India throws out ban on gay sex, sparking celebrations

Vastavam web: The Supreme Court scrapped a colonial-era ban on gay sex on Thursday, in a landmark judgement that sparked celebrations across India and elsewhere in South Asia, where activists hope to push for similar reform. Gay sex is considered taboo by many in socially conservative India, as well as in neighbouring Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. It was reinstated as a criminal offence in India in 2013, punishable up to 10 years in prison, after four years of decriminalisation.

“Any consensual sexual relationship between two consenting adults – homosexuals, heterosexuals or lesbians – cannot be said to be unconstitutional,” said the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, as he read out the judgement. Supporters of the campaign to scrap the ban milled around the court before the verdict and cheered the decision, hugging one another and waving rainbow flags.

“I’m so excited, I have no words,” said Debottam Saha, one of the petitioners in the case. Activists hope the scrapping of the ban will uphold the right to equality but many acknowledged that discrimination would persist. “We are no longer criminals, (but) it will take time to change things on the ground – 20 to 30 years, maybe,” said Saha. Balachandran Ramiah, a second petitioner, also said there was “a long road ahead when it comes to changing societal mindsets”, and stressed the importance of employers ending discrimination in workplaces.