New Delhi, Sep 6 Their monumental fight against social stigma and oppression ended with a triumph on Thursday with the Supreme Court decriminalising homosexuality. And now a jubilant LGBTIQ community says the verdict has made them feel they are living in a "functional democracy".
In a historic verdict, a Chief Justice Dipak Misra-headed apex court bench decriminalised homosexuality between consenting adults by partially striking down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as unconstitutional, triggering waves of celebration by the LGBTIQ community across the nation.
The verdict came on a clutch of petitions filed by chef Ritu Dalmia, dancer Navtej Singh Johar, journalist Sunil Mehra, hotelier Aman Nath and business executive Ayesha Kapur, all representing the LGBTIQ community.
An ecstatic Dalmia said she wants to enjoy the day which made her realise she was living in a functional democracy.
"Today, for the first time, I feel we are living in a functional democracy. It is a good day for human rights, for the country and for the Constitution," Dalmia who runs a niche restaurant chain told .
Johar and Mehra, who waited with bated breath for the verdict, hoped the decision will trigger others to continue the fight for LGBTIQ rights.
"We have spoken a lot and now it is time that other people should start speaking about this. Our work is public, we want our life to remain private," Johar and Mehra told .
Activist and the Founder of Delta -- India's first LGBTIQ networking app -- Ishaan Sethi said history owes the community an apology.
"History owes this community an apology and this judgment acknowledging that homosexuality is nothing but a natural variation and urging counsellors to get requisite training and sensitisation for police will ensure this is executed on the ground perfectly," Sethi said.
Activist and Marketing Manager of the Delta app, Dipalie Mehta, said it is the first stage of the 150-year-old battle.
"It feels like I was born with this lurking, suffocating monster on my back and I have finally gotten rid of it. The country has won the first stage of a 150-year-old battle. The Court, all the judges and the media have handled this issue with unprecedented maturity and impartiality. I've nothing but gratitude today, today I will celebrate. Towards marriage equality, tomorrow."
Anwesh Sahoo, Mr Gay World India 2016, said closets are for clothes, not for emotions.
"Homosexual acts have been decriminalised in India. We've been validated. We all deserve to live a life of dignity, and self-respect. Even the SC believes closets are for clothes, not for our emotions, for our being. Come out to yourself, you deserve a life of greatness," Sahoo told .
A host of gay rights activists hailed the verdict and exuded confidence of the verdict bringing a social change and remove the stigma attached to the LGBTIQ community.
"Its a day of celebration for human rights, for gender, for queerness. Its a day of political liberation. There is still a lot that needs to be done. Like Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said, 'political change must go hand in hand with social change'," Shruthi Apalla, founder of Nazariya A Grassroots LGBT-Straight Alliance, told .
Gay rights activist Arpit Bhalla celebrated the occasion saying: "Finally, a huge 'minority' is not criminals anymore. However, there's a still a long way to to go, in terms of the right to marriage, the right to adoption."
For human rights activist Simran Shaikh, the historic verdict has paved the way for a progressive India.
"The next step would be changing the mindset and behaviour of the Indian citizenry. This is our struggle as well," said Shaikh.
Rafiul Alom Rahman, founder of Queer Muslim Project and one of the founding members of Delhi University Queer Collective, said: "We're finally recognizing that everyone in this country deserves to be treated as an equal citizen. I think it's a long way ahead, we'll have to push for social change. But it's one of the greatest victories that we've had."
Anmol Chowdhury, a member of the DU Queer Collective said the verdict will enable the LGBTIQ members to come out of the closet.
"It's great to see it's finally happening in favour of the people. Now that we have a legal mandate on it, we also need to kind of talk about it more now in the open. Now people can't say, 'we won't talk about it because the law says it's illegal'. Now it's easier for me to talk to my parents about it, now that it's legal," said Chowdhury.