The world reacts to India’s LGBTQ rights earthquake


The legalisation of homosexuality in India means that tens of millions more LGBTQ people are now living in countries where they are free to love who they love.

Thanks to the massive population of India, the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Thursday is the largest ever legal victory for LGBTQ people in the world. It’s believed that, as a result, more than 75% of humanity now live in nations where homosexuality is legal. The judgement made headlines around the globe and human rights groups celebrated the massive victory for equality, dignity and freedom.

In Kenya, the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), the organisation that is challenging Kenya’s own gay sex ban in the High Court in Nairobi (and is awaiting an imminent verdict), said the decision gives it hope the same could happen at home.

“The news out of India is truly something to celebrate and we congratulate our LGBT family in India on this victory,” said Njeri Gateru, Executive Director of the NGLHRC. “Changing the law is a monumental step in beginning to address the systemic violence targeting LGBT persons across the globe.”

Many saw the ruling as a wake-up call to those other Commonwealth nations in particular that continue to criminalise LGBTQ people, often on the basis of colonial-era laws. British activist Peter Tatchell noted that, “prior to British colonisation there were no laws against same-sex relations” in India, and that, “the homophobic law that was struck down today was therefore never an authentic, indigenous Indian law.”

The Pretoria-based group OUT LGBT Well-being, described the decision as “a major blow to colonial-era laws that continue to oppress LGBTIQ people around the world.” Also in Pretoria, Access Chapter 2 (AC2) applauded the Indian court ruling. “The tide is turning, other countries everywhere must learn from those willing to make the changes,” said AC2 Executive Director Steve Letsike. “The Commonwealth, BRICS, G20 and many other global platforms will never be the same again.”

The Gay and Lesbian Network in KwaZulu-Natal, which has a large population of Indian people, said it was “ecstatic”. Anthony Waldhausen, director of the organisation, commented that, “we celebrate with LGBTIs in India on their victory.” He called on other countries that were colonised, especially in Africa, “to take the bold step and follow in India’s footsteps.”

Naufal Khan, editor of Indian Spice, a website for South Africa’s Indian community revealed that the criminalisation of homosexuality in India had been the reason why he had never visited the country. “Today, LGBT South Asians across the world celebrate this landmark victory as their own and we remember those whose lives were taken away violently for their choice of who to love.”

In the United States, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) said that India’s Supreme Court had taken a “monumental decision” by repealing the discriminatory law. “We hope this decision in the world’s largest democracy and second most populous country will set an example and galvanize efforts to overturn similar outdated and degrading laws that remain in 71 other countries,” said HRC Global Director Ty Cobb.

“A shameful part of an enduring colonial legacy is finally history,” added Ruth Baldacchino and Helen Kennedy, co-Secretaries General of ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association). “Today, the Supreme Court reaffirmed, loud and clear, that there is nothing criminal in our bodies, identities and loves.”

In their unanimous decision, the five Supreme Court justices ruled that Section 377 of the Indian penal code which outlawed “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” was “irrational, arbitrary and incomprehensible.” The Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, stated that, “The LGBTQ community has the same fundamental rights as citizens. The identity of a person is very important, and we have to vanquish prejudice, embrace inclusion and ensure equal rights.”

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