Youth and Sexuality

How often do we get to talk openly about sexuality? The Youth and Sexuality section forces you to think beyond the oblivion and think freely and talk openly about this “taboo”.

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By Subhayan Mukerjee:

The Indian culture is unique, if slightly skewed, as compared to cultures in the West. Over the years, the culture that we are accustomed to today, developed in a niche. It has borrowed much from the West, yet stuck to its primordial origins.

One thing, however, that has always been much talked about while discussing Indian culture is the position that women occupy. The fact that women have been sidelined as our culture developed through the ages is nothing new. We’ve read about sati in our history books. We’ve seen how averse our society was to women’s education and empowerment. And, of course, we have read about people like Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, who pioneered crusades to change these social evils.

Much as people have tried to make amends, our society has resisted this change. Today we are lot more liberal towards women, but several atrocities continue to happen across our country that shows how disadvantageous their position still is. This includes the ever increasing rates of crime against women and domestic abuse, which always have been, and still remain a serious concern.

The Government has been relentless in its efforts of bringing the stricken female community up to par with the rest. There have been special quotas for women in government offices, higher exemptions in matters related to the income tax, increased empowerment for young school girls. But these still seem to be quite less when pitted against the seemingly infinite array of cases that spring up now and then.

Or is it?

The definition of the word “rape” was redefined in the Criminal Law Amendment Bill last year to include not just sexual crimes against women, but also those against men. Though this might seem to be something “funny” at the first glance, it does lead to a lot of startling developments in the present scenario, if the bill indeed becomes a law. The question that is on everyone’s minds right now, is what the implications of this bill might really be?

First, is the position of the women in Indian society indeed so secure that we can afford to divert our attention to this newer issue at hand? Crimes against women far outnumber those against men, and our legal tools really aren’t good enough to deal with the former. Can we really take the challenge to set both these issues straight with this single legislation?

Secondly, if consensual sex between men has been legalized in our country, shouldn’t sex between men which is not consensual be outlawed? What legal facilities does our country provide to safeguard the rights of the LGBT community when they are faced with such a dilemma? Their position in society, despite several recent legislation favoring them, is still on slippery grounds. They are a source of jest and laughter even with the police – as a result of which they find it difficult and shameful to escalate their own issues.

Thus their position needs to be made more “consolidated” and secure. How can this happen? We are not too sure.

Enough laws have been made to protect the rights of the LGBT community. Will more laws help? Laws, after all, exist on paper – and their breaching can only be officially addressed in courts. But what really instills the humanitarian sense behind a law in a person? Our country agrees that the LGBT community need their interests to be safeguarded. But this agreement is on paper – in the form of laws that our Parliament has passed. Does this mean that our country actually believes that that is how it should be? Millions of the masses still look at the LGBT community with contempt and prejudice. What can change this?

Education might be a crucial tool here; education at the very basic level of the primary school. It will indeed be difficult to change the perceptions of the majority of the (largely uneducated) masses. However, if the future generations are ingrained with these ideas at the very beginning of their school lives, then this might just help in the grander scope of things.

Till then however, our country will remain stuck in a sick cesspool, where a few kurta-clad old men will sit in air conditioned rooms, sip cups of tea and pass hollow legislations, while hoping for the best.

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By Sumedha Bharpilania:

No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to survive

The lyrics are sourced from a Lady Gaga song called ‘Born This Way‘ which is all about unconditional acceptance, being and loving oneself and lays a special emphasis on homosexuality. The question that I seek to put forth is, do we really need a Lady Gaga to help those who belong to the LGBT community feel empowered? Why can’t we as a society accept people the way they are?

There is no denying the fact that a major chunk of our society discriminates against those who belong to the LGBT community. In fact, a study has shown that 40 percent of the homeless youth in the world are a part of this community. Nitika Biswas of Sappho, Kolkata says: ”People consider homosexuals as abnormal as they are less informed. Homosexuals are afraid of what the society is going to think and say because the society follows heterosexuality. Parents are afraid of how their kids are going to be perceived if he/she is a homosexual, so that is another major problem”.

Mr Rajarshi Chakraborty of Dum Dum Swikriti Society explains: ”People who are homophobic cannot understand the issue- the fact that there can be desires and feelings which do not exactly correspond to theirs. If they were aware of the issues, they would have seen all of this differently

When asked about why a large number of people are still hesitant to come out of the closet, Ms Biswas explains: ”It is because we have been brought up that way. I have been taught from the start that a boy is supposed to marry a girl and vice versa- that is why they can’t open up. Most of the people in general do not look beyond heterosexual relationships”. We may label ourselves as a progressive society, but a large number of people still associate homosexuality with abnormality. Anything outside the sanctified bonds of marriage between a male and a female are looked down upon. The community continues to be a highly stereotyped one where people do not make an effort to look outside of what they perceive of the LGBT in the west.

However, what is heartening is the fact that societies like Sappho and Swikriti have succeeded in creating a great amount of awareness. Nitika of Sappho says: ”We started our newsletter in 2004 with 500 copies of 5 bucks each and we have now sold some 5000 copies in 2012, which is a huge achievement for us. We can talk to people through the newsletter and today we have parents coming in for counselling along with their children who have decided to come out of the closet. The police has begun to cooperate too through helplines and so have the medical departments

Moreover, the belief that people belonging to societies such as these, have in the media is nothing but encouraging. A positive attitude is what is absolutely necessary and positive stories need to reach as many people as possible in order to get them to change their perception of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender. Maybe then the whole idea of equality shall come true.

You can learn more about Sappho Kolkata and The Dum Dum Swikriti Society here:
http://sapphokolkata.org/
http://www.infosem.org/swikriti.htm

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Submitted anonymously:

I had an abortion today. It sounds like a big deal and it was. It’s odd though, how much difference there seems to be between taking an iPill and taking an abortion pill. It’s just a question of 4 odd weeks, and one pill versus three, but somehow somewhere everything changes.

The sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s in the US ended up leading to wider-spread incidence of many STDs, and the flower child generation had their ideals tossed out and rubbed in the mud. But as developments in science and gender relations continued (somewhat) hand-in-hand, the issue of reproductive rights came to the forefront, and it’s a battle still being hotly fought. A woman’s right over her own body, versus the “personhood” argument that Oklahoma state thankfully just threw out — when does a fetus really become a person? Whatever your answer to that question, one thing that remains crystal clear in my head is that you can’t value the rights of an unborn unformed embryo over the rights of the person in whose body it is. The woman’s rights must come first. There are cases where obviously abortion should be an option, like rape, extreme complications or disability, grave danger to the mother’s health if the pregnancy is continued, etc. But who is to say that in India the severe social stigma, difficulty in advancing a career, nearly complete decimation of marriage chances, etc, do not constitute grave mental or emotional danger? Isn’t the most important thing about a birth the parents’ ability and willingness to provide the best possible quality of life and opportunities for a child?

