Sher Vancouver Applauds India’s Long Overdue Gay Sex Ruling

The landmark decision Thursday with the support of all the judges on India’s highest court sends a message that LGBTQ people are entitled to basic rights, protection, and an identity."This decision gives us hope for India’s future and faith in its institutions," said Alex Sangha, the spokesperson and leader of the South Asian Gay rights group in Vancouver.

By R. Paul Dhillon

With News Files

SURREY  – Sher Vancouver strongly endorsed the Supreme Court of India’s decision to scrap Section 377, ending the right of two consulting adults of any gender to indulge in sex.

"This decision gives us hope for India’s future and faith in its institutions," said Alex Sangha, the spokesperson and leader of the South Asian Gay rights group in Vancouver.

Section 377 was an outdated British colonial law that was used to discriminate and harass queer people.

The landmark decision Thursday with the support of all the judges on India’s highest court sends a message that LGBTQ people are entitled to basic rights, protection, and an identity.

"They can feel proud of who they are.  They are not criminals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," Sangha said in a press release.

"The court has essentially stated that what mutual consensual adults do privately is their business. This reminds me of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s historic statement that “the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.” 

"I am hoping this decision will pave the way to turn India into the “pink capital” of Asia.

"Furthermore, this decision may will lead to other changes that support inclusivity and diversity in India such as increased funding for programs and services for LGBTQ people, an enhanced approach to tackle HIV and AIDS, and a more realistic portrayal of LGBTQ people in the media, school curriculum, and even cinema," Sangha said.

Although the British had long changed their laws on Gay sex and India was free to do that as well but didn't do it till Thursday. Previously, British Prime Minister Theresa May had expressed "regret" for Britain introducing the law in 1862 but they long lifted the law in Britain back in the early 1960s. But India kept it going till this week.

Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell described the Indian Supreme Court’s ruling as “historic” but added that ending the ban on homosexuality is just a start.

A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court unanimously decriminalised part of the 158-year-old law under Section 377 of the IPC which criminalises consensual unnatural sex, saying it violated the rights to equality. It’s no longer a crime to be a homosexual in India.

A Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was arbitrary and unconstitutional to the extent that it punishes consensual intercourse between adults irrespective of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

SC held that section 377 infringed upon the fundamental rights of LGBTQ persons, who ought to be treated equally before the law, enjoy dignity and freedom of expression and not face discrimination. While reading his judgment, Misra said, “I am what I am. So take me as I am. No one can escape their individuality.”

In four separate but concurring judgments, the apex court ruled that societal morality cannot violate the fundamental rights of even a single individual. “Constitutional morality cannot be martyred at the altar of societal morality,” the bench said.

The judgement came on a batch of petitions filed by 34 individual petitioners belonging to the LGBTQ community, interventions filed by NGO Naz Foundation, parents of queer persons and Voices Against 377, a collective of human rights groups, among others. This was the first time LGBTQ persons filed writ petitions to challenge section 377’s constitutional validity.

Petitioners included Navtej Singh Johar, a Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee, chef and restaurateur Ritu Dalmia, transgender woman activist Akkai Padmashali, hotelier Keshav Suri, activists Arif Jafar and Ashok Row Kavi, and a clutch of IITians from an all-India alumni group Pravritti.

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