September 10, 2018
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) applauds the ruling of India’s Supreme Court to strike down Section 377 of the penal code, which had criminalized consensual homosexual sex between adults. The groundbreaking decision came in a ruling Thursday after decades of tenacious advocacy by civil society and is a major step forward for human rights and the LGBTQ community.
“Stigma and discrimination are a tremendous obstacle to healthcare access in India, particularly for men-who-have-sex-with-men and transgender people. As a physician specializing in HIV/AIDS, I know that the repeal of Section 377 will result in lives being saved because people who feel marginalized by the law will now be more empowered to seek the help they need,” said AHF India Cares Country Program Director Dr. V. Sam Prasad. “I feel proud that AHF and our partners had an opportunity to contribute our energy and efforts to this important victory. There is still much more work needed to overcome stigma, but this is a historic milestone for human rights in India.”
“This is the most important victory for LGBTQ rights in many years,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “To have India – the largest democracy in the world – enshrine persecution in law was a terrible stain on its reputation. There is much cause for rejoicing in this decision and my sincere thanks to everyone who contributed to bringing about this momentous victory for human rights.”
Currently, AHF provides antiretroviral treatment and services to 2,074 clients in India, including a large number of men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) and transgender people. For nearly 15 years, AHF India Cares has been at the forefront of successful advocacy efforts, which included the national adoption of a community-based rapid HIV testing model, launch of a first-ever “Condom Bank,” and participation in patent oppositions and drug pricings initiatives. To address stigma and help empower the LGBTQ community, in 2013 AHF launched Impulse India as a safe community space for MSM with a focus on sexual health and wellbeing.
A key advocate in this fight has been India’s and the world’s first openly gay member of a royal family, Crown Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil of Rajpipla in Gujarat state. Since coming out in 2006, the Prince has fought for gay rights and HIV prevention through cooperation with political parties, educational institutions, media, lawyers and medical professionals.
“All of the networking I have been able to do as an AHF Community Ambassador has strengthened the advocacy for fighting for LGBTQA rights,” said Prince Manvendra. “Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was a dispute between humanity and hypocrisy and we finally won – but we are not finished. LGBTQA rights are fundamental human rights which cannot be won just within the court rooms but are to be won in the hearts and minds of the people we live with.” (NOTE: the Prince’s quote is pieced together from an earlier article the Prince wrote.)
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 984,000 individuals in 41 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare and Instagram: @aidshealthcare