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Same-sex relationships were decriminalized in India today. In a landmark ruling, India’s Supreme Court struck down an archaic Colonial-era law that has ostracized the LGBTQ+ community for 158-years. According to the Times of India, Activists, supporters, and members of the LGBTQ+ community were celebrating the verdict, which also added that Indian society can’t dictate sexual relationships between consenting adults. A charity that works with India’s LGBTQ+ community, Humsafar Trust, reported that less than 20% of those who answered a survey have revealed their sexual identity, while 40% of openly homosexual Indians have faced blackmail since 2013. Decriminalization is just the start to equal rights as there is a plethora of serious issues that LGBTQ+ people still face. Per Al Jazeera, in recent years, queer individuals have faced abuses such as physical beatings, sexual assault, bullying, and extortion. Today’s ruling was a leap in the right direction, but activists cannot lose momentum in fighting for equal rights.
The LGBTQ+ community as well as progressive people throughout India are ecstatic for the Supreme Court ruling. LGBTQ+ activist Anjali Nazi commented, “We were granted a basic human right today and we can’t express just how happy we are.” Nazia believes the Supreme court has paved way for more judgements in the future. However, despite the celebrations, there is still plenty of work to be done. Anjan Joshi, member of the Society for People, Awareness, Care and Empowerment states, “It is a start. We know we have a long way to go in terms of right to adoption, right to marriage but it is a very welcome beginning.” Feminist activist Rituparna Borah was emotional and excited for the ruling but agrees that the ruling is a stepping stone. Borah added the problem of police violence to Joshi’s examples of next steps in human rights advances. Lastly, the national government has openly supported the ruling. Congress tweeted, “We join the people of India & the LGBTQIA+ community in their victory over prejudice. We welcome the progressive & decisive verdict for the Supreme Court & hope this is the beginning of a more equal & inclusive society.”
Same-sex relationships have been criminalized in India since colonial times. Under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, offenders are accused of committing an “unnatural offence” and was punishable by up to a 10-year jail term. The push for LGBTQ+ rights in India has been an uphill battle for activists and supporters. In 1999, India had its first gay pride parade with just 15 participants. Nearly 20-years later, the parade has grown to the thousands and will quickly grow following the Supreme Court ruling. Although India’s population has slowly accepted the LGBTQ+ community, discrimination is common especially outside of big cities.
The Supreme Court made history today with their decision to decriminalize same-sex relationships. As activists, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and their supporters have said, there is still a long, difficult road ahead for equal rights. One issue that ought to be made a primary priority is addressing discriminatory police violence against LGBTQ+ people. This ruling will be null unless those that upkeep the law respect what the Supreme Court has said and protects those from further persecution. India could become a role model for human rights around the world and avoid situations the LGBTQ+ community faces in countries such as Chechnya and Russia. Additionally, Congress needs to commit to this issue as they suggested in their tweet and properly represent all their constituents. India has let go some of its colonial legacy today, but there must be a consistent push to avoid a plateau of furthering equal rights.
The world is watching how India as a whole will react to bringing LGBTQ+ rights to the forefront of societal issues. In a relatively short amount of time, same-sex relationships went from taboo and illegal to gaining recognition and acceptance from both the Supreme Court and some Congressional legislators. The battle for equality has now officially begun for LGBTQ+ Indians.