices made it clear that they knew they were making a historic decision.

He declared, "The choice of whom to partner, the ability to find fulfilment in sexual intimacies and the right not to be subjected to discriminatory behaviour are intrinsic to the constitutional protection of sexual orientation". Prosecution under Section 377 is, however, not common, but activists complain that authorities use the law to harass or scare gay people.

While announcing the ruling, numerous justices noted that the unanimous overturning of the law was long overdue. But The struggle of minorities is not an easy one this paves the way for a lot of other reforms" said Harish Iyer, an LGBTQ activist who filed an impleadment application on Section 377 "But as of now, we are simply celebrating.

Reactions poured in from all quarters - of relief, joy and of finally being able to identify, and hailed the Supreme Court for its verdict. This is the first battle that has been won and there are many more battles that we are going to fight and we'll win that as well. "I am astounded at people who say that we can not get these rights".

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