Indian ministry calls for ban on 'immoral' gay sex
Thursday, 23 February 2012 14:39
India News 23.02.2012
AFP NEW DELHI - India's home ministry urged the country's Supreme Court on Thursday to reverse a landmark decision decriminalising gay sex, saying homosexuality is immoral, "against nature and spreads HIV."
The Supreme Court is hearing more than a dozen petitions filed to overturn a 2009 ruling by the Delhi High Court that decriminalised gay sex between consenting adults for the first time.
A colonial-era ban was judged to be unconstitutional in a decision hailed by gay activists as a victory in their fight for equal rights and opportunities in the world's biggest democracy.
Gay sex "is highly immoral and against the social order," additional solicitor general P.P. Malhotra, who is representing the home ministry, argued in India's top court in New Delhi.
He added that "homosexuality is against nature and spreads HIV" while anal sex was responsible for spreading disease.
The ministry supports a ban in order to prevent child abuse and because Indian society was largely against homosexuality, Malhotra explained.
"Laws can't run separately from society and the morals of the time," he said.
Prior to the Delhi High Court ruling, gay sex was illegal in India under a 150-year-old British colonial law that banned "carnal intercourse against the order of nature".
Conviction carried a fine and maximum 10-year jail sentence. Prosecutions were rare, but gay activists said police used the law to harass and intimidate homosexuals.
A survey last year by the CNN-IBN television news channel found that as many as 73 per cent of Indians believed homosexuality should be illegal, while Malhotra cited a Law Commission study on attitudes that drew similar conclusions.
Many Indians, particularly in rural areas, regard homosexuality as a mental illness or something shameful to be ignored, and the country has no high-profile gay sportsmen, politicians or Bollywood stars.
Since the decriminalisation ruling, India's small gay scene has flourished. Gay pride marches take place annually in New Delhi, Mumbai and other major cities, while a gay publishing industry is more visible than ever.
The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association recently listed the country as a destination for gay travellers.
But in a reminder of widely-held negative attitudes to homosexuality, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was quoted in July last year as saying that it was "unnatural" and a "disease which has come from other countries."
Though he later claimed he had been misquoted, the remarks drew widespread condemnation from gay rights groups and the UN AIDS agency which said there was "no place for stigma and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."
US President Barack Obama has directed government agencies to fight against the criminalisation of homosexuals abroad and to combat discrimination, homophobia and intolerance.