The Indian government’s description of homosexuality as a sickness has been rejected by a judge in a case challenging the country’s sodomy law.

The government is opposing the attempt by activists to overturn the law, an old British colonial era statute dating from 1860, which has penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment.

Speaking in court, government Solicitor General, PP Malhotra said:

“AIDS is already spreading in the country and if gay sex is legalised then people on the streets would start indulging in such practices saying that the High Court has approved of it.”

The remark led to an immediate response from Chief Justice AP Shah:

“Show us one report which says that it is a disease. A WHO [World Health Organisation] paper says that it is not a disease but you are describing it as a disease. It is an accepted fact that it is a main vehicle that causes disease but it is not a disease itself.”

While the prosecution of homosexuals is rare in India and social attitudes have softened in recent years, activists say that anti-gay laws must nonetheless be removed from the statute books.

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