India celebrates gay sex ruling with dance, chocolate and tears

Ruchika CHITRAVANSHI
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India's LGBT community has celebrated the end of the notorious Section 377 of the penal code, which until Thursday banned same-sex acts

It was like a scene from a Bollywood blockbuster as staff at one of New Delhi's most luxurious hotels performed an elaborate dance routine in the lobby to celebrate a historic Supreme Court ruling on gay rights.

The Lalit hotel's Keshav Suri, one of the court's petitioners, entered the lobby to rousing applause, gave his husband a peck on the cheek and declared: "It is time to celebrate. It is time to come out of the closet."

Suri's dancers wore rainbow makeup and bright Indian outfits to mark the end of the notorious Section 377 of the penal code, which until Thursday banned same-sex acts as "carnal intercourse against the order of nature".

Cakes and champagne rounded out the hotel party while Suri said Thursday's judgement was just the beginning of the battle for LGBT recognition.

"A lot more needs to be done about inheritance, marriage, insurance... but slowly we are getting there," Suri added.

Outside the Supreme Court and in other cities across India there were tearful celebrations as activists and supporters hugged each other after hearing the judgement, which said India's LGBT community was "owed an apology" for its treatment.

One college student skipped class to be outside the Supreme Court and come out to her family through a bevy of media cameras present for the occasion.

Whilst security personnel stopped the crowd from entering the court building with banners and flags, they could not dampen the enthusiasm of the gathering.

- Out of the bedroom -

Activists and well-wishers outside jumped for joy while waving gay pride flags and placards reading "Love Wins" and "LGBT rights are human rights".

Smiles and laughter gave way to tears as many came to terms with the end of a decades-long struggle.

Similar gatherings were held across India, with LGBT community members handing out chocolates in the southern city of Chennai, while gay activists rejoiced on Twitter.

"Well done Supreme Court. You have finally got the government out of our bedroom," wrote media entrepreneur Ramesh Srivats.

India's film fraternity too gave rave reviews to the Supreme Court.

"Decriminalising homosexuality and abolishing #Section377 is a huge thumbs up for humanity and equal rights! The country gets its oxygen back!" said filmmaker Karan Johar on Twitter minutes after the judgement.

"Accepting diversity has to be the core value of every Indian and frankly is the only way India will survive and thrive," added famous author Chetan Bhagat.

While India's law only legalises sexual acts between adults, gay activists have hailed the verdict as a major boost in the deeply conservative country where religious groups have fiercely opposed any liberalisation of sexual morality.

And anti-gay groups insisted that Indian society will never fully accept the LGBTQ community. "The judgement will change nothing on the ground. You can't change the mindsets of the people with the hammer of law," said Pandit Ajay Gautam of the fringe Hum Hindu group.