On Thursday, as the Supreme Court decriminalised homosexual activity between consenting adults, petitioners in the case described the verdict as an “emotional moment” for those who identify as gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual in India.
The unanimous verdict was passed through four judgments. Several petitioners pointed especially to Justice Indu Malhotra’s judgement in which she said, “History owes the community an apology.”
The verdict read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a 157-year-old colonial-era law that criminalised “sex against the order of nature” and made it punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
The petitioners included activists, organisations, human rights groups and individuals. They had urged Supreme Court to reconsider its judgement from 2013, when it set aside a 2009 order by the Delhi High Court decriminalising homosexuality. Here are some reactions from petitioners to Thursday’s judgment.
Ritu Dalmia, chef and restaurateur
“The judgment has restored hope in the system. This is the first step in a fight against homophobia. We are happy, relieved and this is a very emotional moment for us. It is a great day for the Constitution. This is more than decriminalisation. This is about human rights.”
Sunil Mehra, journalist and filmmaker
“The judgment is about respect to human beings. Just look at the trauma, cruelty and sheer pain that has been inflicted on people. This was an outdated, colonial and an intolerant law. The problem was inequality, cruelty and injustice. Now we have the legal rights. This should trickle down to others.”
Gautam Yadav, gay rights activist
“[Indu] Malhotra’s apology to the queer community and their families is a huge statement. This is a very truthful judgment given. It was positive and emotional. We demanded an amendment in Section 377. Not for it to be struck down as the rape law is not gender neutral and it covers bestiality as well. The next step is celebration. The judgement shows that it is never too late. Now, we have to look into marriage rights.”
Akhilesh Godi, member of Pravritti, a group of queer professionals from the Indian Institute of Technology alumni network
“It is a major victory for us. We don’t just want legal change, we want societal change. This is just the start. It is too early to comment. We are nowhere close to where we want to be. We will fight more cases but we hope not to go back to the Supreme Court again.”
Bhalchandra Ramiah, member of Pravritti
“It is such a strongly worded verdict. This is the beginning for the formation of anti-discriminatory policies for the community at the workplace. It is a big step for us to carry our fight forward. One problem we faced was that society never understood us. We were living in shadows. Now, more people will be motivated to come out to their families.”