Bollywood Stars Priyanka Chopra, Anil Kapoor Welcome India Ruling Decriminalizing Homosexuality

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Deepika Padukone and Aamir Khan also laud the Supreme Court's ruling against a law under which homosexuality was considered a crime.

Leading Indian celebrities have welcomed a landmark decision by the country's Supreme Court, which ruled Thursday against a colonial-era law that considered homosexuality a crime.

Gay rights activists have fought a long battle against the law, known as Section 377. It was critcized by Ian McKellen during his 2016 India visit, telling online magazine "You have a repressive law in place for which I should apologize, because it’s not an Indian law, it’s a British law that we left behind. You should have got rid of it, and you tried to, and it’s come back, but it will go again, I’m sure."

Introduced in 1862 under British rule, Section 377 defined homosexuality as "against the order of nature," which could be punished with up to 10 years in prison. In what appeared to be a breakthrough in 2009, the Delhi High Court decriminalized consensual homosexual intercourse, but in 2013 the verdict was reversed by the Supreme Court, which said that it was for India's parliament to decide how to amend the law.

However, in 2015, India's lower house of parliament voted against the introduction of a bill to decriminalize homosexuality, proposed by a member of parliament. This led to some leading gay rights activists filing a fresh petition, which resulted in Thursday's decision by a bench comprising five Supreme Court justices who delivered the landmark ruling.

Top celebrities took to social media to welcome the court's ruling. "A supremely important judgement! 'I am what I am so take me as I am,' says the Chief Justice of India as the Supreme Court decriminalises #Section377 in a unanimous vote from the bench. What a big win as a democracy and our fight for equal rights #ProudIndian #GoIndia," actress Priyanka Chopra tweeted to her 23.1 million followers.

Actress Deepika Padukone, who made her Hollywood debut with Vin Diesel in xXx: Return of Xander Cage, posted a gay pride rainbow heart image on her Instagram account with the universal hashtag #LGBTQIA, which refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual or allied.

"It’s about time! #LoveWins now and forever! Best news of the day!," tweeted Anil Kapoor, whose Hollywood credits include Slumdog Millionaire and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

One of India's most successful filmmakers, Karan Johar was one of the first celebrities to welcome the court's decision and tweeted, "Historical judgement. So proud today. Decriminalising homosexuality and abolishing #Section377 is a huge thumbs up for humanity and equal rights. The country gets its oxygen back."

Last year, Johar's autobiography, An Unsuitable Boy, which he co-authored with journalist Poonam Saxena, sparked controversy about being gay in India. In the book, Johar wrote that "everybody knows what my sexual orientation is, I don't need to scream it out. If I need to spell it out, I won't only because I live in a country where I could possibly be jailed for saying this. Which is why I, Karan Johar, will not say the three words that possibly everybody knows about me.”

Johar, 45, is one of India's best-known personalities since he also hosts a long-running popular TV talk show, Koffee With Karan, which airs on Fox's Star India network.

Aamir Khan, whose recent releases PK and Dangal have set records at the Chinese box office, thanked the Supreme Court "for its decision to strike down" Section 377. "It is a historic day for people who believe in equal rights for all. The judiciary has done it’s duty, and now we must do ours," he added. Khan also posted an excerpt of an episode from his TV show Satyamev Jayate, in which he discussed "accepting alternative sexualities." The show, which tackled various social issues, aired on Fox's Star India network from 2012 to 2014.

"Well done India!" proclaimed actor Abhishek Bachchan to his 4.3 million followers on Instagram. In 2008, the actor starred in Bollywood comedy Dostana, produced by Johar's Dharma Productions banner, in which Bachchan and co-star John Abraham pretended to be gay so they could share an apartment with a woman, played by Chopra.

In recent years, Indian films have examined gay themes, most notably the real-life drama Aligarh by director Hansal Mehta, which revolved around a university professor (Manoj Bajpayee) who loses everything, including his life, when he is discovered to be gay.