India's top court legalises gay sex in landmark ruling

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Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the denial of self-expression was akin to inviting death, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Seeking decriminalisation of consensual homosexuality, the NGO Naaz Foundation had first challenged Section 377 in the Delhi High Court in 2001.

Equal rights campaigners have also argued that the very existence of such a law is proof of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who's always been a supporter of gay rights, said his stand is now vindicated.

Today, thanks to a landmark Supreme Court ruling, it is no longer illegal to take part in homosexual acts, and literally the entire LGBT community in India is taking to the streets to celebrate. Others greeted each other across the court room with waves, mouthing words of support.

This issue came to light when the minority LGBT community filed a plea asking for the dissolution of section 377 against homosexuality.

As per the complete report published by renowned media sources, a 5 judge panel headed by CJI Dipak Misra diluted section 377 of the Indian Penal Code to exclude all sorts of adult consensual sexual behavior.

He declared, "The choice of whom to partner, the ability to find fulfilment in sexual intimacies and the right not to be subjected to discriminatory behaviour are intrinsic to the constitutional protection of sexual orientation".

Activists had been fighting the ban since the 1990s, suffering several court reverses before Thursday's verdict which sparked celebrations among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups (LGBT) across India.

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It said the State can not persecute people and decide the boundaries between what is permissible or not and observed that section 377 was based on "deep-rooted stereotypes of the society".

The Indian Supreme court has decided - after an 18-year long legal battle - that discrimination as a result of someone's sexual orientation is a violation of rights.

Prakash Das, another LGBTQ rights activist from Guwahati said that they have been fighting this struggle for the past four years in the city when they had organised the first LGBTQ pride parade in the city. While the Centre in the Supreme Court had said it had no opposition to partially striking down the section, it was silent on the issue of same sex marriages.

She told the court: "History owes an apology to these people persecuted by Section 377 for the social ostracism caused by the section".

During one hearing, Justice Chandrachud observed that "our focus is not only on the sexual act, but the relationship between two consenting adults and the manifestation of their rights under Articles 14 and 21 ..." The India that we are going to live in from now on is going to be a lot more inclusive and colourful. "Now we'll see who really cares".

While the statute criminalises all anal and oral sex, it has largely affected same-sex relationships. He further added that the state has no business in controlling the private lives homosexuals and community is entitled to equal citizenship, respects, rights and dignity.

Although the Delhi High Court had struck down the provision in 2009, it was revived by the Supreme Court in 2013 in a widely criticised judgment by a Division Bench of Justice G S Singhvi and Justice S J Mukhopadhyaya.

What the Supreme Court judgment appears to have done is to persuade parties like the Congress, which usually hedges its bets lest it should fall on the wrong side of public opinion, to come out in the verdict's favour, presumably because it senses that this judgment, more than any other, has become a touchstone in the matter of breaking out from the stranglehold of the past.

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