What needs to be legalized in India

Supreme Court decision : India legalizes homosexuality

“I can't stop smiling,” says 44-year-old Ritu Dalmia. India's well-known TV chef had set her alarm clock for 5:30 a.m. so as not to miss the eagerly awaited ruling by the Indian Supreme Court to legalize homosexuality. “I was never an activist. I wanted the public to know me for what I do and not for who I sleep with, ”says Dalmia. She and four other Indians had called the Supreme Court to overturn the controversial paragraph 377.

On Thursday, the five judges in New Delhi agreed: They ruled that the state does not have the right to intervene in the private lives of its citizens. This means that homosexuality is no longer punishable in India. "Homosexuals have the right to live with dignity," said Judge Rohinton Nariman. And his colleague Indu Malhotra, the only woman on the panel, said the members of the gay community deserved an excuse from history after being denied their rights for so long.

"We are finally no longer criminals"

"We were granted basic human rights today and I cannot express how happy I am," said activist Anjali Nazia. “We are finally no longer criminals,” said human rights activist Arpit Bhalla. And the writer Chetan Bhagat said India will only survive if it recognizes different ways of life. “India is a country where culture changes every 100 kilometers,” he says. Accepting differences must be a core value for every Indian. "The abolition of paragraph 377 is a step in the right direction."

The landmark decision was preceded by years of uncertainty for the gay and transgender community in India. Because in a verdict of July 2009, the “High Court” in New Delhi overturned part of Section 377 of the Indian criminal law and thereby legalized homosexuality. Consensual sex between two adults could not be a criminal offense, argued the judges at the time. But in 2013 this judgment was revised and the controversial, 158-year-old passage of the penal code was restored.

The law dates back to the British colonial times

Lesbian, gay and bisexual Indians suddenly became criminals again - which hit those who had come out in the meantime all the more. The law, which dates back to British colonial times, said that sexual intercourse that "violates the natural order" can, in extreme cases, be punished with life imprisonment.

Although convictions for same-sex sex between adults were rare in India, homosexuals were at risk of blackmail and harassment. The decision of the Supreme Court is now final and cannot be revised.

The judgment is also historical because in the strictly conservative Indian society homosexuality, as well as premarital intercourse, are often still a taboo. In recent years, however, the gay and lesbian scene has tried to break the wall of silence with demonstrations in the country's metropolises. Yet there are very few Indians who are open about their homosexuality.

The verdict was preceded by a petition

The verdict was preceded by a petition that five Indians with very different backgrounds had started before the Supreme Court: In addition to the TV cook-cook and author Dalmia, the award-winning classical dancer Navtej Singh Johar together with his partner, Sunil Mehra, who as Journalist, actor and director works for the group.

Johar and Mehra have been a couple for more than 20 years. The group of five also included the hotelier Aman Nath, who owns the large hotel chain Neemrana, and the businesswoman Ayesha Kapur. “Today is the first time that I have the feeling of living in a functioning democracy. It is a good day for human rights, for the country and for the constitution, "said Dalmia.
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