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India Has Declared Freedom of Sexual Orientation a Fundamental Right

Last Thursday, India’s Supreme Court made a big step towards LGBTQ+ acceptance in the country. The panel, composed of Justice S.A. Bodbe, Justice R.K. Agrawal, Justice Jasti Chelameswar, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice J.S. Khehar, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice A.M. Sapre, and Justice Abdul Nazeer,  has decided to rule that privacy is a fundamental right for everyone in the country, which includes the protection of their sexual orientation and makes it unconstitutional to discriminate people for their sexuality in the “Right to Privacy” law.

An extract of the 547-page judgment of verdict, which was passed unanimously,  says:

This means a huge deal of hope for the LGBTQ+ community in India because it is believed that now Section 337 of the Indian Penal Code, which states: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”, will go away. This 157-year-old law is the base to criminalizing homosexual activities.

Although the judgment has implications for sexual freedoms, its focus was set on challenging the government’s requirement for Aadhaar cards, which complex system includes the individual’s economic information such as their bank accounts and payment of taxes. Since privacy was not a fundamental right before this ruling, the control of the way people spend money could have meant a serious invasion to it.

According to the BBC:  “When the Aadhaar database was launched, the authorities said it would be a voluntary scheme which would help them weed out corruption while passing on welfare benefits to the most needy citizens. But in the past couple of years, it has been made mandatory for filing tax returns, opening bank accounts, securing loans, buying and selling property or even making purchases of 50,000 rupees ($780; £610) and above.”

Homosexuality is still a very taboo subject in the whole Asian continent, so even if it seems frustrating that its acceptance is still so far behind in the rest of the world it is important to acknowledge these kinds of changes in the legal system and the fact that there is a long way to go.

As the Supreme Court’s judgment read, “Discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual. Equality demands that the sexual orientation of each individual in society must be protected on an even platform.”

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