India passes historic legislation allowing constitutional freedoms for gay citizens

by Arushi Saxena and Irene Yuan, Global Editor and Reporter

Rainbow flags draped the streets as happy couples, surrounded by clouds of multi-colored confetti, danced, embraced and kissed on the steps of courthouses across India following the landmark decision by its Supreme Court to strike down Section 377, a ban on consensual gay sex.

Following years of oppression for India’s LGBTQ community, “irrational, indefensible, and manifestively arbitrary” were the words used by Chief Justice Dipak Misra to describe the law, which was reversed in early September. Justices also went further to state that gay citizens were to be given all protections under the Constitution.

One of India’s colonial-era bans, Section 377 made all gay relationships illegal. Prior to the reversal, any homosexual partners seen in public together were subject to fines or arrest.

Throughout this ban’s existence, several thousands of citizens were discouraged from coming out, while those that did express their sexuality to friends or family were forced to keep their relationships a secret while in public.

“It is such pleasant news to see that the Supreme Court of India unanimously passed this judgement. Together, those justices finally took care of an archaic colonial-era law criminalizing homosexuality,” said Mohammed Shaik Hussain Ali, Chairperson of Trikone, a San Francisco-based volunteer organization formed to support Desi LGBTQ citizens. “To me personally, this means that at least legally, the discrimination is invalid and that I have the law on my side. To the community, they can now be less afraid of persecution, at least legally.”

Despite the magnitude of support, this ban has also undergone scrutiny from several groups. As India is historically a strongly conservative country, the population of India includes a large majority of older, more traditional-minded citizens.

Many from the younger generation, however, are taking a more open-minded approach.

I am extremely glad about decriminalization of gays because it’s not really up to you who you fall in love with and what not. People deserve to express their feelings openly because that is what human rights are for,” Sanya Gupta, an 18-year old student from India, said.