All these arguments can be fought out point-by-point at the theoretical level, when it’s removed from personal experience. But what of when it IS personal experience, too close for objectivity, too close for comfort, too close for anything. Then the choice, for an upper middle class, educated, privileged and aware woman like myself, is clear. A lot of people I know have taken an Ipill, relied on it as effective birth control, like a condom. I know someone who planned a night of unprotected intercourse, because it would feel better for her long-term boyfriend, with her safety net being the emergency contraceptive she’d take the next day. Here’s what my experience taught me — nothing is 100% certain, and a condom’s 99% surety is WAY better than doses of hormones and their 98-55% effectiveness. If there’s anything worse being just a statistic, it’s being the minority statistic on a health issue like this.

So here is everything you need to know:

  1. It’s ridiculous that I even have to say this, considering how much it’s drilled into us from every side, but ALWAYS USE A CONDOM. With people like us, we usually know our partner’s sexual history, at least a little, even if it’s a random hook-up. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone’s heard things. And STDs are relatively hard to find, thank god. (Or maybe the stigma around them is still even greater, and no-one mentions having them even to their closest friends and partners. Or maybe I just don’t know enough people). Point is, from my personal experience, we tend not to worry about STDs, because we wouldn’t be in that position with our partner if we were. We still should be worried. And we should still ALWAYS ALWAYS use a condom. Why ignore that one tiny insignificant layer of protection when it can save you a TON of mental grief, at best, and pregnancy and disease at worst?
  2. If you’ve done it unprotected, take an Ipill. It costs a hundred bucks, is available over the counter, and get over the embarrassment of asking the chemist, people do it all the time. The ipill will work in one of three ways — prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs, prevent the sperm from fertilizing the egg or prevent the egg from attaching to the endometrial lining.
  3. Now listen carefully. When you buy an Ipill, buy two pregnancy tests as well. They’re called Ican, same company, similar packaging, cost fifty bucks each. Why buy these? Because…
  4. The Ipill is not always effective. I took it within 4 hours of doing the nasty and it should have worked, but it didn’t. You think you’re never gonna be that 1%, but yes, it can happen to you.
  5. Okay, now ladies, start tracking your periods now. It’s a pain, I know, you think it’s useless, but it’s not. Trust me, lying there having a hand thrust up your vagina for a pelvic exam, you’re really gonna wish you were sure about your dates. (You will still have to have a pelvic exam, so there’s no getting away from that hand, really) The dates will help you track your fertility cycle, determine your risk of pregnancy, and god forbid that test comes positive, you’ll be able to count exactly how many weeks and days you’re at. Weeks of pregnancy are NOT counted from the date of conception, but from the date of your last period ending.
  6. Before your period is due, try and look for other signs your body might be giving you. I felt pre-menstrual symptoms like light cramping and fatigue for a long time before my period was due. By week 5, I had started daily morning sickness, mostly just nausea, and I wasn’t eating too much, so the two times I did throw up, it was just water. And then there were cravings — most food seemed very unappetizing, even stuff I love otherwise, and to control the nausea I was sucking on nimbu. I went wild over a tub of chocolate ice-cream, and khatta aam papad never tasted this good. Super major unable-to-keep-anything-down nausea came later.
  7. There are apparently early detection tests that give you an accurate result at ten days, but Ican suggests it’s most effective around the date of the missed period. Take the test. First thing in the morning pee is the best, because it allows the hormones to build up, but holding your pee for maybe 6 hours should be enough. The test is easy, but follow instructions to the T. Most false results are apparently due to testing incorrectly. Take one early, and then another one a week later when your period is due. If negative, congratulations, don’t worry too much about your period not coming, stress can also delay it. Test till you’re sure, false negatives do happen.
  8. If positive, stay calm. Test again. Calculate dates. Talk to your partner, someone you trust, figure out your next step.
  9. You need to visit a doctor. Depending on how far along you are, they’ll suggest either medical abortion or surgical abortion. Apparently abortion pills are available over the counter, but it’s NOT SAFE to take them by yourself. In Delhi, they give you pills up to 2 and half months for unmarried girls, which they push to 3 months for married women with very small kids, extenuating circumstances etc. The pills themselves come packaged as RU486, I think, and cost under Rs. 500. You have three main options on how to go about it.
    1. Find a private gynaecologist, and go to them. Pros: small, relatively less expensive (under 7k). Cons: Very likely to judge you, guilt trip you, fleece you, and possibly could be a distant relative of your mother’s. Less privacy and anonymity. And you never know whether you’ll get a pro-choice or pro-life one, because you can’t ask people for personal recommendations.
    2. Go to a large hospital like Max. Pros: I’ve heard you can use a false name, large so anonymous, professional, safe, clean, and an “upper-class” air-conditioned environment. Cons: Likely to be prohibitively expensive (10-15k), because you’ll probably get an ultrasound, consultation charges are high, they might keep you under observation in which case you pay for a room etc. Also, I would be more likely to go there with my parents if anything else ever went wrong, and I wouldn’t want my medical record available there.
    3. This is what I did. I called Family Planning Association of India’s office just sort of hoping for a list of approved practitioners, who might help me. They said they provide the services, and take walk-in patients till 12 pm, and then after 2 pm. I walked in. They helped me. Pros: Government facility dedicated to providing safe access to reproductive healthcare and rights, so they don’t judge. The counseling was not coercive, it was almost friendly and very helpful in identifying details and answering my questions. The doctors were professional and non-intrusive, and it cost me under 2.5k. Cons: Largely caters to lower income groups, so people unused to or unable to adjust to the environment might have a problem.

10. If you didn’t find out quick enough, follow step 9 and hope for the best. A surgical abortion may still be possible, depending on the time. If not, keeping it discreet is probably no longer an option, tell your parents, let them help you figure out options like giving it up for adoption etc. Best of luck.

