India’s Supreme Court has decriminalised homosexuality in what is being described as the largest-scale victory for gay rights in history.

The ruling overturned a judgement from 2013 which upheld colonial-era law, known as Section 377, which categorised gay sex as an “unnatural offence”, Al Jazeera reported.

 “Criminalising carnal intercourse is irrational, arbitrary and manifestly unconstitutional,” said Chief Justice Dipak Misra in his judgement.

Campaigners in India have been fighting for decriminalisation for years, with observers outside the court cheering and bursting into tears as the verdict was delivered.

“Any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates fundamental rights,” the Court said.

“The constitution is a living organic document…pragmatic interpretation has to be given to combat rigorous inequality and injustice.

“Social morality cannot be used to violate the fundamental rights of even a single individual. Constitutional morality cannot be martyred at the altar of social morality.”

“We become equal citizens with the removal of Section 377. Equal rights are accessible for us with this decriminalisation,” said one of the petitioners in the case, Ashok Row Kavi.

Activists had fought against the law, saying – as criminalisation historically has done and continues to do – it had been used to harass and discriminate against LGBTI Indians.

“This section 377 is a terrible colonial legacy,” said Menaka Guruswamy, one of the lawyers representing the petitioners in the case.

She had implored the justices to “emancipate a class of people who have not been given the promises of our Constitution.”

“It is indeed a historic moment for India, the world’s largest democracy and a global power on the rise. So the world is watching, and its neighbors are watching,” said Lieu Anh Vuo of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.

“LGBTI communities in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh are also working to repeal similar remnant of British colonisation in their own country and the ruling from India will feed into more dialogues, at least among LGBTI civil society across these countries.”

Global LGBTI rights campaigner Peter Tatchell described the decision as a major moment in the battle for LGBTI rights in the Commonwealth.

“This historic legal ruling sets free from criminalisation almost one fifth of the world’s LGBT+ people,” Tatchell said in a statement.

“It is the biggest, most impactful gay law reform in human history.

“I hope it will inspire and empower similar legal challenges in many of the 70 countries that still outlaw same-sex relations, 35 of which are member states of the Commonwealth.”

The review of Section 377 was announced in 2016.

LGBTI rights campaigning will surely continue in India, after four trans people were bashed over false rumours spread via WhatsApp earlier this year.

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