Close on the heels of a New Delhi March to celebrate India's decriminalization of homosexuality in 2009, the health minister told delegates attending an HIV/AIDS meeting in the capital that gay sex is "unnatural" and homosexuality is a "disease," reports the Hindustan Times.
Notably, the term "unnatural" bears especially unpleasant overtones, as the law that made homosexuality a crime, Section 377 of the penal code, defined sodomy and other homosexual acts as "unnatural sex."
"The statement is completely outrageous. For someone who is qualified enough to be the country's health minister, it is surprising that he has not been through the World Health Organization's guidelines in which homosexuality was taken off the list of diseases a few years ago. Homosexuality is very much a part of nature and even finds references in religious texts. To call it unnatural is absurd. The case is about to open in the Supreme Court shortly and this will just add to the controversy," the Times of India quoted Mohnish Kabir Malhotra, publicist and queer rights activist, as saying in an article on the outraged reaction from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
“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,” the Indian Express quoted Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad as saying at a convention on HIV/AIDS at a convention where parliamentarians including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi were in attendance.
“Even though it (homosexuality) is unnatural, it exists in our country and is now fast spreading, making it tough for its detection,” Azad also saidsaid.
Just a day earlier, the PM had celebrated India's success in cutting new HIV/AIDS infections by 50 percent over the past 10 years, saying that the "social ostracization" of infected people was the country's biggest challenge.