September 6, 2018 2:45 pm

In photos: How LGBT Indians celebrated the legalization of gay sex

WATCH ABOVE: In a landmark ruling on Thursday, India's Supreme Court struck down a law that made homosexual acts punishable by up to 10 years in prison, causing celebrations to erupt across the country.

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Activists and members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community celebrated across India on Thursday, after the nation’s top court scrapped a colonial-era ban on gay sex.

READ MORE: India’s top court legalizes gay sex in landmark ruling

Gay sex is considered taboo by many in socially conservative India, as well as in neighbouring Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. It was reinstated as a criminal offense in India in 2013, punishable up to 10 years in prison, after four years of decriminalization.

An LGBT supporter holds a rainbow flag as he celebrates a decision by India’s Supreme Court in Mumbai on Sept. 6, 2018.

REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

A five-judge bench in India’s Supreme Court was unanimous in overturning the ban. But the ruling could face a legal challenge from groups that say gay sex erodes traditional values.

WATCH BELOW: Supreme Court hears challenge to gay sex law

“Any consensual sexual relationship between two consenting adults – homosexuals, heterosexuals or lesbians – cannot be said to be unconstitutional,” said the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, as he read out the judgment.

An activist of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community celebrates after the Supreme Court’s verdict of decriminalizing gay sex and revocation of the Section 377 law, in Bengaluru, India, September 6, 2018.

REUTERS/Abhishek N. Chinnappa

Supporters of the campaign to scrap the ban milled around the court before the verdict and cheered the decision, hugging one another and waving rainbow flags.

READ MORE: India legalized homosexuality, but many of its neighbours haven’t

Some were overcome with emotion, while others waved banners with slogans such as “Gay and Proud” and “I am who I am.” A few distributed sweets in celebration.

People celebrate after the Supreme Court’s verdict of decriminalizing gay sex and revocation of the Section 377 law, inside the Supreme Court premises in New Delhi, India, September 6, 2018.

REUTERS/Stringer

“I’m so excited, I have no words,” said Debottam Saha, one of the petitioners in the case.

Indian activists of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community celebrate during a rally after the verdict at the Supreme Court in Kolkata, Eastern India, 06 September 2018.

EPA/PIYAL ADHIKARY

Activists hope the scrapping of the ban will uphold the right to equality but many acknowledged that discrimination would persist.

“We are no longer criminals, (but) it will take time to change things on the ground – 20 to 30 years, maybe,” said Saha.

Supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community celebrate after the Supreme Court’s verdict of decriminalizing gay sex and revocation of the Section 377 law, during a march in Mumbai, India, September 6, 2018.

REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

Balachandran Ramiah, a second petitioner, also said there was “a long road ahead when it comes to changing societal mindsets,” and stressed the importance of employers ending discrimination in workplaces.

“A number of companies up until now were unable to put these down on paper,” he said, referring to steps to end discrimination.

“Now they can.”

Supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community celebrate after the Supreme Court’s verdict of decriminalizing gay sex and revocation of the archaic Section 377 law, at an NGO in Mumbai, India, September 6, 2018.

REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

Activists in Muslim-majority Bangladesh and Pakistan said they planned to push for reform of the laws that their countries also inherited from colonial Britain.

“The Bangladeshi LGBT community has gained moral support,” said Shahanur Islam, executive director of the Bangladesh Institute for Human Rights.

“We hope and will make sure that other countries will follow suit in overturning this remnant from colonial law,” said Mani Aq of the Pakistani branch of the Naz Foundation.

© 2018 Reuters

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