• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 11:05am

Amid high HIV rate, officials seek repeal of law banning gay sex

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 July, 2006, 12:00am
 

Health authorities in India - the nation leading the world in the number of HIV infections - are calling for a repeal of a 145-year-old law that makes gay sex a crime, fearing it is fuelling the spread of Aids.


The government's main Aids prevention agency has filed an affidavit in the Delhi High Court, supporting a request by an Aids activist group to scrap the law.


The National Aids Control Organisation (Naco), part of India's Health Ministry, argues in the affidavit that the law creates a public health risk.


'So long as the gay community is forced to go underground, it limits access to them and makes it difficult for the Aids prevention campaign to reach them,' said Sujatha Rao, the organisation's chief.


An Indian law enacted in 1861 makes consensual sex between same-sex adults a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.


But with recent studies showing a sharp increase in HIV infections among India's gay community, the government has taken a first step to change the law.


Naco said that its surveys showed 8 per cent of India's homosexual population was infected with HIV, against a 1 per cent rate of Aids infection at the national level. 'We're glad the government has taken a stand. Naco's response is very critical to the whole case,' said Anjali Gopalan, who heads the Naz Foundation.


Naz, committed to spreading awareness of HIV/Aids, filed the original petition in 2001.


'However, the court in 2005 rejected the application saying Indian society was not ready to accept legalised homosexual behaviour,' said Rahul Singh, a Naz official. It appealed to the Supreme Court, which ordered the Delhi High Court to re-examine its decision. The High Court is to take up the issue again on October 4.


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