Apparently being the country in Asia with the largest HIV-positive population isn’t enough to modernize the views of India’s political elite on gay rights, as we learned today when that country’s health minister called homosexuality an unnatural “disease” from the West.
“It is a matter of concern that, unfortunately, in the world and in our country this disease has arisen, where men are having sex with men, which is unnatural and should not be happening,” Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said, speaking in Hindi.
He apparently called a news conference in the last few hours to walk back the claims, saying he had been “quoted out of context” and was speaking about HIV.
Presumably pressure to do so came from the office of Prime Minister Singh, who was present for the original inflammatory remarks.
A reminder that for all the economic and military gains made by Asia’s largest democracy over the past decade, its human rights record leaves something to be desired. Then again, its courts struck down sodomy laws in 2009 that were on the books in some U.S. states until the Supreme Court overturned them in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, leaving the United States just six years ahead on this critical question of civil equality.