UNAIDS has welcomed an Indian court's decision to annul
the law that criminalizes adult homosexual relations. It said such laws drive
the problem of HIV underground and hamper efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS from
spreading in the societies where they exist.
UNAIDS called the decision by the Delhi High Court historic. It
said the decision to decriminalize homosexual sex in India's capital city is a
victory for human rights and marks a big advance in the fight against
Grover is one of the lawyers for the petitioners before the High Court in
New Delhi. He said this is a very important day in India. It is very important
for the fight against AIDS.
"It also positively impacts
on how services like HIV services will be provided amongst the men having sex
with men community. There is a very strong intervention program by the national
AIDS Control Organization in India for men having sex with men. But, there are a
lot of impediments by the police because of this action. And, that is one of the
reasons the Delhi High Court JAS also held that it interferes with the right to
health," he asid.
UNAIDS said HIV/AIDS is more
prevalent among men having sex with men and it is much higher in societies that
criminalize homosexuality than in those that do not.
For example, a study shows that in Jamaica, where homosexuality
is illegal, more than 30 percent of gay men have HIV compared to 8.6 percent in
Cuba, which does not outlaw such behavior.
Chief of the Technical support division at UNAIDS, Pradeep
Kakkattil, said laws, which criminalize homosexual behavior stigmatize these
populations and drive people underground. This makes it harder to reach them
with HIV prevention, treatment and care services.
"And, what the judgment will help is, (one) encouraging men to
come out more and seek those services, seek that information. And, number two,
it will make it much easier for people working in the field to provide that
information," said Kakkattil.
The Indian law was enacted
150 years ago by the then colonial power, Great Britain.
More than 80 countries in the world have legislation that
prohibits same sex behavior. Most of these countries are in Africa and Asia.
And, five countries - Mauritania, Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen - impose
the death penalty for homosexual acts.