Gayboys & Indians

India Decriminalized Gay Sex, But Critics Says That Will Increase HIV Rates writes David G. McAfee.

Some politicians and Christian groups in India are still opposing the country’s recent decriminalization of gay sex, saying the new policy will somehow increase the rates of HIV.

Earlier this week, India’s Supreme Court wiped out a 157-year-old law that made homosexual sex — let alone same-sex marriage — illegal. The offending law, Section 377, was repealed once in 2009 but was reinstated just four years later thanks to an astrologer who challenged the repeal in court.

Gay sex is considered taboo by many in socially conservative India, as well as in neighboring Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. It was reinstated as a criminal offense in India in 2013, punishable up to 10 years in prison, after four years of decriminalization. 

A five-judge bench in India’s Supreme Court was unanimous in overturning the ban. But the ruling could face a legal challenge from groups that say gay sex erodes traditional values. 

"Any consensual sexual relationship between two consenting adults — homosexuals, heterosexuals or lesbians — cannot be said to be unconstitutional", the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra said as he read out the judgment:

These judges — all of them — got it right. They understood that making consensual sex between adults illegal was ridiculous and unsustainable. But the critics are also right to say the ruling could be challenged in court for several reasons, including “traditional values.”

The battle to repeal Section 377 began in 2001, when a group called the Naz Foundation challenged it in court. That eventually led to its repeal in 2009.

It was reinstated in 2013 after a legal challenge from an astrologer, Suresh Kumar Kaushal, who told Reuters on Thursday the latest verdict would erode traditional society. “Marriage is the most sacred part of our culture, many cultures actually,” he said. “Sexual relations are a sacred part of this bond.”

… And that’s why same-sex couples shouldn’t be left out even if it goes against tradition. It doesn’t matter what your culture is (much less what the alignment of the stars looks like). Governments shouldn’t be able to dictate the legality of sex between consenting adults. The High Court got it right.

Some opponents of the repeal also cited the possibility of increased HIV rates… without explaining how that would happen.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party had said it would support any decision by the Supreme Court but one prominent member of the party criticized the court ruling.

“This verdict could give rise to other issues such as an increase in the number of HIV cases,” member of parliament Subramanian Swamy told CNN-News18.

That same Indian politician said in response to the repeal that homosexuality is a “genetic disorder,” and several Christian groups who fought for the ban on gay sex made similar arguments in court.

The Apostolic Alliance of Churches, Utkal Christian Council and Trust God Ministries were the main parties who opposed the measure to strip Section 377 of its legal validity. A main prong of contention upon which the respondents rested their case was the fact that any change to Section 377 should be with parliamentary backing and that the Supreme Court was not competent to add or detract from the words present in the statute.

It was also argued that Section 377 had nothing to do with notions of Victorian morality and rather hinged on the issue of spread of HIV/AIDS and was therefore a medico-legal necessity.

These arguments are not new, and they’re definitely not convincing. It’s the same sky-is-falling fear-mongering that always occurs when we’re talking about LGBTQ rights. It’s telling that the same people citing health reasons to oppose the recent decisions would also oppose gay sex between HIV negative men in a monogamous relationship. (It’s not really about HIV.) 

Also, the outdated law that was overturned wasn’t actually stopping people from having gay sex. It just criminalized it. If the HIV threat wasn’t an issue before the ruling, it won’t be an issue afterwards.

The religious fundamentalists are wrong, as usual. At least these justices were able to see beyond their propaganda.

➽David G. McAfee wrote this piece for Friendly Atheist.

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