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Homosexuality 'a disease', claims India's health minister

Homosexuality is ‘unnatural’ and is causing the spread of HIV, says the man in charge of the health of 1.2 billion people.

Indian health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has upset many with his comments about homosexuality's role in the spread of HIV.
Indian health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has upset many with his comments about homosexuality's role in the spread of HIV.
Image: Saurabh Das/AP

INDIA’S MINISTER FOR HEALTH has described homosexuality as ‘unnatural’ and blamed gay sex for the increased spread of HIV in his country.

Ghulam Nabi Azad told a meeting on HIV and AIDS in Delhi that the ‘disease’ of homosexuality had spread to his country from the western world, bringing with it an increased rate of HIV infections.

“Even through [homosexuality] is unnatural, it exists in our country and is now fast spreading, making it tough to detect it,” the BBC quoted him as saying.

“With relationships changing, men are having sex with men now. Though it is easy to find women sex workers and educate them on sex, it is a challenge to identify men having sex with men.”

Azad cited one statistic that suggested the rate of HIV infection among men who had sex with men was around 8 per cent, compared to a rate of lower than 1 per cent among the population as a whole.

AFP said the conference had also been attended by the country’s prime minister Manmohan Singh, who had left before his health minister made the comments.

It also quoted Mohnish Kabir Malhotra, a publicist and gay rights activist, who said: ”I think the minister needs to apologise immediately. He has insulted the entire homosexual community.”

“Homosexuality is very much a part of nature and it even finds references in religious texts. To call it unnatural is absurd.”

Indian news website Mid-Day.com quoted a leading lesbian activist, who said it was “sad that a man at such a high position has made this comment”.

“When the country is growing economically, then why can’t it grow spiritually and culturally? Why does such a mindset still exist?,” Ma Faiza asked.

The United Nations’ special rapporteur on health criticised the comment, describing them as “unfortunate, regrettable and totally unacceptable”.

A spokesman for the minister defended his comments, saying the minister was “not insulting anyone” and was referring only HIV and AIDS, not homosexuality itself.

Gay sex was only decriminalised in India two years ago, following a major ruling by the country’s supreme court. Engaging in homosexual activity had been declared an “unnatural offence” in a law introduced under British rule in 1851.

Azad has previously declared rural electrification as a major tactic in population control, speculating that being able to watch TV in rural areas would lead fewer people to have sex.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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