My experience with FPAI was a good one. Telling the lady at reception “MTP” (Medical Termination of Pregnancy) made her concerned, discreet, reassuring and even more helpful. From there I was sent for counseling, then to the doctor for medical history, then for a urine and blood test. My blood type is negative, so I needed to buy an Anti-D injection, which was the bulk of my cost. I would never have known about it if I’d taken the pills at home and it could have caused huge complications later. Next was the pelvic exam, then the first pill, and then the injection. The next two pills I took together, exactly 48 hours after the first. The bleeding was supposed to start an hour after that and continue for 15 days. It started early, but intensified after the second set of pills. The pain in that first hour was staggering — I may have passed out from it. The pills work by triggering a miscarriage. My partner said “Ouch, that’s nasty” — there is nothing nice about this. After 15 days, I go back for a check-up to make sure the process is complete.

It’s supposed to be a tremendously traumatic experience, and I read about people who couldn’t handle the guilt even years later. For me, it was scary, yes, but I don’t feel guilty at all. I feel stupid for not using a condom, mildly nauseous, and somehow very grown-up all of a sudden. But it’s my body and my choice. So I do not feel guilty. Maybe the trauma will come with 15 days of heavy bleeding, but I think I’m strong enough to handle it. People I know and know of cried for days. Talking to your partner and to trusted friends helps, and this is just me, but I walked in there alone.

I wanted to write this to share my experience, and help anyone who needs it to find the right information. Condoms rock, morning sickness is debilitating and abortion pills hurt. Like my partner said when I described gory but essential details to him, “Ohh. I’ll keep that in mind for never again.”


live-in

By Ayush Bhuyan:

Last year, the Supreme Court legalized live-in relationships in India. The concept of living in the same house with the opposite sex before marriage and maintaining sexual relations has always been considered taboo for ages in the Indian culture. With this new law, unmarried couples can live more freely and comfortably in the open, and more importantly, in the same house. The society today has a more “modern” perspective at things, a more mature and rational mentality. This primarily has paved way for increasing acceptance of live-ins in India. In fact, such relationships have also been in existence in history and mythology. The court reacted on the issue by stating “even Lord Krishna and Radha lived together according to mythology”.

Some people have had, and will always have moral and social issues in accepting it, and as always there’s not much you can do to stop this behaviour. Unfortunately, there are some who have a hostile way of opposing this form of relationship. These are the people who label the women in live-ins as “character-less” and sometimes even as prostitutes. They don’t approve of it, stating it violative of the principles of the Indian culture. Well, it won’t be surprising if these turn out to be the same men who beat up girls for wearing western clothes and going to bars, and they talk about culture. This is predominantly the ignorant sexist crowd that cannot tolerate female freedom.

Personally, I think the acceptance of such relationships is a beneficial step by the government, and is beneficial for the society. Of course, like everything else, it has its cons as well. Let’s have a look at the advantages.

The biggest advantage of a live-in relationship would that the partners can try and see if they want to spend the rest of their lives with each other before actually getting married, or going “officially wedded”. It reduces the possibility of a divorce later which is a prime cause for stress and depression, apart from the legal hassle that comes along with a divorce. Secondly, it gives a couple more time to know each other and strengthen their relationship instead of rushing onto a decision as crucial as marriage. Such a relationship also suits those couples who desire the company of each other but at the same time want freedom and flexibility.

The second topic of concern is premarital sex. Again, it has always been considered taboo in the Indian society. Abstinence till marriage is a valued trait in our culture. But the law does not prohibit pre-marital sex as long as both the partners are above the legal age for sex. Two adults are mature enough to decide for themselves. According to me, sex should not be associated to the act of marriage. It is more of a relationship and not a ceremony. Two adults should have sex when they feel it to be right, both mentally and physically, and when they are responsible enough to bear any consequences that may arise from it. Marriage is not the indicator of Freedom to have sex, the relationship and love is. Although the act should be carried out with proper protection as it could lead to infections and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. A healthy relationship is never immoral or sinful, whether it’s a live-in or not, whether it involves pre-marital sex or not. Primarily, Consent is the most important factor while judging the “morality” of live-in relationships and pre-marital sex. And this arises from making Informed Decisions — decisions that both partners are fully aware of, in terms of effects and consequences.

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By Ayush Bhuyan:

Commonly known in south Asia, especially India as Hijras, chakkakhusra in Punjabi and kojja in Telugu, these kinds of transgenders are physiological males who have feminine gender identity. Their presence is recorded as early as the time of Kama Sutra. Also in Mahabharata, Arjun was depicted as a transgender. This has evolved into a distinct community in India. Many hijras live in close communities, each hijra group being led by a leader, the guru. These groups accept the boys who have been disowned by their families or are orphaned. The acceptance into the community involves removal of penis, scrotum and testicles without anaesthetic. However, most of the eunuchs are not castrated.

Some of them also have ambiguous genitalia, and are referred to as the third sex. Some hijras serve as prostitutes for a livelihood. Even recently, in the times that we’d like to call “progressive”, India has seen only very few hijras taking up respectable positions in society. Some hijras may form relationships with men, and even marry, although their marriage is not usually recognized by law or religion. The term hijra has also developed in a derogatory manner due to their low status in the society. Many get their income from performing at ceremonies, begging, or sex work.

Beginning 2006, hijras were engaged to accompany Patna city revenue officials to collect unpaid taxes, receiving a 4 per cent commission. Hijras are often encountered on streets, trains, and other public places demanding money from people. If refused, the hijra would attempt to embarrass the men into giving money, using obscene gestures, profane language and even sexual advances. Hijras also perform religious ceremonies at weddings and at the birth of male babies, involving music, singing, and sexually-suggestive dancing. These are intended to bring good luck and fertility. Although hijras are most often uninvited, the host usually pays the hijras a fee. Many fear the hijras’ curse if they are not appeased, bringing bad luck or infertility, but for the fee they receive, they can bless goodwill and fortune on to the newly born. Hijras are said to be able to do this because, as it is assumed by people, they do not engage in sexual activities, as a result of which they accumulate their sexual energy which they can use to either bestow a boon or a bane.

Hijras can also come as an invitee to one’s home, and their wages can be very high. Hijras that perform these services can make a very good living if they work for the upper classes.

During the British rule, this community was listed under the Criminal Tribes List and considered a “criminal community”. The eunuchs were constantly monitored and stigmatized, which prevails even today to some extent, even though the criminal status has been removed. To this day people consider hijras as inappropriate humans and unequal.  Violence against hijras, especially hijra sex workers, is often brutal, and occurs in public spaces, police stations, prisons, and their homes. They face extreme discrimination in health, housing, education, employment, immigration, law.

