India is set to review its long-standing laws barring gay sex in a move that could decriminalize homosexuality in the largely conservative country, a report said yesterday.
Consensual sex between same-sex adults is currently punishable by a fine and a 10-year prison term under the Indian Penal Code, and most politicians have so far resisted amending the statute, which dates back to British rule. Now three key ministers have agreed to meet shortly to discuss a possible revamp of the country’s homosexuality laws.
“The issue was being discussed in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Health Ministry and it will come before the Law Ministry also,” Law Minister Veerappa Moily was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times.
Critics say the laws are outdated and have been an obstacle to controlling the spread of HIV/AIDS, which affects an estimated 2.5 million people in India.
The country’s previous health minister had argued that allowing homosexual sex between consenting adults would bring India’s largely closeted gay community into the open and increase awareness about safe sex. But he faced opposition from other ministers who feared that decriminalizing gay sex would lead to delinquent behavior and alter the laws applying to child abuse and male rape, which are generally covered by the same statute that makes homosexuality illegal.
The news comes as gays, lesbians and transgendered Indians participated in nationwide pride marches for the second year in a row, despite taboos that mostly ignore or deny homosexuality or treat it as a disease.
Meanwhile, Berlin’s Christopher Street Day, an annual gay pride parade, attracted 550,000 people on Saturday, with the costumed crowd following 50 decorated floats.
Gay, lesbian and transsexual people dress up, or bare off, every year to march to the city’s Victory Column and protest at discrimination against homosexuals. Organizers said this year’s attendance was up 10 per cent from last year.
In other German cities, gay groups are to hold similar parades through the summer.
The day began with a shock, when Rudolf Brazda, 96, collapsed and grazed his head and arm during a speech at the national monument to homosexual victims of Nazi persecution.
Brazda suffered in Buchenwald concentration camp from 1941 to 1945.