Last edited: December 18, 2004

Gay Rights NGOs Unite Against Archaic Laws

The Times of India, October 26, 2003
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By Dhiman Chattopadhyay, Times News Network

KOLKATA—A few months after they took out a historic rally in Kolkata, the first of its kind anywhere in India, several NGOs constituted for and by gays in West Bengal, have launched an united ‘action programme’, to create awareness among gays about health hazards and at the same time, take on the archaic laws like Section 377 of the IPC which still regards homosexuality as a crime.

The newly formed forum called MANAS Bengal has its job cut out: to co-ordinate efforts of organisations working to promote health and well-being of males who have sex with males(MSM), while taking up their cause with the authorities.

Speaking to TNN, one of the senior-most social activists from the state fighting for gay rights, Pawan Dhall, said, “The need to unite to tackle the problem of harassment of gays, reached a crunchpoint when a few months ago, two of our outreach workers in Kolkata were assaulted by the local youth. While the agency itself faltered in taking legal action, the police too did not do anything despite a written complaint.”

But as news of the recurring attacks spread by internet, several NGOs got together. A satellite meeting was held in New Delhi during an international sexual health conference and finally seven NGOs from the state including Saathii, Praajak, PLUS and Amitie got together to form MANAS (MSM Advocacy Network for Social Action).

“While the main area of MANAS will be to facilitate and frame guidelines for research and to work out a common policy on sensitising and creating awareness among agencies and homosexuals, it will also take up activities related to information and documentation of human rights violations,” said a founder member of the newly formed association.

Not willing to be named, the member added, that one of the major issues that they would take up urgently was the immediate amendment to section 377 of the IPC which still considered same sex intercourse as a criminal offence punishable with a life sentence.

“Unless such archaic laws are done away with, we cannot expect to change the mindset of the people at large. Most developed nations today no longer treat us as criminals. It’s not sympathy we are looking for, but understanding. People need to accept things as they are,” he said.

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