India gay sex ruling could set precedent: UN

GENEVA: A landmark ruling in India to legalize gay sex could set an example for about 80 countries which still outlaw homosexual sex, a UN agency said on Thursday. It would also encourage more HIV victims in India to come forward to seek treatment and information, added the United Nations joint programme on HIV and AIDS.

“We think this will set an important precedence throughout the world,” said Susan Timberlake, who heads UNAIDS’ human rights and law team. She added that in almost all of the countries that outlaw homosexual sex, “both the law and the homophobia… results in both the denial of human rights of men who have sex with men, transgender people and lesbians, but also in the denial of health care services that they desperately need in the world of HIV.”

Anand Grover, the lawyer who argued the case before New Delhi High Court, described the decision as an “historic event because India was the country where the anti-sodomy laws were first statutorised…and the same law was then replicated all over the British Commonwealth.”

He added that countries that still outlaw homosexual sex can now “use this as a precedent.” “Countries in Africa can use this as a precedent. Same for Asia,” he told journalists in Geneva.

Several Commonwealth countries still view gay sex as illegal, including Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, and many Caribbean islands. In India, homosexual HIV sufferers would now find it easier to seek information and treatment, said Pradeep Kakkattil who heads UNAIDS’ technical support division.

“What this judgement could help in is encourage men who have sex with men to come out more and seek those services… and it will make much easier for people working in the field to provide that information,” he said.

When homosexual sex was outlawed, patients “would not go to the doctor because of fear of … potentially being reported to the police,” said Kakkattil.

“Besides the threat of imprisonment, these victims also faced blackmail from police,” he said. “Health workers providing help to homosexual HIV sufferers are also working in precarious situations, he added. He said that it’s not uncommon for police to arrest you because you are providing information on something illegal.”

Source: Times of India