Virtually seeking a scrap of Section 377 of IPC which makes "unnatural sex" like homosexuality an offence, National AIDS Control Organisation on Wednesday submitted in the Delhi High Court that enforcement of the penal provision has adversely contributed to the rise in the number of HIV cases in the country.
In an affidavit filed on behalf of NACO before a Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Kailash Ghambhir the Under Secretary Ministry of Health and Family Welfare ML Soni said the HIV prevalence among the homosexuals in the country was a whooping eight per cent compared to the estimated one per cent general population afflicted with the deadly virus.
The affidavit was filed in response to a petition filed by an NGO Naz Foundation seeking a scrap of section 377 IPC on the ground that it promoted illicit homosexuality resulting in a further rise of HIV cases in the country.
Quoting a report of the "Expert Group on Size Population with High Risk Behaviour for NACP-011 Planning, January 2006," NACO claimed that there are an estimiated 25 lakh homosexuals in the country.
According to the report more than eight per cent of the population of MSN (men having sex with men)-a synonym used for homosexuals are infected by HIV; while the disease prevelance among the general population is estimated to be less than one per cent given the vulnerability of the MSMs to HIV.
"These population (homosexuals) are mostly reluctant to reveal same sex behaviour due to the fear of law enforcement agencies, keeping a large section invisible and unreachable and pushing the infection underground, making it difficult for us to access them," NACO stated.
As MSM groups lack safe places and utilise public places such as railway stations, they become vulnerable to harassment and abuse by police. The hidden nature of MSM groups constantly inhibits/impedes interventions under the HIV/AIDS control programme, the affidavit stated.
"Enforcement of Section 377 of IPC can adversely contribute to pushing the infection underground, make risky sexual practices go unnoticed and unaddressed. The fear of harassment by law enforcement agencies leads to sex being hurried, leaving partners without the option to consider or negotiate safer sex practices,"it was stated in the affidavit.