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 HIV/AIDS.
Anand 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.