Gay Rights NGOs Unite Against Archaic Laws
The Times of
India, October 26, 2003
The Times of India Building, Dr D N Road, Mumbai—400 001 India
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
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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