The transgender beauty pageant organised sometime back in Mumbai was a major step towards ensuring Human Rights security among transgenders. Many organisations, most of them Non-Governmental Organisations are now emerging in the public sphere, and every day, they press for greater rights to this long-isolated community. Though, in spite of all current advocates of rights for the Hijra community, every day is a struggle for them, as they try to blend into a society where gender identities of only the “conventional” type are heeded.

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By Nora Naushad:

While pondering over topics to write for my college newsletter during a day-dreaming session in class, I happened to overhear my friends talk about sex, exchanging harmless information, of course. And soon the whole class had found the conversation more intriguing than their opened textbooks and joined in, but hushed down as a teacher passed by, and then hushed down when a batch mate who wasn’t a part of the class passed by. It seemed natural to me to hush with them then but then it got me thinking, why did we lower our tones while discussing sex even within our class? Why don’t girls ever talk about masturbation?  Is virginity over hyped as a virtue? Is pre-marital sex stigmatized and if so why?

My first hypothesis to the above query was guilt. There is a feeling of regret that fills in stemming from the belief of having violated a norm; a norm of “good girl, bad girl” drilled in to us as children by parents, religion even the media. Restricting myself to Indian context, I take liberty in assuming it a rare occasion in most families where children are sat down and briefed about sex or masturbation, so the derivation of the guilt-sex association evoked can’t be credited to parents alone, then how is the conditioning initiated?

Looking back into my experience as a child for some insight into the initiation of “sex — bad deed” association, the first memory that cropped in my head was of the Bollywood drama movies wherein the innocent girl falls in love with  a tall dark and handsome prince charming, who in Tollywod can sometimes be fat stout and hairy, regardless, following a dance sequence in the rain, camera zooms out  to a day in the maiden’s classroom where she rushes out to vomit, which, after a decent amount  of exposure to these movies, I knew was a bad sign, and that soon she would be pregnant and would bring shame to her family. Then there is also the religion that articulates the appropriate distance from the opposite sex that ought to be maintained at all times as the child grows into teenagehood, is this how the first association is made?  Probably, but critics will say that personal experience does not constitute enough scientific fact to correlate sex and guilt, so here are the facts:
-Guilt was negatively associated with frequency of orgasm for women.

-Guilt was negatively associated with the frequency of women initiating sex.

-Guilt was negatively associated with the frequency of intercourse.

-Also in women, guilt is negatively associated with internal fantasy, masturbation, and erotic visualization, all of which are fun according to women who do them frequently.

-People who feel intense guilt are less likely to use proper contraception during casual encounters, which in turn leads to intensified feelings of guilt and the negative consequences listed here.

-Curiously, guilt specifically reduced the use of diaphragms – because women were ashamed to touch themselves in the rather intimate ways necessary for insertion.

Atheists have far better sex lives than religious people who are plagued with guilt during intercourse and for weeks afterwards.

(Source: Lamb S. Review of ‘The Secret Lives of Girls: What Good Girls Really Do-Sex Play, Aggression, and Their Guilt’. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 2003)

So there it is, Guilt and sexual enjoyment are negative correlates on many levels.  From masturbation to marital enjoyment to safe sex to sexual health, guilt prohibits people from fully enjoying their sexual experiences.

So many religions and customs have linked sex with guilt, that only a few of us are entirely unaffected. We may rebel against this unfortunate guilt-sex link by proving how “sex-positive” we are. Or we may buy into the link between sex and guilt. Then we either avoid sex or – more likely – find its “forbidden” status hooking us into an addictive cycle made even stronger by shame. As we will see, our neurochemistry actually pushes us in this latter direction.

Ought there to be a link between sex and guilt? Surprisingly, yes.  It is one of the most predictable repercussions of our brain’s mating program. Fertilization-driven sex has a neurochemical hangover built right into it. Its lingering effects can make us feel extremely vulnerable, and defensive. So it is natural for one to feel guilty or for ladies to blame-shift, the male partner into feeling guilt. We set off this neurochemical hangover ourselves. Following our instincts, we use the mechanism of sex to create the recurring sense of lack that keeps one’s fear-based voice loud.

So then, is it okay to encourage the sex-guilt link to practice precaution? Ironically, guilt is one of the most powerful triggers for sex addiction. Why? Dopamine rises sharply when we take risks or do something “novel”. These behaviours often led our ancestors to new territories, more resources, and more mates – hence our brains chemically “reward” us for engaging in them. When we engage in an activity that we believe is “naughty” or even “sinful,” we believe that we are taking a risk. The result? We get a bigger-than-usual neurochemical thrill…followed by an especially nasty hangover. It is easy to convince ourselves that we’re being punished for sinning, which can destroy our sense of self worth and further erode our judgment. In short, unless we release the idea that sex is sinful, our spiritual yearnings may actually work against us by causing us to believe we are damned, which only makes the forbidden behaviour seem more risky and thrilling.

To conclude, “Guilt” can be healthy, it is the feeling we experience when we do something we judge, by our moral code, to be wrong. Healthy guilt tends to guide individuals to socially acceptable pathways. However, Guilt is often defined as our conscience too. And it should be noted that this ‘conscience’ is not always a reliable arbiter of ‘good and bad’, as it is quite capable of making itself known even  when the misdeed is  minor but appears consequential to the majority.

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By Manisha Chachra:

Zambia: United Nations General Secretary Ban ki Moon recently visited Zambia, addressed the key politicians and met the president Kenneth Kaunda. Besides all this, something that generated piquancy among people was his speech on preservation of gay rights and his urge for a dignified livelihood to homosexuals. As he remarked “people with different cultural backgrounds need dignity and respect”. He insists “bisexuals and homosexuals are people whose rights need to be dignified and respected by mankind.” He also, in his speech, advocated for a stronger constitution which grants reverence to everyone irrespective of their caste, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or disability.

The Zambians responded to the poignant speech by posting their comments about it on various social networking sites. Citing “Zambia is a sovereign country”, a Zambian writes that it must be given liberty to make its own decisions on issues such as homosexuality. A citizen’s juxtaposition of criminals and homosexuals becomes quite evident when he wrote that dignity for such people is like endowing respect to criminals, liars and prostitutes. The citizen commented on Moon’s speech by saying that he shouldn’t expect Zambia to not to criminalize homosexuality as it is the only sensible measure against such people.

