BY NOREEN FAGAN – India’s health minister joins the growing list of
politicians who need to have their qualifications checked.
Ghulam Nabi Azad spoke at a conference on HIV/AIDS in the
Indian capital of New Delhi, where he said homosexuality is a Western-imported disease.
The Guardian reports
that Azad’s comments echo a common sentiment in the country.
"Unfortunately this disease has come to our country, too… where a man has sex with another man, which is completely unnatural and
should not happen but does,” said Azad.
This is the guy in charge of health policy in Asia’s most
AIDS-afflicted nation, speaking at an HIV/AIDS conference?
Azad also told
the conference that “even though it [homosexuality] is unnatural, it exists in
our country and is now fast-spreading, making it tough to detect its spread
… 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
find them [gay men].”
Needless to say, Azad has come under fire for his ignorance
and damning words.
the BBC, Anjali Gopalan, who heads leading HIV/AIDS campaign group the Naz
Foundation, said she was “horrified” by the minister’s remarks.
living on another planet — either he’s very ill-informed or he’s speaking to a
very narrow constituency of his own,” she said.
addressing officials from across the country, and this was a golden opportunity
to deal with discrimination. Instead he let it slip through his fingers. I’m
hoping it will not put us back another 10 years… My blood pressure must have
gone through the roof. I’m so angry — I can’t put it into words. These guys
shouldn’t be in these positions.”
I am right with her there.
How on earth do these people get to positions of
power where their stupidity and ignorance can have such a detrimental effect?
The Times of India
quoted Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, as saying, “India’s rich
tradition of inclusivity and social justice must include men who have sex with
men and transgender people."
"There is no place for stigma and discrimination on the basis of sexual
orientation. Consistent with WHO’s disease classification, UNAIDS does not
regard homosexuality as a disease,” said Sidibe.
Azad’s comments came after India marked the anniversary of
the decriminalization of gay sex two years ago.
In 2009, a New Delhi court overturned a 148-year-old
colonial law that described a same-sex relationship as an “unnatural
Azad’s remarks show that even though laws can change,
attitudes and social stigma can linger on.