Between 2014 and 2016, there were 4,690 cases of persons being booked under Section 377, a law enacted in 1861 that criminalised sexual activities “against the order of nature" and ended up being applied even to consensual homosexual sex between adults, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The Supreme Court on Thursday decriminalised sex between consenting adults in private under Section 377, effectively negating the applicability of this section to some of these 4,690 cases.

NCRB has been reporting cases booked under this section since 2014. However, the number of cases do not reflect its underlying unfairness, because such laws lend themselves to arbitrariness, allowing police to harass citizens based on their sexual preference. For instance, between 2014 and 2015, the number of cases registered under Section 377 increased by 17% to 1,347. In 2016, it jumped by 62% to 2,195, of which as many as 178 of all these cases were registered against minors.

Among states and union territories, in terms of number of cases, Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in the country, topped the list with 999 cases registered in 2016. It was followed by Kerala (207 cases), Delhi (183 cases) and Maharashtra (170 cases). Among cities, Delhi had the highest number of cases (168), and it was followed by Lucknow (77 cases) and Mumbai (51 cases).

Adjusting for the total population of a state, Delhi topped with a rate of 0.8 cases registered under Section 377 per 1 lakh population. It was followed by Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.

Decriminalising gay sex is only the first step towards creating a more equal society. A 2016 survey by Mission for Indian Gay and Lesbian Empowerment (MINGLE) revealed one in five LGBT employees were discriminated against at the workplace. Such discrimination has economic costs. A 2014 World Bank report said India loses $31 billion due to stigma and exclusion of the community.

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