The Guardian view on gay rights: India backs freedom – others should follow | Editorial

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The supreme court judgment decriminalising homosexuality overturned a colonial era law. But its welcome ruling is a reminder of the work to be done elsewhere

Unless you are gay, and have lived in one of the 70 or so countries where homosexuality is illegal, it is hard to imagine what it would feel like if embarking on any sexual relationship entailed committing a crime. In many places heterosexual people too can get in trouble for having sex outside marriage. But the burden of legislation outlawing sex has long weighed most heavily on gay people for whom, where such prohibitions exist, there is often no legal means of living as themselves.

The pressure can be unbearable even when relationships are undetected, or are never begun for fear of the cost. So last week’s judgment by the Indian supreme court is a reason to rejoice. It not only decriminalised gay sex, but ruled that gay citizens enjoy all the protections of the constitution. “History owes an apology to members of the community for the delay in ensuring their rights,” said judge Indu Malhotra. The decision follows recent decisions in favour of gay rights in Costa Rica, Bulgaria, Belize and Trinidad and Tobago. But India’s size, influence and history means the significance of this move should not be underestimated.

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