United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday that India’s anti-homosexuality laws are responsible for breeding intolerance in the country and urged the government to revoke laws criminalizing consensual, same-sex relationships. Ban’s comments, made during a visit to the Indian capital of New Delhi, came amid outrage among gay rights activists over a statement by a politician in the Indian state of Goa, who announced plans to make homosexuals “normal.”
“I staunchly oppose the criminalization of homosexuality … I am proud to stand for the equality of all people -- including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender,” Ban said, according to a statement released late Monday. “I speak out because laws criminalizing consensual, adult same-sex relationships violate basic rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination. Even if they are not enforced, these laws breed intolerance.”
The secretary-general’s statements highlighted the discrimination faced by gays and LGBT activists in India. Under the controversial section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” is considered a criminal offense. Although the Delhi High Court had, in a landmark judgment in 2009, decriminalized consensual sexual acts between adults and struck down the section as unconstitutional, the verdict was later overturned by the country’s Supreme Court in 2013.
Moreover, when it comes to securing LGBT rights, the Indian government has had a poor record. In September last year, when the U.N. Human Rights Council tabled a resolution condemning violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, India, along with six other nations, abstained from voting. The resolution was passed with 25 votes cast in its favor.
Ban’s comments were made just hours after Ramesh Tawadkar, a politician from the western state of Goa, reportedly said that the state government was planning to make gays “normal” through centers “like Alcoholic Anonymous,” where they would be provided training and medicine.
Although he retracted his statements later on Tuesday after the state’s chief minister said that the comments were made out of ignorance, several gay-rights activists and opposition parties hit out at Tawadkar, reportedly terming his statements “unscientific, illogical and brainless.”