Graphic by Angela Zheng
On September 6, the Supreme Court of India issued a milestone ruling decriminalizing consensual gay sex, CNN reports. Stemming from a law imposed during British imperialism in India, the previously legal Section 377 dictated that “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with 1[imprisonment for life]…”
The decision was met with jubilance by India’s LGBTQ+ community, with celebrations outside of the courthouse. LGBTQ+ Indians have given widespread support to the decision, which resolves a 18-year legal battle over consensual gay sex, previously considered an “unnatural offence” under Indian law.
Though not often a law strictly enforced, it did set a precedent for legal harassment of queer Indians and their private lives. With this decision, there is a newfound sense of freedom for queer people in India.
The decision is also expected to strengthen India’s economy, with a new age of inclusivity for LGBTQ+ employees as well as corporations publicly able to embrace the “Pink Economy” sector of India’s population. It was estimated by University of Massachusetts Amherst economics professor Lee Badgett that the previously legal discrimination was costing the Indian economy around $26 million a year.
Ultimately, this decision is most relieving and exciting for queer Indians, who no longer have to face an antiquated, imperialism-based law. While the fight for queer rights and protections in India is far from over (as same-sex marriage and other rights are still not law), this ruling takes a necessary first step in legalizing and protecting the private lives and freedom of expression for queer communities.