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Panel Sires a Sex Revolution

NEW DELHI: The contours of sexual behaviour in the country may change radically if the Planning Commission’s recommendations to sharpen the campaign against the spread of HIV/AIDS fructify.

The Plan panel has pitched for legal sanctity to prostitution and homosexuality to bring the sections vulnerable to the deadly HIV virus under the purview of the AIDS scanner.

Fear of legal action pushes underground the two high-risk categories of HIV/AIDS - sex workers and homosexuals. It, the Plan panel says, puts them out of the reach of social interventions to check the killer disease, which is threatening to take epidemic proportions.

The Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act deals with prostitution while homosexuality remains a crime under section 377 of IPC.

The suggestions to remove these legal constraints, called the "impediments in the anti-AIDS programme", were made officially to the Prime Minister in the ongoing exercise to prepare the 11th Plan paper.

Pitching for shedding the taint of criminality from the two groups, Syeda Hameed, Planning Commission member, told TOI, "We should not regard prostitutes as criminals and homosexuality needs to be viewed with greater sympathy."

Morality, however, may continue to underline the subject. The views for change are at odds with government opinion. The home ministry recently opposed a PIL in SC, seeking "decriminalisation of homosexuality", saying public opinion and Indian societal context was against the deletion of Section 377.

MORALITY VS AIDS

  • Sex workers and homosexuals under high-risk category of AIDS
  • Prostitution and homosexuality a crime under IPC
  • Illegal status puts them out of reach of social intervention
  • Legal sanctity would bring these groups under AIDS scanner

Best antidote to HIV: Empowering sex workers

The legal prohibition on prostitution and homosexuality is at odds with the strategy to fight AIDS which seeks to identify and target these two groups...

Experts say it creates a predicament for the anti-AIDS programme. While the National AIDS Control Organisation supports targeted intervention in brothels, sex workers and facilitators are prosecuted as these activities attract punitive action.

Experts and civil society underlined this discrepancy during the preliminary deliberations with the Plan panel.

Empowerment of sex workers is being pushed as the best antidote to HIV. Syeda Hameed, Planning Commission member, said: "Sonagachi in Kolkata has proved that the best way to check the spread of the HIV virus among sex workers is to bring them overground."

Article from the Times Of India, 17 October 2005 Link to full article