India ends the colonial era ban on gay sex in a historic decision

Indian LGBT activists react after the hearing at the Supreme Court.

India's Supreme Court on Thursday nullified the ban on gay sex after a decades-old campaign against a colonial-era law used to curb LGBT rights.

Members of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups held tearful parties in cities of 1.25 billion Southeast Asian people while reading the historic verdict.

"The law became a weapon of harassment for the LGBT community," Supreme Court President Dipak Misra said, nullifying the cornerstone of Section 377, a law introduced by British rulers in 1861.

The activists were overwhelmed with emotion after the court's ruling.

AAP

"Any discrimination based on sexuality amounts to a violation of fundamental rights," he added in the ruling, which added India to a list of more than 120 countries where homosexuality is decriminalized.

While Indian law only legalizes sexual acts between adults, homosexual activists have hailed the verdict as a major boost in the deeply conservative country where religious groups have fiercely opposed any liberalization of sexual morality.

Activists had been fighting the ban since the 1990s, suffering several judicial setbacks before Thursday's verdict.

The Delhi Supreme Court decriminalized homosexual sex in 2009, but the Supreme Court reinstated the ban in 2014 after an appeal by religious leaders.

According to official data, in 2016 2,187 cases were registered under Section 377 in the category of "non-natural crimes". Seven people were convicted and 16 acquitted.

A pride parade in Bangalore.

A pride parade in Bangalore.

AAP

"It was a law that propagated homophobia," said Keshav Suri, one of the petitioners against Section 377, who organized a dance show at his family's luxury hotel in Delhi to celebrate the court's victory.

"In rural areas it is a tool of harassment, used by police, used by the authorities to extort money for glorifying rape and abuse," Suri told AFP in an interview before the verdict.

Many Indian gay professionals moved to Canada and Europe, where they are more accepted, added the businessman who married his partner in Paris this year.

The conservative government of India opposed the completion of Section 377, but said before the hearing that it would leave the decision to the "wisdom" of the Supreme Court.

However, he cautioned that judges should not change other aspects of Indian law, such as the right to

& # 39; Long battle & # 39;

Members of the LGBT community embraced and mourned in front of the Supreme Court in New Delhi as news of the verdict spread.

"I have no words, it has taken a long time to arrive, but finally I can say that I am free and have the same rights as others," said Rama Vij, a university student in Calcutta who met with other people who saw him on television.

Despite the pressure on the LGBT community, India has made some progress on sexual rights in recent years.

A transgender judge, Joyita Mondal Mahi, presides over the courts in the state of West Bengal, Indian passports now indicate whether a holder is "male", "female" or "other", and the city of Raigarh, with 139,000 people, has a transgender mayor.

Suri hotels are known for their gay friendly clubs and more professionals are going out to challenge the Indian establishment.

Many say that gay marriage and equal rights in the inheritance and other areas should be the final prize, but recognize that the change will not be quick.

"This is the first step in the history of many other countries that first decriminalized gay sex, allowed civil unions and then marriage," Suri said.

"It's a long battle for equal rights, but I'm sure we'll get there eventually."

New Delhi choreographer Mandeep Raikhy, who has used the performances of his dance company to highlight the experience of homosexuals, was even more cautious.

"I do not want to look pessimistic, but I do not think we'll see gay marriage in my life," he said.