There are 2.5 million gay men in India, 0.2% of the 1.2 billion population , according to figures from the National Aids Council.
The figures were presented to Delhi Supreme Court yesterday in response to an affidavit during the current case re-examining the high court 2009's decriminalisation of gay sex.
The court also heard that estimated HIV prevalence among Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) is 7%, and is 4% among female sex workers and 10% among injecting drug users.
Naz Foundation, an HIV and AIDS awareness NGO working in India, who campaigned for eight years against Section 377 which criminalised gay sex between two consenting adults, also presented to the court yesterday.
The lawyer representing Naz Foundation, Anand Grover told the court that re-criminalising gay sex will mean that gay men will lead their lives surreptitiously. ‘This population is hidden in the society and they are not available for getting proper health care facilities. There is a greater chance of the transmission of disease among them,’ he said, as reported by DNA India.
Justice GS Singhvi then asked him to support this argument with reports from experts.
On their website Naz Foundation state that they campaigned against Section 377 from 2001 until the court’s decision in 2009 because legislation was an obstacle to their work preventing HIV infection. ‘This act… proved to be one of the most significant barriers in effective HIV/AIDS interventions with sexual minorities,’ they say.
Naz Foundation also say that Section 377 was used by the police and others to harass, extort, blackmail and even rape MSM. The law was also used ‘to restrict gay-related activities and to justify raids on parties and events’.
In 2001, Naz Foundation filed a Public Interest Litigation to challenge Section 377. In 2009 the Delhi High Court pronounced that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code should be read down to exclude consensual sex between adults.
The current hearing in the supreme court was brought against the high court’s decision by various anti-gay and religious groups, whom presented to the court two weeks ago. The case continues.