Last edited: February 14, 2005

Indians Challenge Anti-Gay Laws

The Data Lounge, January 21, 2003

NEW DELHI—A court in New Delhi has told the Indian government it has exactly one month to respond to a suit brought by an AIDS organization seeking immediate repeal of anti-gay sex laws.

The Indian Express reports New Delhi High Court Chief Justices Devinder Gupta and B.D. Ahmed told the government to file an affidavit making clear its stand on the sex laws within four weeks.

The Naaz Foundation, which brought the suit, said police use the threat of the law to harass gay people, who are justifiably afraid to come forward to seek AIDS prevention help. The foundation said the anti-gay harassment is a violation of their human rights.

"Despite a number of adjournments, no affidavit is filed by the (the federal government) and a last opportunity is given to it to submit it within four weeks," the judges said in their order Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch, the New York-based rights group, said in a report last year that Indian police regularly harass anti-AIDS campaigners who try to provide condoms and disease-prevention information.

The extent of HIV and AIDS in India is still in some dispute. The government puts prevalence in the general population just below one percent though estimates from the United Nations and international relief agencies believe the true figure may be substantially higher.

The issue has become a sensitive one politically. Indian Health Minister Shatrughan Sinha in November lashed out at US Ambassador Robert Blackwill for spreading what he called AIDS panic.

A recent US report predicted that AIDS could affect as many as 25 million people in India by 2010 if it is not checked.

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