India legalises sex between men

Michael Carter
Published: 02 July 2009

India’s legalisation of sex between men has been hailed as a “restoration of dignity and human rights” by UNAIDS.

On July 2nd the Delhi High Court ruled that a law dating from the days of the British Raj that criminalised “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” was contrary to four clauses of the Indian constitution and that consensual sex between adults in private should not be criminalised.

Welcoming the repeal of the Indian law, known as Section 377, Michael Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said that the criminalisation of homosexuality “drive[s] people underground making it much harder to reach them with prevention, treatment and care services”.

The International AIDS Conference in 2008 heard that even in countries with generalised heterosexual epidemics, gay men and other men who have sex with men are disproportionately affected by HIV, and the laws criminalising sex between men and homophobia stand in the way of HIV prevention.

More than 80 countries have legislation that criminalises sex between individuals of the same sex. UNAIDS is urging all governments to respect the rights and dignity of men who have sex with men, lesbians and transgender people “through repealing laws that prohibit sexual acts between consenting adults; enforcing laws to protect these groups from violence and discrimination; promoting campaigns that address homophobia and transphobia, and ensuring that the crucial health services are met”.

An indication of how entrenched homophobia is in some countries was provided by a statement from Uganda’s Ethics Minister, Nsaba Buturo, that it would introduce a new law banning the “promotion of homosexual rights.”

Buturo also said that he would resist pressure from international donors to stop the persecution of gay and lesbian people in the country.

In the past Buturo has said that homosexuality “threatens Ugandan civilisation” and that UNAIDS has a secret plot to promote homosexuality.

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