Opposing his notion of criminalizing homosexuality another citizen writes that Moon’s speech is in favor of bestowing basic rights to homosexuals. The most fundamental right is to grant them access to water, food, and shelter, their liberty to move to church and other places without any inferiority complex shadowing them so that they can live their lives liberally. Supporting the speech, he also praised the General Secretary in his endeavors to recognize the rights of the homosexuals.

Taking a glance over the reaction among people one can easily make out that majority of Zambians condemn homosexuality as a peccadillo committed by someone. But one encounters a completely different picture when we read the following comment posted on twitter “homosexuality makes me a savage then I would rather be a savage and die as one than otherwise”. Certainly this exposes the buoyancy among homosexuals. Referring to Moon’s speech, a citizen argues that the cultural background of Zambia forbids homosexuality and the traditions in Zambia disallow such non-civilized class.

Well! It’s not only in Zambia that efforts to venerate the rights of homosexuals go in vain, a close look suggests that entire Africa suffers from ailment of drawing binaries between homosexuals ands heterosexuals. Currently, Africa has 53 nations out of which 38 have proscribed homosexuality and in 13 nations either it is illegal or no laws have been made pertaining to it.

Quoting an example of Uganda wouldn’t be wrong over here. The anti-gay bill which was re-introduced by Ugandan MP David Bahati after 2009, reads that a person practicing homosexuality can get death penalty. The bill happens to be placed at the same time when Adrian Jjuuko, human right activist and a part of Envisioning Global LGBT Human rights project in Canada, was in the town to address the issue of overt human rights violations. He vehemently opposed the bill labeling it as a draconian law and dreadful impinges on human rights. He recommended the law societies and organizations of Canada to talk to the speaker of Uganda about the horrendous law which might receive massive support from both the houses if passed. The dire ramifications of the bill need not to be illuminated over here. Unfortunately, sometimes the preservation of cultural norms becomes more important than lives of certain people. A good example of this would be of nations like Mauritania, Sudan, and northern Nigeria where homosexuality can be punished by death.

One can go into giving aplenty of instances that how the rights of homosexuals are suppressed and encroached upon. Nevertheless the situation isn’t completely hopeless. This becomes quite unambiguous when one looks at the efforts of United Nations which recently passed a resolution in recognizing LGBT rights and also put forward a report on LGBT people and hate crime against them.

The attempts of United Nations become quite evident when one looks at the incident of Cameroon. This was where the Amnesty international of human rights pulled up their socks for protecting the rights of LGBT people. The director of Amnesty international Erwin van der Borght said “It is time to end the arrest, detention, prosecution and discrimination against perceived or known to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.” Since March 2011, 13 people in Cameroon have been arrested on the grounds of practicing homosexuality. Under section 347A of Cameroon penal code states “whoever has sexual relations with a person of same sex, shall be punished from six months to five years and with fine ranging from 20,000 Francs CFA to 200,000 Francs CFA.

In the light of the arrest of so many unflawed people, the efforts of Amnesty international are laudable. There are many other nations whose hard work and a will to work for social acceptance of homosexuals is praiseworthy which include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Gambia.

The fundamental right of people is to walk freely without any halt of shame, a right to be a free spirited bird than to be a bound spirit. The rights of homosexuals are not limited to a particular national boundary. Their rights are ubiquitous and therefore they deserve a universal consensus. It will be a fallacy to consider homosexuals as abnormal beings because in accordance to psychology and its principles ‘there is no particular normal model’ whose footsteps one can trace.

anti-homosexuality

By Aishvarya S. Raghvan:

Liberia- A name literally meaning “country of the free”. But, nothing can be more contrary, given the recent developments which raised many an eyebrow among the more humanely inclined citizens of this nation.

Former First Lady of the country, Jewel Howard Taylor, wife of Charles Taylor and now a Senator, has introduced a bill “to prohibit marriages between same-sexes in Liberia” and make homosexuality a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. In a letter to the parliamentarians, she considers them to be the “guardians of the sacred heritage” and asks for their support in her bid to purify the country of any “western influence”. There are also many other African leaders who consider homosexuality un-African and un-natural. In fact, only South Africa is somewhat liberal where gay rights are concerned.

Reports state that the cause of this stirring for an anti-gay bill is a gay-rights activist known as Ponpon, who demanded same-sex marriage in Liberia, which prompted the Senator’s move against homosexuals. Some people believe that talking about gay marriage in a country where just being gay is still a taboo places an undue burden on those who are trying to fight for the basic gay rights of living and association. In fact, blogger Sebaspace even thinks that gay bashing is a political diversion and that “gay bashing is being used to divert attention away from economic mismanagement and government malfeasance”.

In addition to Liberia, Uganda is also toughening its policies on same-sex marriage by re-tabling the 2009 “Kill the gays” bill even as the parliament had been clear last year that it was “not interested” in the bill. Sarah Mpabwa, an army representative in Parliament, said all bills and reports that were shelved in Uganda’s eighth Parliament should be saved and re-tabled for discussion. This revelation caused Ugandan gay-rights activists to start a petition and protest against the Anti-gay uproar taking place in Africa. A gay man, (speaking to AFP), said: “We have chosen to be gay, that is what we want, and that is what we like. That is what we have chosen and we want to display it. I don’t want to continue in hiding. But if you try to display it now you will be mobbed.”

David Bahati, author of the Bill has reportedly said that, “the most important thing is that once the Bill passes there can be no more promotion of ‘that behavior’ in Uganda. That the government will clamp down on organizations and NGOs which promote homosexuality”. In fact, he continued that Ugandans will not be blackmailed by the West, that the West is bringing the idea of homosexuality to Uganda and telling Africans what to do about homosexuality. Calling this “Imperialism” he asserts that Africa won’t be blackmailed by their few dollars.

The Bill, meanwhile, is still under consideration and Jewel Taylor is under the scanner due to the inhumane comments she made, to this scrutiny she replies, “We are only strengthening the existing law. Some media are reporting that I said anyone found guilty of involvement in same sex should face the death penalty, I did not say so, I am calling for a law that will make it a first degree felony,” as told to the Associated Press.

Whatever be the decision, the fact remains that traditionalists have always been wary of gay rights and extremists leave no stone unturned to nip it from the society. It remains to be seen whether humanity still persists or will the twin monsters of politics and tradition trample the cries of an already misjudged community.

