NEW DELHI, (Reuters) – Indian Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was trying to wriggle out of comments that homosexuality was “unnatural and a foreign disease,” but critics said yesterday his prejudices made him unfit to head the ministry.
Azad’s comments on Monday at an HIV/AIDS conference drew criticism in social media and in newspaper editorials but it also exposed a long-held belief in India’s conservative society that same-sex relationships were abhorrent.
Two years ago, India threw out a colonial-era law under which homosexuality was a crime, moving faster than several other countries where such laws remain in force. But Indian society remains unaccepting, frowning upon same-sex partners.
“Unfortunately this disease has come to the world and to our country where men have sex with men, which is unnatural and should not happen,” Azad said in remarks that were shown on television.
A day later as gay activists and health care professionals condemned his comments, Azad said he had been misquoted and that he had only said AIDS was a disease. He, however, maintained homosexuality was unnatural.