It appears that about seventeen percent of the world’s population of gay people are about to become legal. The Delhi High Cort “read down” section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, striking India’s law which criminalizes sex between consenting adults of the same gender. The court ruled that the law is a violation of fundamental human rights:
A bench of Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice S Muralidhar said that if not amended, section 377 of the IPC would violate Article 21 of the Indian constitution, which states that every citizen has equal opportunity of life and is equal before law.
The court said that this judgement will hold till Parliament chooses to amend the law.
“In our view Indian Constitutional law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconception of who the LGBTs (lesbian gay bisexual transgender) are.
“It cannot be forgotten that discrimination is antithesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality which will foster dignity of every individual,” the bench said in its 105-page judgement.
This ruling, which is being hailed as “India’s Stonewall” by India’s LGBT advocates, appears to be legally binding only in the Union Territory of Delhi over which the Delhi High Court has jurisdiction. But it is expected to become an important precedent for the rest of the country. It is also expected that opponents will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
The ruling overturns a 148-year-old colonial law left over from the British Raj. Homosexual acts were punishable with a ten year prison sentence.