NEW DELHI: Describing Thursday as an “exciting” day for people with different sexual preferences, Voices Against 377 and Naz Foundation (India) Trust have welcomed the Delhi High Court judgment that said making gay sex among consenting adults a criminal offence violated fundamental rights.
Addressing a news conference soon after the judgment, representatives of the two organisations that had filed the public interest litigation petition told journalists that the regressive law had been used to criminalise homosexual and transgender people in India.
With this judgment, the court has made a long overdue, strong statement affirming the rights of all citizens of the country, irrespective of their sexual and gender orientation, they said.
Anjali Gopalan of the Naz Foundation said when they started the movement against Section 377 eight years ago, they did not receive much support, but people joined hands in course of time. “We now feel there is a change happening which also reflects in the attitude of the people. This [judgment] is the first major step towards equality but we have many more battles ahead,” she said.
The law, enacted by the British in 1860, continued to exist in the law books of independent India long after it was removed from those of England.
“This law has caused the blackmail, harassment, fear and death of many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in India. The judgment that decriminalises adult consensual same-sex sexual activity is one of the positive steps that have been taken towards affirming the rights of LGBT persons in India,” Ms. Gopalan said.
Anand Grover of Voices Against 377 – a coalition of groups and individuals working on a wide range of issues, including same sex desiring and transgender people – said the judgment was a crucial step in the struggle towards affirming the rights of all citizens and hoped that it would be aptly executed with the support of the government, police departments and other courts.
“We commend this victory for freedom, dignity, respect and rights of all human beings. This historic judgment is just the beginning, and the struggle for rights will continue,” he said.
The UNAIDS has also welcomed the “historic” decision by the Delhi High Court to annul the discriminatory law.
“The Delhi High Court has restored the dignity and human rights of millions of men who have sex with men and transgendered people in India,” said UNAIDS executive director, Michel Sidibe.
“Oppressive laws such as Section 377 drive people underground making it much harder to reach them with HIV-prevention treatment and care services,” he added.
“It [the court decision] sends a positive message to countries, where such laws still exist,” he said.