Cabinet to take call on gay rights | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Cabinet to take call on gay rights

The cabinet will soon play a referee between the health ministry and the home ministry sparring over gay rights, reports Harish V Nair.

delhi Updated: Sep 19, 2008 00:18 IST
Harish V Nair

The cabinet will soon play a referee between two ministries sparring over gay rights.

It will now come out with a final stand on decriminalisation of homosexual acts, following persisting differences between the health ministry and the home ministry, the Centre told the Delhi High Court on Thursday.

“The ministries could not settle their differences and the matter has now been referred to the cabinet,” Additional Solicitor General PP Malhotra told the court.

The court had asked for the government’s view on a petition by an NGO, which wanted the scrapping of a law that makes gay sex a crime — even if it is consensual.

Chief Justice AP Shah said the court would not pass an order till the cabinet takes a stand.

In replies to a court notice, the two ministries took opposite stands on the scrapping of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, under which a person indulging in unnatural sex may get life in jail.

The health ministry supported the petition of Naz Foundation, a gay rights group, but the home ministry said “Indian society disapproves of homosexuality”.

Gay rights and health activists have been demanding scrapping of the 1860 law to bring gays out of the closet — and to help fight HIV.

The health ministry said the law contributes in pushing HIV people underground “which makes such risky sexual practises go unnoticed”. Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss recently said he was in favour of legalising homosexuality.

But the home ministry said disapproval of homosexuality in society is strong enough to justify it being treated as a criminal offence.

The law ministry too is opposed as it feels “the law also acts as an effective deterrent against paedophiles and sick minds”, an official said.