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Survey: Young
Indians split over whether to scrap sodomy law

Survey: Young
Indians split over whether to scrap sodomy law

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A campaign to repeal an Indian law that makes homosexuality a crime has split young people in New Delhi and Mumbai, with about half of them in favor of scrapping the legislation, according to a survey published Monday.

A campaign to repeal an Indian law that makes homosexuality a crime has split young people in New Delhi and Mumbai, with about half of them in favor of scrapping the legislation, according to a survey published Monday. The support for doing away with the sodomy law was surprisingly strong, and other findings of the poll appear to indicate that once-widespread prejudices against gays and lesbians are slowly disappearing. The poll, published in The Hindustan Times newspaper and conducted by the firm C fore, found that 52% of those surveyed in New Delhi, the capital, believe the sodomy law should be repealed. Another 31% favored keeping the law, while 17% were not sure. Support for legalizing homosexuality in Mumbai, India's financial and entertainment center, was a bit lower, with 46% of respondents in favor of scrapping the law and 40% against the move. Some 14% of respondents were unsure. Same-sex marriage, however, was opposed by 53% of those surveyed in New Delhi and 63% in Mumbai. The survey polled 415 people between the ages of 15 and 25 and was conducted September 19-22, the newspaper reported. No margin of error was given. Homosexuality has long been taboo in India, and antigay prejudices remain widespread. But, just as is the case in many traditional cultures, there also has long been an underground gay and lesbian culture. The law makes consensual sex between two adults of the same sex a criminal offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. It was imposed in 1861 by British colonial authorities who ruled India until 1947. While prosecutions are rare, gay activists say police use the law to harass them. In recent years, health workers from the government and private organizations have complained that forcing gays and lesbians underground has hampered efforts to halt the spread of HIV in the gay community. Those complaints, coupled with loosening mores among India's expanding middle and upper classes, have pushed officials toward getting rid of the sodomy law. Well-known Indian author Vikram Seth earlier this month joined the fray, penning an open letter that was published in many Indian newspapers urging that the law be scrapped. A gay rights activist from Mumbai, Ashok Row Kavi, said Monday that regardless of the move to legalize homosexuality, gays and lesbians remain underground in New Delhi, long considered among the most strait-laced of India's major cities. "Gays are in [the] closet in New Delhi," Kavi said of the survey. (Ashok Sharma, AP)

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