India Legalizes Gay Sex in a Historic Ruling

Today, the country's Supreme Court struck down a law from the 1860s

Updated 09/06/18

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Toss a fresh heap of rainbow confetti into the air to celebrate the latest triumph for international gay rights, as India rescinds a law banning gay sex that was written all the way back during the colonial era! Today, The New York Times reports that the country's Supreme Court unanimously ruled to overturn "one of the world's oldest bans on consensual gay sex."

The language of Section 377, which was written in the 1860s, addressed what were then considered "unnatural sexual acts." While the ban on bestiality will remain intact, India’s chief justice, Dipak Misra, called the overall law itself “irrational, indefensible, and manifestly arbitrary.”

He told a courtroom full of onlookers, "We have to bid adieu to prejudices and empower all citizens.”

Furthermore, the judges reiterated that gay folks were entitled to the same constitutional rights and protection from discrimination that any citizen would enjoy under Indian law.

And another judge, Justice Indu Malhotra, even remarked that, “History owes an apology to members of the community for the delay in ensuring their rights."

In response, the Times reported "explosions of happiness" all across the country. In Mumbai, human rights activists really did throw confetti. Meanwhile, the high court steps in Bangalore were lined with gay people embracing one another—watering the ground with tears of joy.

This decision comes on the heels of other worldwide wins for same-sex rights. Earlier this summer, Bermuda declared an anti-gay marriage law unconstitutional, and late last year Australia legalized gay marriage. However, we still have a ways to travel down the road to universal acceptance. According to a USA Today article from last summer, “there are at least 71 countries (37 percent of United Nation-member states) where same-sex sexual activity is a crime." While we've thankfully crossed some off the list, many others remain—including Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, Syria, and Iraq.

Of course, that's not to say we don't have issues to contend with here at home. Many states in the U.S. have passed laws just his year making it more difficult for LGBT couples to adopt.

However, many in the population are hoping this monumental shakedown in South Asia will generate aftershocks around the globe.

“This ruling is hugely significant,” Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director for Human Rights Watch, told the Times. Ganguly is optimistic India's lead will inspire other nations with comparable ancient laws "to end their discriminatory, regressive treatment” of the LGBTQ community.

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