Image courtesy: http://www.informafrica.com/breaking-news-africa/liberias-senate-to-consider-bill-against-gay-marriage/

sex-ed-switzerland

By Nidhi Sharma:

Sex is often a challenging and difficult issue for both youths and adults to discuss. Many parents try to ignore the subject of sex, and contend that this is something which should be handled in school under the heading of health or sex education and that this, combined with a child discussing the subject with his or her peers, should be sufficient. This is, of course, not the case and, like every other aspect of your child’s education, the school certainly has a role to play but that does not exempt you from your own overreaching parenting responsibility.

Why sex education is necessary for teenagers

Young people have a need and a right to know about their bodies and to be educated and informed about their sexual health, yet they face many social, political, and community barriers to receiving and gaining access to the right information.

Today all types of Media (television, music videos, the Internet, and the like), are increasingly more explicit in sexual content.

  • More than half of all television shows contain sexual content–averaging more than three scenes with sex per hour.
  • Among young people 10 to 17 years of age who regularly use the Internet, one-quarter had been exposed to unwanted pornography in the past year, and one-fifth had been exposed to unwanted sexual solicitations or approaches.
  • Although media images of sex and sexuality may be socially defined as a negative influence on teenage sexual decision-making, there is considerable potential for the use of media in conveying messages about responsible sexual behaviour. For example, more than one-half of high school boys and girls indicate learning about birth control and pregnancy prevention from television.

When parents should step in

Sexuality is a part of human life and human development. Adolescence signifies the onset of physical/sexual maturation and reproductive capacity. Puberty is a time when children will naturally start to explore their own bodies and to be curious about other people’s bodies. It is a time when they will start hiding ‘dirty’ magazines under the bed and masturbating in the bathroom. In short, it is a time when they will feel that this is somehow wrong and something which they should be ashamed of. It is vitally important therefore that as a parent you step in at this point and provide the answers for the string of questions that will be popping into your teen’s head. This is the time when you need to talk openly about sex and the role of sex in the context of a relationship.

The world of sex is exciting to children and they are eager to explore it, but it is important that they receive information, advice and guidance on the subject from someone they trust and there should be nobody they trust more than a parent.

The Role of Parents

Sex has traditionally been something of a taboo subject and still carries with it many of the Victorian attitudes of being something which is sinful and dirty.  You should talk about sex openly within the family and set in into its proper context for your child then. The role of parents in the lives and decision-making processes of youths is often underestimated; parents clearly have a role and exert significant influence in the choices young people make about sex.

In short, you need to discuss sex with your children in exactly the same way as you discuss the one hundred and one other issues which are vital to their development. The consequences of not talking about sex, however, can be severe, and thus, must be avoided by establishing a comfortable mode of communication with children.

 

rape_080309_m

By Priyata Khushbu:

Every day some unfortunate woman or girl child is left with bitter memories and physical anguish by brutal beasts who call themselves ‘humans’. These criminals are sometimes brought to book but mostly they go scot free. These criminals are called ‘rapists’ who do not deserve to be a part of the society as they are involved in some of the worst sex offences. ‘Rapists’ are akin to wild animals that are always on the prowl for innocent victims. It is not simply a matter of getting sexual satisfaction by forceful intercourse, but ‘rapists’ are sadists who enjoy inflicting pain on women.

The ever increasing rape cases only points to the fact that women are becoming unsafe every day. These wild animals with a human face just need a female body be it a 6 year old child or a 60 year old woman for sexual gratification. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) of home ministry has revealed some shocking figures pertaining to rape cases. In 2010, 489 rape cases were reported as against 459 in 2009. The number of rape case reported in Mumbai and Bhopal were 189 and 117 respectively. Abduction and molestation of women is also rising in Delhi. 1379 out of total 3544 cases of abduction took place in the capital. New figures given by Delhi Police reveal that a woman is raped every 18 hours or molested every 14 hours in the capital. A staggering 56 percent accused in rape cases were below the age of 25. Researchers have estimated that 67% to 84% of the rape cases are not reported. This brings us to the conclusion that the situation is worse than what we imagine it to be and the rape statistics may be five times more than what is in front of us.

This is a shocking revelation indeed. The most banal and preposterous reason given for the rape of a woman is that she must have been provocatively dressed which must have in turn invited sexual advances from the man or men. Does this statement justify the rape of a 6 year old child or a woman clad in a sari as it is viewed to be decent attire? The problem is much more complex than linking a woman’s clothing to her rape.

I was startled to read the recent report of a 14 year old boy raping a minor in a Delhi orphanage. Many a times the ‘rapist’ may be involved in some molestation case or some form of sexual abuse in the past but owing to his juvenile status or money power, he escapes the punishment that he deserves. It raises a very serious question, whether a ‘rapist’ is born with an inherent beast or is this beast a social construct? The beast is a social construct when the ‘rapists’ denigrate women as sex toys and not humans. This is the reason why ‘gender equality’ needs to be promoted. Masculinity is often linked to violence and rape can be seen as an assertion of power and authority. Rapists are imbued with a sense of power after robbing a woman of her dignity and honour, which is believed to be her greatest asset.

The skewed sex ratio can also be seen as the reason behind this predator theory where the ‘rapist’ is the predator and the ‘victim’ is the prey. History bears testimony to the fact that minority is always targeted and in this case, women as ‘inferior sex’ are doubly oppressed. A ‘rapist’ is not born overnight but different social factors like gender inequality, lack of respect for women, perception of women as trophy rather than humans play an inevitable role in the ‘making of the demon’. The ‘rapist’ may be an alienated soul looking for someone to mate with or have a family of his own. He may be a son, husband or a father but if he is a ‘rapist’ then he is firstly a criminal. The family particularly the mother and the wife should take the first step in disowning him and not get swept away by the tide of emotions.

The problem can be addressed by trying to comprehend the psychology or the mindset of a ‘rapist’. He may be a sexist, misogynist, rejected lover, predator who enjoys such violence or a psychopath.

Misogynists may view rape as a means to disempowering women by shattering her confidence after subjecting her to physical and emotional agony. A rejected lover may see it as the only way to possess the woman he wants because in our society a rape victim is very often married to the ‘rapists’ as she is no longer ‘pure’ to get married to any decent guy in the society. Justice is therefore served to her by getting her married to her perpetrator. In other cases, the ‘rapists’ often target women belonging to inferior class or caste, which is exemplified by the soaring cases of rape of Dalit women. Actors like Shiny Ahuja or pervert politicians who again rape women because of their inferior social status. An opportunist ‘rapist’ uses the vulnerability of a woman to his advantage like a woman standing on a deserted road or walking alone at night. This category also includes ‘rapists’ who rape women during communal riots to humiliate the ‘other’ and also because they know that nobody will hold them accountable. The last category of ‘rapists’ are those people who are known to the victim like relatives or friends. All the above categories of ‘rapists’ delineate the ‘making of a demon’.

