The decision to lift the ban was made after weeks of deliberation by the court and 20 years of struggle by gay, lesbian, and transgender activists. The ruling overturns a 2013 verdict which upheld the 158-years old law known as section 377. Section 377 banned homosexual acts “against the order of nature” and made it punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The section reads:
“Unnatural offenses: Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
“Criminalizing carnal intercourse under section 377 Indian penal code is irrational, indefensible, and manifestly arbitrary,” Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra said as he read out the judgment.
Section 377 came into force in 1861 during the British rule. The majority of former British colonies still criminalize same-sex intimacy. For instance, the law still exists as section 377 in the penal codes of countries like Pakistan and Myanmar, while in Sri Lanka, it exists under section 365 of the criminal code.