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Gay sex is “totally unnatural,” Indian Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said July 4.
Speaking in the Hindi language at a national HIV/AIDS conference, Azad said: “Unfortunately, in the world and in our country also, this disease has come where men have sex with each other, which is totally unnatural and which should not happen, yet it does. In our country, the numbers of men having sex with men are substantial.”
Azad later said he had been quoted out of context.
“I did not use the word ‘homosexuality’ and I didn’t use the word ‘gay’,” he said in English. “I was referring disease, but HIV, which is a disease.”
LGBT and HIV groups denounced the incident and cast aspersions on the clarification. Some called for an apology and others demanded that Azad resign.
“These outrageous remarks linking consensual sexual activity to a disease simply encourage discrimination against men who have sex with men,” said Emily Gray, Amnesty International’s researcher on sexual orientation and gender identity. “The health minister must retract his comments, and the Indian government must reaffirm its commitment to protect the rights of all of its citizens, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or consensual sexual behavior.”
Calcutta’s Telegraph newspaper harshly criticized Azad in an editorial.
“Although, as a citizen of a liberal democracy, Mr. Azad is entitled to his personal views, backward and ignorant as they may be, he has no right to air them on a public platform as the health minister of the nation,” the paper said. “Mr. Azad has not only seriously undermined the fight against HIV/AIDS in India but has also tainted the image of an aspiring superpower on the international stage.”