Ramadoss reiterates commitment to homosexual rights

August 22nd, 2008 - 8:59 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 22 (IANS) Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss Friday reiterated his commitment towards advocating the rights of homosexuals, saying that it was necessary to decriminalise sex between two men to check the spread of HIV/AIDS. “Section 377 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code), which criminalises men who have sex with men, must go. I want to do away with it to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS,” Ramadoss said on the sidelines of a function on Dalit studies.

India is home to 2.3 million homosexuals and 10 percent of them are spreading HIV/AIDS, Ramadoss pointed out. He added that since a huge number of homosexuals fall under the high risk group, continuing with the criminal tag would only force them to go underground.

“We need to accept it as a problem as the provision is preventing our work to control, curb and reverse the AIDS situation,” the minister said.

Ramadoss said there was an urgent need to access this populace and stop the spread of the infection.

“The provision in our law even debars doctors from treating homosexual patients. The current law asks doctors to inform police before treating them,” he added.

Under the IPC, sex between two men is considered “unnatural”. The Delhi High Court is hearing a petition by Naz Foundation, an NGO that has challenged arrests under the act. Though the health ministry had supported their call to remove the law, the home ministry was not in favour of it.

Considering the matter to be “serious”, the court had asked the two ministries to sit together and sort out the matter. The case would be heard next on Sep 18.

Said Ramadoss: “The home ministry is not completely against it. We are already in discussion with them.”

He also said that the law commission had submitted a positive affidavit in the court but did not divulge any details.

“I expect something positive from the judiciary.”

India is home to 2.5 million HIV/AIDS patients including 80,000 children below the age of 15.

In his speech at the global AIDS summit in Mexico City earlier this month, Ramadoss had said that “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”.

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