Section 377 Struck Down; Love no Longer a Crime

Section 377

 Section 377

“History owes the LGBT community an apology for their sufferings”
-Justice Indu Malhotra

The morning of 6th September 2018, has perhaps come as the brightest one in years for a large number of our countrymen. Ironically, the very same that was called a “minuscule minority” just a few years earlier. In a historic, and much-awaited judgment by the Supreme Court, Section 377 has been struck down, shortly before mid-day on the 6th.

हिंदी में पढ़ने के लिए यहां क्लिक करें………

The judgement was received with eyes moist with happiness, and with an uproar from people who have been fighting against the archaic law for years. The LGBTQIA+ community, and sensible cis-heterosexual people alike, have come together to join in on the wave of celebration. It is no longer illegal to love.

The fight against Section 377

The five judges bench, led by the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra gave the unanimous judgement on September, 6th. The Supreme Court had kept its verdict on reserve on July 17th after its hearing on the Section. For those who don’t know, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was introduced in the year 1861. In effect, it criminalised sexual activities “against the order of nature”, including homosexuality.

The struggle to bring Section 377 down legally started in the year 2001, when Naz Foundation, an NGO that mainly works on HIV/AIDS, filed a petition in the Delhi High Court against Section 377. Eight years later, the same court declared Section 377 as violating the fundamental rights of individuals, thus declaring it void. The landmark judgement, though welcomed by many, was unfortunately only short-lived. The Supreme Court, in 2013, upturned the Delhi Court’s judgement, stating that in India, the LGBTQIA+ community was a “minuscule minority”.

So, Section 377 was back in force, but a wave of protest and discussion had already begun. In the recent years, the movement has been gaining more and more visibility.

Struck down

When homosexuality was once again declared unconstitutional in 2009, the Supreme Court has said that it was not in the hands of the judiciary, but the Parliament to scrape off laws. However, earlier in 2018, the court said it “cannot wait for a majoritarian government”, if the fundamental rights of the citizens are getting violated in the process.

Naturally, the day of 6th September 2018, came carrying hopes for many. For the world’s largest democracy, the decision on Section 377 stood as one of the biggest tests. Chief Justice Dipak Misra led Supreme Court bench, as expected, struck down the provisions of Section 377 that had earlier criminalised consensual acts between adults. Ending the long wait, the judges were sharp with their words of disapproval for the archaic law that has been used to suppress innocent citizens in the past 157 years.

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“No one can escape from their individuality… Look for the rainbow in every crowd”, said Chief Justice Dipak Misra. He further added that “Denial of self-expression is like death”. The justice bench called the law irrational, indefensible, and arbitrary.

The road ahead

The United Nations welcomed the Supreme Court judgement in a statement, calling it the “first step to full fundamental rights”, and fairly so. While the citizens of the country have been given constitutional acceptance after the long struggle, in a society like ours, social acceptance is still a road we have to pave together.

The judges said repealing of Section 377 was a move to provide the citizens their right to dignity back, honoring the individual rights and privacy. However, there are still several people who get uneasy at the mention of the queer community, the discrimination still remains visible. A major, long due battle has been won. Another one awaits.

Happy Pride!

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