With the Delhi High Court decriminalising homosexuality by striking down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and the government deciding not to challenge the judgment, more progress is expected to be made on the Bill aimed at preventing discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients.

Oscar Fernandes, convener of the Parliamentarians’ Forum on HIV/AIDS, said Section 377 was a major hurdle to the proposed legislation. “If the Supreme Court upholds the judgment, one can expect the Bill to come up in the next six months.”

The draft Bill was ready, he said speaking at a function organised by the UNAIDS here to “celebrate” the High Court verdict.

Violation of rights

Mr. Fernandes suggested that every pregnant woman be tested for HIV to ensure that the disease was not transmitted to the child. “This should be done right at the panchayat level as mother-to-child transmission is a violation of the human rights of the child. Unfortunately, we cannot make it mandatory since we do not have the mechanism for this.” To achieve this, institutional delivery had to be encouraged. At present the percentage of mother-to-child transmission was about 18 per cent.

Historic judgment

As part of his first official visit to India as UNAIDS executive director, Michel Sidibe participated in the function. He described the Delhi High Court judgment as historic, but said decriminalising drug use and sex work was still a long way off.

Effective responses

Criminalising any group would increase stigma and discrimination as well as its vulnerability to HIV infection. Experience showed that effective responses to HIV were those based on respect for human rights, tolerance and access to HIV services, Mr. Sidibe said.

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