Last edited: December 18, 2004

Sexual Minorities Put Up United Front

The Times of India, October 18, 2003
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MUMBAI—Emerging from the shadows of public psyche, sexual minorities, including gays, lesbians, transsexuals and bisexuals, have come forward to form the India Network for Sexual Minorities (Infosem).

The alliance, a first of its kind in the country, will raise the collective demands of various sexual minorities, including abolition of parts of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises homosexuality. Other issues include harassment by police and lack of proper medical facilities for sexual minorities.

“For years, several organisations have been working in isolation with people of alternate sexualities,” gay activist and convener of Infosem Ashok Row Kavi said on Friday.

“By banding together, we will build strength in numbers and will be able to lobby more effectively for our demands,” he said. The alliance so far includes 15 organisations working with sexual minorities. “Membership is by invitation only,” Mr Kavi said.

“Regressive laws, like Section 377, make it very difficult for us to talk openly about issues like safe sex and prevention of HIV/AIDS among homosexuals,” said Manavendra Singh of the Baroda-based Lakshya Trust.

In July 2001, five outreach workers of Bharosa, an organisation working among homosexuals, were arrested in Lucknow while they were distributing free condoms.

“This is only one example of misuse and abuse of Section 377, which forbids consensual same-sex activity and places it in the same category as bestiality or sex with animals,” said Geeta Kumana, project coordinator of Aanchal, a lesbian group.

The law even hinders homosexuals from seeking medical attention for sex-related problems, as doctors are supposed to report cases of homosexuality to police.

A prominent member of the alliance is the Dai Welfare Society representing the ‘Hijra’ community. Narrating the community’s problems Lata Guruji said, “If we go to a hospital for treatment, doctors often ridicule us by asking whether we should be admitted to the male or female ward.”

Others narrated how they were often harassed by police and ostracised by society.

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