History owes the LGBT community an apology for their sufferings,” said Judge Indhu Maholta, after India overturned a ruling that criminalised gay sex.

 

Section 377 was a part of the Indian Penal Code, which had been introduced by the British in 1861. It legally banned sexual activity between two men. Section 377 still remains in many of the ex-British colonies today, making India’s overruling of it an important turning point in history.

 

The decriminalisation of gay sex came after nearly two decades of Indian activists pushing for change in the law. The first breakthrough happened in 2009 when a court in Delhi ruled that the law could not be applied to consensual sex. However, this decision received backlash from Muslim, Hindu and Christian groups, who filed appeals in the Supreme Court, which got the law restored in 2013.

 

Gay rights activists re-grouped and continued to fight for the discriminatory law to be overturned. In 2016, five gay and lesbian Indian activists filed an official challenge to repeal Section 377. Several LGBT organisations backed them up and the whole community supported them. The court finally announced its verdict on the 6th of September this year and India was able to celebrate a historic win for equality.

 

Following the decision, the country came under the global spotlight, with newspapers around the world reporting on the reaction of India’s LGBT community. Some claimed that this was a sign that Asian countries are becoming more ‘Westernised’, failing to remember that the law was imposed by the British colonial government in the first place. India’s pre-colonial traditions, culture, religion and art often included gender-fluid images, and homosexuality is not inherently against the structure of Indian society. Many reporters pointed out that the decision to decriminalise gay sex was symptomatic of India’s continued path down decolonisation and a return to its cultural roots.

 

In Singapore, which had also been under British colonial rule, India’s success in overruling the colonial-era law is cited in a nationwide petition to get its own Section 377 repealed. The petition will be sent to Parliament before 30 September, when the Penal Code will officially be reviewed. This is evidence of the significant impact that India’s decision to legalise gay sex has had and will continue to have, on the Asian continent.