India’s top court decriminalizes gay sex in landmark ruling

India’s Supreme Court has struck down a colonial-era law criminalizing consensual gay sex, overturning more than 150 years of anti-LGBT legislation.

The court announced the landmark verdict in Delhi on Thursday morning, as jubilant crowds cheered and rights activists hugged one another, overcome with emotion.

Section 377, an archaic law imposed during British rule that penalized intercourse “against the order of nature,” had carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The decision to repeal the law comes as a major victory for India’s LGBT activists and supporters after years of determined struggle.

Rituparna Borah was among those gathered outside the court. She told CNN that while she had anticipated a positive outcome, the result still came as a shock

“It’s an emotional day for me. It’s a mix of feelings, it’s been a long fight,” said Borah. “There was not enough media or society support earlier but we have it now. People will not be seen as criminals anymore.”

Though the law was rarely enforced in full, lawyers argued that it helped perpetuate a culture of fear and repression within the LGBT community.

A change in legislation will “create a space of freedom where you can start expecting justice,” Danish Sheikh, a law professor at Jindal Global Law School and LGBT advocate, told CNN.

Thursday’s historic ruling is the culmination of a lengthy and often fraught legal battle for equality in a country where homosexuality remains taboo.

As supporters celebrate the decision, activists will now be shifting focus to the broader issue of equality.

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