Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's controversial comments that homosexuality is "unnatural" and a "disease" sparked an outrage among rights activists and the gay community.
Protests were also held on the steps of the Town Hall in Bangalore against Azad's remarks with several activists carrying the multi-colour rainbow flag which symbolises the gay culture. Some activists said Azad's assessment was "unscientific and irrational" and stressed the need for a change in the community mindset.
There was particular anger that the Minister's comments were made at a meeting of officials tasked with promoting and enforcing HIV/AIDS prevention policy at a grassroots level, as various health professionals scrambled to douse the controversy. Demands were also made that Azad clarify his statement.
"I would say that he was thinking of his constituency while he was airing his narrow comments," said Anjali Gopalan who heads the NAZ Foundation, a rights group that promotes equal rights for homosexuals and works with HIV positive people.
Azad om Monday described homosexuality as a "disease" and regretted that despite being "unnatural", it now afflicts a substantial number of people in India.
"The disease of 'Men having Sex with Men' (MSM), which was found more in the developed world, has now unfortunately come to our country and there is a substantial number of such people in India", Azad said speaking at a convention on HIV/AIDS.
Gopalan while noting that Azad was addressing a meeting that included zila parishad chairpersons and mayors, Gopalan said, "What a golden opportunity he had to talk about fighting discrimination and he goes ahead with a statement that jeopardises it."