India's Supreme Court advances human rights by repealing colonial anti-LGBT law

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      India has made history by ruling that a colonial era law discriminates against LGBT people.

      India's Supreme Court ruled on August 6 that same-sex sexual activity is not a criminal offence and that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a violation of rights.

      In August 2017, the Supreme Court had ruled that privacy is a fundamental right and negatively impacted "the unhindered fulfilment of one's sexual orientation, as an element of privacy and dignity".

      The struggle to remove section 377 of the Penal Code, introduced in 1861, has been a longterm legal battle.

      The current ruling overturns a 2013 judgement that reinstated section 377, colonial-era legislation that deemed sex between consenting adults of the same gender as an "unnatural offence" that was punishable by a 10-year jail term. LGBT rights activists, as well as Bollywood stars, expressed criticism against the ruling.

      The 2013 Supreme Court ruling had struck down a previous 2009 Delhi High Court ruling in favour of decriminialization.

      The statute had been used to harass and abuse LGBT community members and organizations, including hijras (intersex and trans people).

      Sher Vancouver founder Alex Sangha

      Alex Sangha, founder of the local South Asian LGBT organization Sher Vancouver, issued a press release applauding the ruling, and explained that it provides hope for further changes in the future.

      "This decision gives us hope for India’s future and faith in its institutions," Sangha stated in a news release. "This decision may 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." 

      In 2014, India's Supreme Court officially recognized hijras as a third gender.

      Unfortunately, homosexuality still remains a punishable offence (including punishment by death) in over 70 countries and territories around the world.