High-risk groups may seek support after Supreme Court verdict on Section 377
The Union health ministry, which has previously backed decriminalising homosexuality and said Section 377 acted as an impediment in making high-risk groups such as men-having-sex-with-men (MSM) come forward to access services, said on Thursday it is expecting a rise in the number of people seeking support.
“From our earlier experience between 2009 and 2013, when homosexuality was decriminalised, more invisible people had come out to seek targeted services that the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) had provided for high-risk groups. After it was criminalised, we found all those people went underground. However, we are hopeful more of these people will now be in a position to seek our support as there will be no fear of criminal action against them,” said Alok Saxena, joint secretary, NACO.
The top court read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalised specific sexual acts between adults. Activists working to fight HIV/AIDS in India also felt the verdict will have a far-reaching impact.
“Now people will be more comfortable in not just accessing services but also openly talking about related issues. Right now everything is being brushed under the carpet. Today’s judgment was pretty comprehensive as it talked about homosexuality not being a disease, mental health, right to privacy etc,” said Anjali Gopalan, founder, Naz foundation.