Gay Rights Groups in India Protest Arrest of MSM, HIV/AIDS Advocates Say Antiquated Laws Hinder Prevention
International human rights groups and gay rights advocates in India on Thursday called on the government to repeal its laws criminalizing homosexuality and release four men who were arrested last week for allegedly running an online gay club in Lucknow in the northern province of Uttar Pradesh, Reuters reports. About 24 gay men and women and gay rights advocates protested outside the New Delhi guesthouse (Kumar, Reuters, 1/12). Denis Broun, UNAIDS India coordinator, on Wednesday said that India's laws against homosexuality -- which make "homosexual sex" a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison -- are hindering prevention efforts in the country. "We're concerned at the arrest of a number of [men who have sex with men] in Lucknow," he said, adding, "Criminalization of people most at risk of HIV infection may increase stigma and discrimination, ultimately fueling the AIDS epidemic." Official figures show roughly 5.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in India, but UNAIDS and nongovernmental organizations say the numbers are much higher (Kumar, Reuters, 1/11). Anjali Gopalan of the Naz Foundation International, a gay rights organization, said, "The police harass health outreach workers working on HIV prevention among the gay community. Volunteers are prevented from distributing condoms among prisoners by officials who cite these antiquated laws." Scott Long of New York-based Human Rights Watch said the group had written to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in hopes that he will repeal the laws (George, Associated Press, 1/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.