Gay rights activists and the non governmental organisation which fought an eight-year-long legal battle for their rights on Thursday hailed the Delhi High Court verdict legalising homosexuality as 'progressive'.
"Now it seems we are in 21st century as the rights of homosexuals have been recognised by the high court. This very progressive judgment recognises the right to equality," said Anjali Gopalan, founder of Naz foundation, the NGO which filed the petition in HC. The gay rights activists never sought total scrapping of the penal provisions and simply fought against exclusion of a section of society, she said.
"We cannot exclude a section of society just because of their homosexual nature. We never demanded repealment of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. We simply sought that unnatural sexual acts between consenting adults be excluded from the purview of Section 377 of the IPC (provision prescribing maximum sentence up to life term for the homosexual act)," Gopalan said.
Mehak Sethi, the advocate who represented the NGO, said, "We are excited that Section 377 vis-a-vis unnatural sex has been excluded from the purview of the regressive penal provision." She also expressed relief that the high court retained the penal provisions with regard to child abuse.
In a path-breaking judgment, the Delhi high court on Thursday decriminalised homosexuality among consenting adults, holding that the law making it a criminal offence violates fundamental rights.
The moment the court pronounced the verdict, gay rights activists who had flocked to the courtroom since today morning embraced each other in joy and elation.
Nienke, a South African, could not hide her joy on the verdict while emerging out of the courtroom by saying that it is just 'fantastic'. "You people (Indians) followed our South African law which is a bit ahead as it legalises gay marriages," she said.
Brian, a Chicago-based gay rights activist was also very happy over the turn of events on homosexuality. "I am overjoyed as the court has appreciated the rights of homosexuals," he said.
Supreme Court lawyer and gay activist Aditya Bandhipadhyay said, "It opens for us an opportunity to claim all civil rights denied to Lesbian Gays Bisexual and Transgender people for 160 years. It also shows very positively that our judiciary's values are not swayed by myopic public reactions and the tyranny of the majority."
Arif Jafar, gay rights activist and head of Naz foundation, said, "I think it is a good news after a long time. The efforts of so many people have finally been rewarded. Cases of harassment and blackmailing by police will come down."