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This September, a unanimous ruling by a five-judge panel of India's highest court struck down a portion of Section 377, a colonial-era law that banned, among other things, intercourse between consenting same-sex partners.
Dating to the 1860s, Section 377 has long been used as an excuse to discriminate and harass India's huge queer population. The nation itself has over 1.3 billion people (by comparison, America has approximately 300 million people). The law also banned anal and oral sex among all Indians, but the rules against gay sex were more often enforced.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra read part of the judgment to the court, saying, according to the BBC, "Criminalizing carnal intercourse is irrational, arbitrary, and manifestly unconstitutional."
Another justice, Indu Malhotra went even further, writing, "History owes an apology to the members of this community and their families, for the delay in providing redressal for the ignominy and ostracism that they have suffered through the centuries... on account of the ignorance of the majority to recognize that homosexuality is a completely natural condition, part of a range of human sexuality."
The Indian Supreme Court's judgment is remarkable and unprecedented not only because it impacts an estimated 136 million LGBTQ people, but also because it goes far beyond simply decriminalizing gay sex.
According to Krishna Omkar, an India-born lawyer based in the United Kingdom who submitted a brief in the case, "the court considered the sodomy laws not just in the context of same-sex relations between men, but also explicitly ruled to include lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people within the gambit of the protections of its judgment, while also stressing the need to challenge the binary conceptions of gender identity and sexual orientation."
Furthermore, Omkar writes, the justices "declared that discrimination against LGBTQ people contravenes four fundamental human rights: the right to equality and freedom from discrimination, the right to freedom of expression, the right to life and liberty, and the right to privacy."
In the aftermath of the decision, the BBC described the scene in India's cities as joyous, with activists planning to push forward with more advances, including laws against anti-LGBTQ discrimination and bullying.
Section 377 was struck down in 2009 by a court in the capital of New Delhi, but conservatives rallied and brought the case to the national court, which overruled the Delhi decision. Activists were undeterred, taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court, which issued the historical ruling.