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Reports on the statements by Union health minister Anbumani Ramadoss at the Mexico International AIDS Conference August 8, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Section 377, Times of India.

Legalise homosexuality: Ramadoss (Times of India)

9 Aug 2008, 0011 hrs IST, Kounteya Sinha,TNN

MEXICO CITY: The gay community in India, fighting for social and legal acceptance, has found a friend in no less a person than Union health minister A Ramadoss, who assured them of all help in legalising homosexuality in the country.

Addressing a 250-strong India session at the International AIDS Conference here on Thursday, he strongly campaigned for the changing the law which makes homosexuality illegal. “Section 377 of IPC, which criminalizes men who have sex with men, must go,” he said, at the risk of inviting a political reaction back home.

Under the IPC, sex between two men is considered “against the order of nature”. Ramadoss’s comments came a day after TOI reported how men who have sex with men (MSMs) were posing to be India’s greatest challenge in its fight against AIDS.

National Aids Control Organization (NACO) estimates that India is home to 2.5 million MSMs of which 100,000 are at high risk of contracting HIV due to multi-partner and commercial sexual practices. Already, 15% of this community have got infected with the deadly disease.

Ramadoss said, “MSMs are our major concern. We have to contain the epidemic within this community. The number of targeted interventions specially for this community is being scaled up tremendously.” The minister also called for a relook into the impending Bill to amend the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act.

The Bill was moved in Parliament in 2006 by the ministry of women and child development headed by Renuka Chowdhury.

Chowdhury’s Bill also drew criticism at the India session from UNAIDS chief Peter Piot, who said, “The Bill has raised concerns that it would push prostitution underground.”

According to a recent report by the world’s first independent commission on AIDS in Asia-Pacific, the HIV epidemic in Asia is mainly driven by men who go for paid sex. While 75 million men in Asia visit sex workers, 10 million women sell sex to these men.

TIMES VIEW: Abolish Section 377

9 Aug 2008, 0049 hrs IST,TNN

This paper has supported the demand to abolish Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes homosexuality and carries a draconian sentence of up to 10 years.

Ironically, this colonial law, which we inherited from the British, has long been struck from their own law books. Legalities apart, a growing body of medical evidence suggests that genes influence sexual preference.

If that is so, how can homosexuality be considered ‘unnatural’? Regardless of whether it is nature or nurture that determines who is gay and who is not, we believe it is a question of personal choice.

We are happy that health minister Ramadoss has spoken out against 377.

Legalise homosexuality: Ramadoss (PTI report on Yahoo!/The Indian Express)

Fri, Aug 8 03:33 PM

Observing that India was witnessing a stabilisation of the HIV epidemic, the Union Health Ministry favoured legalising homosexuality and removing discrimination against other vulnerable sections like sex workers in order to contain spread of the dreaded virus.

“India’s dedicated focus on HIV prevention is fetching dividends. We are seeing the beginning of the stabilisation of the HIV epidemic in India,” Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said addressing experts and delegates at the 17th International Conference on AIDS in Mexico City.

He said the key to overcome the HIV epidemic is to take HIV services to those on the margins of society adding ‘we can only do that in an enabling environment’.

India’s targeted HIV intervention approach which relies on strong community participation has resulted in larger numbers of people accessing HIV prevention, treatment and care services, Ramadoss said.

Responding to questions from the delegates, the Minister expressed his strong support for the draft legislation on HIV which is currently being whetted by the Law Ministry.

“Structural discrimination against those who are vulnerable to HIV such as sex workers and MSM must be removed if our prevention, care and treatment programmes are to succeed,” he said. “Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises Men who have sex with Men, must go”.

India has about 2.5 million HIV infections and many states have started recording a stabilisation of the epidemic.

Give gays a break, says Ramadoss (The Hindustan Times)

Moushumi Das Gupta, Hindustan Times

New Delhi, August 08, 2008

Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss on Wednesday advocated that homosexuality be legalised in India.

“Section 377 of the IPC, which criminalises men who have sex with men, must go,” announced the minister at the 17th International Conference on AIDS in Mexico City
“Structural discrimination against those who are vulnerable to HIV such as sex workers and men having sex with men must be removed if our prevention, care and treatment programmes are to succeed,” he said at the summit.

But the minister’s intentions may come to a nought if another arm of the government, the ministry responsible for implementation of the IPC, has its way.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs says the deletion of Section 377 would open floodgates of delinquent behaviour. Besides, it is also invoked to prosecute people accused of child abuse.

The Law Commission tried to address this concern by incorporating another section to specifically criminalise sexual contact with anyone younger than 16. “The ministry can take a final view after reviewing responses from states to the Law Commission’s suggestions,” a Home Ministry official said.

The contradictory views of the two ministries on this issue are before the Delhi High Court, which is hearing a public interest litigation seeking decriminalization of homosexuality. At the last hearing, upset over the conflicting stands taken by the two ministries, the court had directed the Centre to arrive at a consensus and submit its reply by September 18.

Naz Foundation, a voluntary organization supporting gay rights, which filed the PIL, has sought scrapping of section 377, which can lead to a maximum of life imprisonment for indulging in unnatural sex.

While welcoming Ramadoss’s statement, gay right activists in the country are keeping their fingers crossed. “His statement would be meaningful only if the Indian government reconciles the differing views of the two ministries. It cannot have two faces on the same issue,” says Arvind Narrain, a lawyer with Alternative Law Forum, a Bangalore-based human rights group.

Added Vikram, member of Gay Bombay, a Mumbai-based gay rights group: “Scrapping Section 377 is just the first step. We’ll have to collectively work to change society’s mindset against gays and lesbians.”



1. Becky Blab » Blog Archive » Another law for reform - August 13, 2008

[…] that he is behind the legalisation of homosexuality in India. (For other news coverage of it, click here). Addressing a 250-strong India session at the International AIDS Conference here on Thursday, he […]

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