Displaced aggression or frustration is the most common factor behind coercive sex or rape. In the Indian context ‘rapists’ are encouraged by the treatment meted out to the rape victims by the society. It is always the rape victim who has to bear humiliation and is isolated by the society as it is always believed that the woman is at fault. This is a primary reason why many rape cases are not reported. As a result the ‘rapists’ is not punished and this boosts his confidence which in turn makes him a predator. The ‘demon’ can be killed by the collective efforts of the society and women should be made to feel more like humans and less like objects.

Sex education in India

By Prerna Tyagi:

With the increasing number of sex-related crimes and happenings in every nook and corner of the country, it is an alarming situation not only for the Health Ministry and the Police Department but for all of us, especially the youth being the most vulnerable section of the society. The physical exploitation of both young men and women is everywhere to be seen or heard, whether on news channels, newspapers and sometimes even in our surroundings, in schools or colleges.

The adolescence, i.e. the age group from 13 to 19 years, is the most sensitive and fragile time in one’s lifetime, when curiosity and experimentation is at its peak. In India, talking about anything related to sex in open, amidst one’s family, is a strict no-no. The parents are both hesitant and reluctant to entertain any question or doubt in their child’s mind about sex. The S-word is considered as a marriage thing. They are least aware that their indifferent attitude further pushes their child to the unlimited sources of information today, like the internet which is offering free pornography at the click of mouse, magazines and the ultimate knowledge vendors- their friends or peer group. At the hands of all these harmful sources the children land up gathering raw and false information which they now put to test. These tests and experiments might lead these wrongly-fed minds to indulge in unsafe sexual activities, thus increasing the risk of STD’s like HIV, and also they might commit heinous crimes like sexual abuse or become victims of the same.

The youth are the builders of tomorrow but for that the sexual health of the youth of the country has to be very strong and taken very well care of. The most viable solution to keep the youth aware of one’s sexual health is to introduce SEX EDUCATION in the school curriculum at a young age covering the various aspects related to sex, reproductive health, pregnancy, family planning etc. I am sure that if sex education is incorporated in the curriculum then there will be less exploitation of the young minds at the hands of internet and other distrustful sources and there will be more awareness among them about their own physical body which is their right.

Sex Education is the need of the current times and must be brought into the education system as soon as possible. The sooner, the better.

Educacion-sexual-condon

By Tejaswini Pagadala:

The ludicrous episode of three Karnataka ministers watching porn during the assembly session brings to the forefront a significant question of how sex is viewed in our society. Leaving beside how their attempts to justify their action proved futile, this (incident) is a classic example of how soft porn or sex, in our society, has crept from bedroom sheets to public places and other media too.

From Babas, (read: Nityananda Swami’s sex scandal) who are synonymous to Gods in India, to Babus who have left no stone unturned in exploring their sexual side at work, our country has it all. The increasing use of smart phones and Internet also gives a larger picture of how adult content has become all pervasive. Porn clips available for free online provide more reasons than one for people, including children, to watch them. That being said, screening online content is not possible as there is no control over the flow of information on internet. For example, the mini advertisements which appear online on a webpage woo people into buying a product and once the person clicks on the ad, unknowingly, he or she bumps into a porn site. This happens or has happened to all of us, at some point of time, while surfing the net

Further, sleaze in films, a form of adult content, has become acceptable more than ever now. Songs like ‘Chikni Chameli, Munni Badnaam Hui, Sheela ki Jawaani, Bapuji zara dheere chalo’ with perverse meanings and actors dancing in skimpy clothes point to a burgeoning trend in movies normalising adult content. And, with some theatres screening only adult movies, we have already allowed soft porn into our lives. Adding to this, certification of movies with voyeuristic content, promiscuity and sleaze as U (Unrestricted Public Exhibition) or sometimes, UA (Unrestricted Public Exhibition but with parental discretion for children below 12 yrs. of age) also needs to be checked. This sheer violation of some provisions under section 5A of Part II of Cinematographic Act of 1952, under which the Central Board of Film Certification falls, has made adult content acceptable in society and people are content seeing its proliferation in the new media, even among kids who discuss it.

A survey conducted by MTV and published in Mint, found that sexual awareness picks up somewhere in the late teens and that most youth are sexually active by the time they are 24 years of age. The survey also revealed the gender differences in their attitude towards sexual promiscuity. While one out of two males found sexual promiscuity to be a sign of coolness and sexual prowess for a single guy, the ratio was two for every five females. Similarly, on the issue of sexual promiscuity being a sign of loose morals for a girl, more than one out of two men believed so, while only two out five females thought so. A survey conducted by India Today on ‘sex life of youngsters’ in our country found that urbanisation in India has led to shaping of sexual identities, not only in the physical realm but also in the psychological space.

This clearly marks a shift in attitudes towards the concept of sex, while sex and sexuality education still remains largely ignored.

What is Sex and Sexuality Education?

Sex education includes the anatomy of organs, how they function, contraception and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. But, sexuality education is something that involves sexual personality considering the personal, social, behavioural, emotional, psychological and inter-personal aspects.

The difference between sex and sexuality education is that sex education is biological but sexuality education is social construct and is about identity.

Most doctors, sexologists and psychologists opine that parents have to teach their children sexuality etiquette like they teach social etiquette because they can be the best supervisors than teachers in this matter. While sex education still remains a topic of debate, the age at which one should impart sex education to kids still varies from person to person. This apart, parents must also impart sexuality education as soon as the child recognizes himself or herself. This means, parents should teach their children about their biological attributes and their development. At the same it is also important to help the child regulate and guard his or her physicality. As a result, this can prevent a child from becoming a victim of child sex abuse.

Gender and Identity Issues as part of Sexuality Education

Sexuality education is associated to gender and identity because it includes social, biological and more significantly, individual contribution. It is important to note that gender and sexual orientation can be different from person to person while the anatomy remains the same. So, discussing this makes it easier for children to understand that every person is different from the other individual irrespective of the fact that genital organs remain same. Sex education allows children to be confident and empowered to make choices that will affect not only their own lives but also lives of other people. This also empowers them to stand up to abuse, exploitation and unwanted pregnancies.

