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The Centre recently informed the Supreme Court that there were around 25 lakh homosexuals in the country of which 7% or 1.75 lakh were HIV-infected. The court is hearing petitions by anti-gay rights activists as well as political, social and religious outfits, which have appealed against a July 2009 Delhi High Court verdict decriminalizing homosexuality. The Delhi High Court had in 2009 decriminalized gay sex as provided in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and had ruled that sex between two consenting adults of the same sex in private would not be an offence. Religious organizations like All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Utkal Christian Council and Apostolic Churches Alliance have challenged the high court’s order.

This highlights the need to direct the efforts of the Government to create AIDS awareness among gays and lesbians in India. Efforts by the Government and other non-governmental organizations’ so far have been mostly directed towards sex workers. Even if they wish to work with gays and lesbians, existing laws prove to be an impediment. It also makes it difficult to collect data which then raises question about the authenticity of the data presented to the court, which might be grossly underestimated.

India’s health ministry had argued that Section 377 of the IPC makes it difficult to educate homosexuals about the risks of HIV/AIDS and hence infringes upon the constitutional right to health. Supporting this argument the Delhi High court had decriminalized homosexuality in 2009. But now the Government makes it clear in the affidavit it has filed that the Cabinet had decided against taking any stand on the issue and had decided to await the decision of the apex court.

Indian political parties are known for not taking any stand which might offend any section of society or any religious group. For instance Senior BJP leader B P Singhal, who had opposed in the high court the plea for legalization of gay sex, has challenged the verdict in the Supreme Court, saying such acts are illegal, immoral and against the ethos of Indian culture.

If our existing political parties don’t wake up to the reality then somebody else will. Recently, a transgender named Rose Venkatesan launched a political party which is called “Sexual Liberation Party of India" with an agenda aimed at sensitizing people towards the plight of women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Our society which is used to looking down upon these groups, has begun to accept them and this will bring about a change in the political landscape which our present day politicians otherwise would not. The trend is already visible.

Kinnar Gulshan Bindu, who is an eunuch, had stood for election for the Ayodhya seat as an independent candidate and had given other contestants a run for their money. Bindu came in fourth after the counting was done with 22,023 votes, which many believe is the main reason for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) losing in the Ayodhya assembly constituency for the first time since the Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992.

So it is only a matter of time before our democracy takes cognizance of the concerns of minorities and makes life easier for them by providing them their basic rights.

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