In a historic decision, India’s Supreme Court has ruled that gay sex is no longer a criminal offense.
The ruling overturns a 2013 judgment that upheld a colonial-era law, known as section 377, under which gay sex is categorized as an “unnatural offense.”
The court has now ruled discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a fundamental violation of rights.
Campaigners outside the court cheered and some broke down in tears as the ruling was handed down.
Although public opinion in India’s biggest cities has been in favor of scrapping the law, there remains strong opposition among religious groups and in conservative rural communities.
But this ruling, from the top court, is the final say in the matter and represents a huge victory for India’s LGBT community.
One activist outside the court told the BBC: “I hadn’t come out to my parents until now. But today, I guess I have.”
What have the judges said?
Thursday’s decision was delivered by a five-judge bench headed by India’s outgoing chief justice Dipak Misra and was unanimous.
Reading out the judgment, he said: “Criminalizing carnal intercourse is irrational, arbitrary and manifestly unconstitutional.”
Another judge, Indu Malhotra, said she believed “history owes an apology” to LGBT people for ostracizing them.
Justice DY Chandrachud said the state had no right to control the private lives of LGBT community members and that the denial of the right to sexual orientation was the same as denying the right to privacy.
The ruling effectively allows gay sex among consenting adults in private.
What is section 377?
It is a 157-year-old colonial-era law which criminalizes certain sexual acts as “unnatural offenses” that are punishable by a 10-year jail term.