|On Thursday 2nd July, the New Delhi High Court struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, meaning gay sex will no longer be a criminal offence in India.
Although prosecutions were rare, gay activists said police had used the law to harass and intimidate members of their community.
The High Court ruling was made after the Naz Foundation submitted a petition. This group is an LGBT organisation that fights for equality and HIV/AIDS prevention.
Gautam Bhan, an Indian LGBT rights activist, applauded the decision:
"The judges in their verdict spoke about inclusivity, quality and dignity. They spoke about a vision of India as an open, tolerant society and to hear all this from the Delhi High Court was amazing."
Although the ruling was said to be non-binding outside the Indian capital, lawyers said that it set a precedent that effectively decriminalised consensual gay sex across the populous subcontinent, despite opposition from conservative religious leaders within India's Muslim, Sikh and Christian communities who argued that all homosexual acts were "unnatural' and should therefore be banned.
However, Indian LGBT groups have asserted themselves strongly in recent years, and now hold gay pride marches in major cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai.
The Indian government has offered contrasting messages on its policy regarding the decriminalisation of gay sex. The Health Ministry strongly supports it, while the Home Ministry is socially conservative.
"The government can't ignore this," Naz Foundation executive director Anjali Gopalan told reporters after the ruling was announced. Craig Young - 3rd July 2009