Geneva [Switzerland], Sept 06: The UNAIDS (United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) on Thursday welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court of India to annul key provisions of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. The world agency expressed hope that this decision sets the trend and is followed in other countries to remove unjust laws criminalizing homosexuality.
IPC Section 377 criminalises sexual relations between lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people. "Today is a day of gay pride, a day of celebration, a day when respect and dignity were finally restored in India for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people," said Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS. "I applaud the brave activists, civil society organizations and community groups that have fought long and hard for this injustice to be reversed."
Criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations is a violation of human rights and legitimizes prejudice and violence against LGBTI people. Criminalization hinders people from accessing and using HIV prevention, testing and treatment services and increases their risk of acquiring HIV, the UNAID said in a statement.
It added that in India, HIV prevalence among gay men and other men who have sex with men is 2.7 per cent and among transgender people is 3.1 per cent compared to the national HIV prevalence among all adults of just 0.26 per cent. Around three out of ten gay men and four out of ten transgender people in India who are living with HIV do not know their HIV status. Many LGBTI people living with HIV do not have access to HIV treatment, the world agency said.
It added that gay men account for 18 per cent of all new HIV infections worldwide. The UNAIDS urged countries to ensure full respect of the human rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, through repealing laws that prohibit sex between consenting adults in private, enforcing laws to protect people from violence and discrimination, addressing homophobia and transphobia and ensuring that crucial health services are made available.
"I hope this decision sets the trend and is followed by similar decisions in other countries that remove unjust laws criminalizing homosexuality," said Sidibe. In June 2016, United Nations Member States committed in the Political Declaration on ending AIDS to promote laws and policies that ensure the enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for children, adolescents and young people, particularly those living with, at risk of and affected by HIV, so as to eliminate the stigma and discrimination that they face.