Supreme Court decriminalises section 377

Section 377 verdict

The Supreme Court on Thursday passed a landmark verdict in the direction of guaranteeing equal rights to the members of LGBTQ community. It decriminalised the Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) a.k.a homosexuality and declared it a basic human right.

The five-judge Constitution bench – comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra unanimously said that homosexuality is not a mental disorder but a completely natural condition. Hence, the denial of right to sexual orientation is akin to denial of right to privacy. The verdict clearly passed keeping in mind ‘the third gender’ affirms that no community, however small it may be by comparison to the majority, could be deprived of its sexual rights and expression of sexual orientation.

For record, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is a section of the Indian Penal Code introduced in 1861 during the British rule of India. It criminalises sexual activities “against the order of nature”. The issue of Section 377 was first raised by an NGO, Naaz Foundation, which in 2001 approached the Delhi high court that then decriminalised sex between consenting adults of the same gender as illegal. The judgement was later overturned in the year 2013 when the Supreme Court restored the criminality of the consensual gay sex. However, today with the Supreme Court demolishing the Section 377 straightaway, it has now become the thing of the past.

The LGBTQ community of course welcomed the verdict with an impromptu jubilations and a mixed of emotions. They danced, hugged, cried with tears of joy and swirled the rainbow flags everywhere. People from all walks of life joined in their celebrations and acknowledged the verdict as a baby step towards bigger judgements in their quest for equality. The community also took the verdict as a beginning to prevent social ostracism and claim their right to adopt, marry and have a family. One of the LGBT rights activist and founder of Humsafar Trust Ashok Row Kavi after the apex court’s judgement said, “We have finally got justice. We are finally ‘azaad in azaad Hind”. Another activist Anjali Nazia told PTI, “We were granted a basic human right today and we can’t express just how happy we are”. Twitterati too celebrated section 377 verdict with utmost happiness and poured their hearts out through their tweets. The Congress also put out a Twitter post welcoming the judgement. The United Nations also lauded the Supreme Court as a step to eliminate social stigma and discrimination against LGBTI. Some of the prominent tweets read as follows:

As for many the verdict became a harbinger of better days, there were others who expressed disappointment over the historic verdict. The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) secretary-general Muhammad Salim Engineer said that by decriminalising homosexuality and permitting male-male and female-female marriage will destroy the family system and prevent the natural evolution and progress of the human race. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has also cleared that they do not support homosexuality, as same-sex marriages and relations are not in harmony with nature and against social beliefs. The tweet on the SC judgement read as:

The two-decade-long journey of decriminalisation of sexual intercourse between consenting adults of same sex under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code for most Indians has been very surreal. However, the verdict pronounced today has called in for celebration but the bigger picture is yet to unfold!