2 July 2009 The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has hailed today’s decision by an Indian court to overturn a 150-year-old law and decriminalize homosexuality, voicing hope that more countries that ban same-sex activity will follow suit.
The Delhi High Court said the law – Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which outlaws “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” – violated the South Asian nation’s constitution.
“The inclusiveness that Indian society traditionally displayed, literally in every aspect of life, is manifest in recognizing a role in society for everyone,” said Chief Justice A.P. Shah and Justice S. Murlidhar.
With today’s decision, the High Court has “restored the dignity and human rights of millions of men who have sex with men and transgendered people in India,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said.
“Oppressive laws such as Section 377 drive people underground, making it much harder to reach them with HIV prevention, treatment and care services,” he added.
In a press release issued in New Delhi, UNAIDS called on all governments to guarantee the full respect of human rights for men who have sex with men, lesbians and transgendered people by repealing laws prohibiting sex between consenting adults in public.
The agency also underscored the importance of enacting laws to protect these groups from violence and discrimination; addressing homophobia and transphobia; and bolstering health services.
The annulment of Section 377 “sends a positive message to countries where such laws still exist,” Mr. Sidibé stressed, noting that UNAIDS looks forward to working with the Indian Government to address the AIDS pandemic.
On top of violating individuals’ human rights, the prohibition of homosexuality in over 80 countries impedes the response to HIV, hampering treatment to access for people living with the disease, according to UNAIDS.
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