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(Washington, DC)— The Indian authorities must ensure that the rights of gay men are protected, Amnesty International said today, after India's health minister described homosexuality as a "disease."
Addressing a conference about HIV/AIDS on Monday, Ghulum Nabo Azad said sex between two men is "completely unnatural and shouldn't happen."
"These outrageous remarks linking consensual sexual activity to a disease simply encourage discrimination against men who have sex with men," said Emily Gray, Amnesty International's researcher on sexual orientation and gender identity. "The Health Minister must retract his comments, and the Indian Government must reaffirm its commitment to protect the rights of all of its citizens, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or consensual sexual behavior."
In a landmark judgment, India decriminalized homosexuality in 2009. The ruling overturned a 19th century British colonial law which bans engagement in consensual sex with an individual of the same sex.
"India has come a long way in the past decade in protecting its vulnerable populations, including its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations," said Gray. "But they are engaging in double standards here. On the one hand, they have decriminalized homosexuality and taken a significant step toward ensuring that people in India can express their sexual orientation. On the other hand, its chief public health officer is anthologizing homosexuality. This is a severe setback for sexual rights. It would be a great shame if India's recent progress on protecting the rights of sexual minorities was undermined by government induced hostility towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."
The World Health Organization now recognizes that protecting the rights of the gay community is essential to ensuring safe sex practices and to help stem the spread of HIV. Public stigmatization has been shown to lead to fewer men seeking testing or treatment for HIV/AIDS.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
For more information, please visit: www.amnestyusa.org