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India Just Overturned a 157-Year-Old Law That Criminalized Gay Sex. See How LGBT Supporters Celebrated the Win

India’s Supreme Court has overturned Section 377 of its Penal Code, which had criminalized any sexual acts “against the order of nature,” including consensual sex between adults of the same gender. Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the law was “irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary.”

Repealing the Colonial-era law is a major win for the LGBT community in India, where lawyers argued the law helped perpetuate a culture of fear and repression. Prosecution under Section 377 was rare, and mostly leveled only against gay men, but it was long used to blackmail, harass and sexually assault LGBT Indians, the New York Times reports.

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Indian members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community hold placards outside the Supreme Court building in New Delhi as crowds gathered to celebrate the decision to strike down the colonial-era ban on gay sex. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP/Getty Images)
Sajjad Hussain—AFP/Getty Images

 

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“The law had become a weapon for harassment for the LGBT community,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra said as he announced the landmark verdict. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP/Getty Images)
Sajjad Hussain—AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations welcomed the ruling: “The UN in India sincerely hopes that the court’s ruling will be the first step towards guaranteeing the full range of fundamental rights to LGBTI persons. We also hope that the judgment will boost efforts to eliminate stigma and discrimination against LGBTI persons in all areas of social, economic, cultural and political activity, thereby ensuring a truly inclusive society.”

 

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Indian members and supporters of the LGBT community in Mumbai react to the historic ruling. (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFP/Getty Images)
Indranil Mukherjee—AFP/Getty Images

 

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LGBT community members and supporters cheer the ruling in Mumbai, as the chief justice characterized the colonial-era law as a tool to harass gay and lesbian Indians. (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFP/Getty Images)
Indranil Mukherjee—AFP/Getty Images

Per an International LGBTI Association report this summer, there are still more than 70 countries around the world that criminalize same-sex sexual activity. Out of the estimated 48 former British colonies that criminalize homosexuality, 30 still have laws based on the original colonial anti-LGBT legislation, according to the 2017 ILGA “State-Sponsored Homophobia” report.