New Delhi, Jul 5: Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's controversial comments that homosexuality is “unnatural” and a “disease” sparked an outrage among rights activists and the gay community.
Protests were also held on the steps of the Town Hall in Bangalore against Azad's remarks with several activists carrying the multi-colour rainbow flag which symbolises the gay culture. Some activists said Azad's assessment was “unscientific and irrational” and stressed the need for a change in the community mindset.
There was particular anger that the Minister's comments were made at a meeting of officials tasked with promoting and enforcing HIV/AIDS prevention policy at a grassroots level, as various health professionals scrambled to douse the controversy. Demands were also made that Azad clarify his statement.
“I would say that he was thinking of his constituency while he was airing his narrow comments,” said Anjali Gopalan who heads the NAZ Foundation, a rights group that promotes equal rights for homosexuals and works with HIV positive people.
Azad yesterday described homosexuality as a “disease” and regretted that despite being “unnatural”, it now afflicts a substantial number of people in India. “The disease of ‘Men having Sex with Men' (MSM), which was found more in the developed world, has now unfortunately come to our country and there is a substantial number of such people in India”, Azad said speaking at a convention on HIV/AIDS.
Gopalan while noting that Azad was addressing a meeting that included zila parishad chairpersons and mayors, Gopalan told PTI, “What a golden opportunity he had to talk about fighting discrimination and he goes ahead with a statement that jeopardises it.”
Arunima Singh (name changed), who lives with her girlfriend here, says comments like that made by Azad though shocking are not unusual.
“What the minister said is sad. It is not hard to find a lot of people in the city who will support you and respect you for who you are but to expect everyone to be supportive about this is a little hard,” she said.
Ashok Row Kavi, a gay rights activist, said, “It is pretty bad but what can we do. We can't do anything to change people's mentality.”
An official associated with the United Nations said, “We are trying to come up with some damage control measures as his reactions is bound to undo the efforts we have put in to spread information to fight against discrimination.” The UN Human Rights Council passed the human rights , sexual orientation and gender identity resolution on June 17, 2011 that called for an end to sexuality discrimination worldwide and to recognise it as a priority for the UN.
On July 2, 2009, the Delhi High Court struck down provisions of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises gay sex among consenting adults, saying it violated the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution. PTI