Considering gays a minority won’t divide nation: court

October 16th, 2008 - 10:43 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 16 (IANS) The Delhi High Court Thursday said homosexuals could be considered a minority - and came down heavily on the government for arguing that this stance would divide the country.A bench headed by Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah said the government was virtually accusing the court of dividing the country.

“Is it a false statement to say that people suffering from leprosy or any other dreaded diseases do not belong to a minority group? If you are not prepared to see it then we cannot help it. Sexual minority means a group of people having different sexual preferences. Are we dividing the nation by calling them minority?” the court observed.

The court’s remarks came when Additional Solicitor General P.P. Malhotra contended that if homosexuals are considered as minority in the country then many such small groups having peculiar characteristics would claim to belong to minority groups, further dividing the country.

“These are not arguments but comments on us. You are saying that we are dividing the nation by saying that they belong to a minority group and then you are also saying that we are encouraging such practises,” the bench told Malhotra.

It referred to the affidavit filed by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) on behalf of the health ministry, which admitted that the homosexual community is a minority community being harassed for their different sexual preferences.

“Is the recognition of Men Having Sex with Men (MSM) by the health ministry a reality or fiction? Does such a group exist? If yes, then why cannot they be put in a group on the basis of their characteristics?” the court asked.

The court had Wednesday asked the government to produce scientific evidence to justify the ban on homosexuality.

“Show us some scientific report which says that gay sex should be criminalised,” the bench observed.

The court also asked the government to place before it the reports of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the issue of health hazards arising out of criminalisation of gay sex.

The Indian Penal Code terms homosexual acts as an offence under section 377, which provides for punishment up to life imprisonment.

The government earlier took a contradictory stand on the issue, with the home ministry favouring retention of section 377 and the health ministry opposing its enforcement in the case of consenting adults - for more effective steps to counter AIDS.

The court was hearing a petition filed by 13 NGOs including Naz Foundation seeking its direction to decriminalise homosexual acts among consenting adults by amending Section 377.

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