India outrage over Goa minister's plan to 'cure' gays

A participant at a gay pride rally in India Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many people in India still regard same-sex relationships as illegitimate

There has been outrage in India after a minister in Goa said the state government was planning to set up centres to "cure" homosexuals.

Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Ramesh Tawadkar said treatment would be offered to lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders to make them "normal".

Many have taken to social networking sites to criticise Mr Tawadkar's "shocking statement".

India's treatment of homosexuals has been under the spotlight recently.

The Indian Supreme Court's 2013 decision to reverse a lower court order striking down a 153-year-old British colonial-era law criminalising homosexual acts caused global outrage with many describing it as "disgraceful".

According to Section 377 of the law, a same-sex relationship is an "unnatural offence" and punishable by a 10-year jail term.

A BBC correspondent in Delhi says although the law has rarely - if ever - been used to prosecute anyone for consensual sex, it has often been used by the police to harass homosexuals.

Also, in deeply conservative India, homosexuality is a taboo and many people still regard same-sex relationships as illegitimate and our correspondent says Mr Tawadkar's comment is an endorsement of that conservative thought.

"We will make LGBT [lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender] youth normal. We will have a centre for them... like Alcoholics Anonymous centres. We will train them and give them medicines too," Mr Tawadkar said on Monday while discussing the Bharatiya Janata Party-run state government's policy report on youth.

"As in the case of other target groups such as juvenile offenders, drug afflicted youth, marginalised or migrant youth, geographically disadvantaged youth, a detailed survey would be carried out of the LGBT community so that their problems could be specifically addressed," the minister added.

The minister's statement has led to outrage in India with many people condemning it on social media sites like Twitter.

Journalist Barkha Dutt said it was the "insensitive" minister who needed treatment:

Image copyright Tweet

Congress party spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi called it "sick":

Image copyright Tweet

Writer Aparna Jain wondered: "Why are people we elect so stupid":

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Journalist Anahita Mukherji asked if there was any "cure" for Mr Tawadkar:

Image copyright Tweet

Activist Samar Anarya said the minister was "homophobic" and a "fanatic":

Image copyright Tweet

Meanwhile, the head of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, who is visiting Delhi, said he "staunchly opposed the criminalisation of homosexuality" in India.

"I am proud to stand for the equality of all people - including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender," the UN chief said in a statement late on Monday.

"I speak out because laws criminalising consensual, adult same-sex relationships violate basic rights to privacy and to freedom from discrimination. Even if they are not enforced, these laws breed intolerance," he added.

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