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
“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
“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
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
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