Myths about Sex Education

The necessity to impart sex and sexuality education emerges from the fact that there are misconceptions regarding the same. People are either ignorant or know very less about it. Sometimes, they are afraid too. For example, very often one cannot talk about reproduction to a five-year-old child because it can be information overload. Instead, one can explain it from the point of view of contact and attention. Good contact and bad contact, acceptable and not-acceptable attention. Sex education has an impact on child’s psyche too. Depending on the child’s understanding of the subject, parents have to increase the degree of information based on child’s age and ability. A child definitely becomes curious to know what is happening to his or her body during puberty. At that time, instead of complicating the issue, parents have to explain to their kids that the physical changes are normal.

A myth that imparting sex education escalates sexual activity in children also exists. According to the data obtained from Enfold Proactive Health Trust website, a survey of 35 sex education projects conducted by the World Health Organization found that sex education in schools did not encourage young people to have sex at an earlier age or more frequently. The survey pointed out that early sex education delays the start of sexual activity, reduces sexual activity among young people and encourages those already sexually active to have safer sex.

Enfold found a similar sentiment expressed by over 400 high school students surveyed after a course on human sexuality had been conducted for them. “An informed child is the one who knows how it works and therefore, knows whether it is safe to indulge in a sexual activity or not,” says, Dr. Sangeeta Saksena, founder of Enfold Proactive Health Trust. “If an uninformed child wants to indulge in any sexual activity, he or she has to pay the price for his or her choice,” she adds.

Explaining Sexuality to Children

While most parents do not know how to unravel sex as a concep to their children, it is also important that they take cues from children and decided on the right time to talk to their children about sexuality. When children behave differently or throw tantrums to get rid of a relative or a family member, do not shun it away interpreting it as bad behaviour, say experts, who state that it signifies the child’s reluctance to be with that person.

The Role of Teachers

Though there is much hue and cry about introducing sex education into classrooms, the role of teachers in shaping sexuality of a child also matters. A sexuality education teacher should be prepared and comfortable to deal with the topic rather than sweat through a class.
According to an www.justdotherightthing.org, an online course for teachers, a sex education teacher should use four methods — Information and fact-giving, discussion, various teaching techniques and peer education to teach teens about sex.

Books to Create Awareness

Books also can help the parents to educate children on sex, sexuality and gender issues. Shobhna S. Kumar, director of Queer Ink, a website on gender and sexuality issues, sex education shapes a young person’s skills and knowledge to make informed choices about their behaviour and its consequences. “It is also wrong to use ‘Indian culture’ to hide behind an issue that is crucial in child development that will shape how responsibly or irresponsibly they will live their lives in future,” she said. She suggests some books which can be helpful for parents and teachers to teach sex and sexuality education to children. ‘Girlology: A Girl’s Guide to Stuff that Matters”, “But How’d I Get in There in the First Place?’, ‘The Orange Book – a workbook for teachers’ and ‘ Good Times for Everyone: Sexuality Questions, Feminist Answers’ are some of such books.

The irony is despite the introduction of programs like Adolescent Education Programme by the Department of Education and the National AIDS Control Organisation in partnership with UNICEF, UNESCO and UNFPA, sex and sexuality education is not being addressed adequately in schools or by parents when there is a dire need for it in an evolving society like ours.

Sex ed

By Yangchen Roy:

A glance was all it took for me to realize that Shanti (name changed) cannot be older than 18. She is the mother of a two-year old boy. Jharna Mashi, her mother-in-law, works as a domestic help in my house. I hopped a local train to reach the village of Laxmikantapur, approximately 85 km from Calcutta, where the family resides.

Shanti’s husband has studied only up to class eighth. I doubt whether Shanti has ever studied in a school. Her husband is around 30 and looks quite sturdy. The playfulness and naivety brimming on Shanti’s face conceals more than it reveals. How many more children her womb will be forced to rear? Moreover, her emaciated and anemic body begs the question as to how many more child births she can survive. She does not understand complex matters like the importance of safe sexual practices, her right against sexual harassment or, in a broader sense, her needs as a woman.

Shanti is representative of women who are exploited and forced into child marriages, their cognitions blighted by the society. They bear their first child before they become adults. Cooped up in remote villages, the Shantis of India are ignorant of their fundamental rights such as right to education, right to a carefree childhood and right against exploitation.

History teaches us that equal rights must be granted to both men and women for a society to prosper in a balanced manner. Sexual discrimination hinders development. There is no contesting the fact that of the two sexes of the human species, women have always been subjected to sexual discrimination and harassment. Since most societies are intensely patriarchal in nature, their voices are often stifled.

The world, and India, has come a long way since the days of the women suffragists of the 19th century France, Britain and the US. Women had to fight for universal suffrage- equal participation of both sexes in economic, political and social forums. However, not everything is accomplished with political and social equality. The opposite sex deserves respect as human beings. It is important to instill this consciousness among adolescents and adults to boot.

Sex education forms the crux of this mission. To plant a sense of mutual esteem among teens is crucial. Claiming that fifteen is too a tender age to involve an adolescent in discussions related to human sexuality, safe sexual practices, reproductive health, emotional issues and contraception is retrograde and absurd. State governments have been reprimanded for attempting to implement sex education programmes in schools. Assertions have been made that sex education is not part of ‘Indian Culture’ and that it triggers promiscuity.

Sex education is particularly important for a county like India, which has an alarmingly high rate of child marriages like many other developing economies of south Asia and countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Policy makers, politicians and service providers in India need to take note of the fact that counties that have incorporated sex education as part of high school curriculum have much lower rates of teenage pregnancies and adolescent HIV victims.

An adolescent is curious about sexual matters. Since parents and teachers consider it a taboo to discuss such issues, an adolescent turns to unreliable and often-misleading sources like friends and media. Prevention is better than cure. Rather than leaving students deficient and incorrectly informed about sexual matters, it is better to have open dialogue about health education to avoid misconceptions and fallacy.

Initiatives have to be envisaged which encourage discussions on topics such as the right age for sexual practices, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and hygiene. Contrary to the prevalent view, such measure would help reduce risk behavior.

Gay pride parade

By Eddy Shankar:

Sorry do I feel every day for my soul which howled in solitude, sorry do I feel for my heart which broke in despair, for my mouth which couldn’t speak the words, for the eyes which could not see what they longed for. Sorry, indeed. But, proud I am for the way it has been, sorry only for those who could not behold.

Have you ever looked at the moon and drenched yourself in its overwhelming white? Have you ever been in a crowd and yet felt that you are alone? Have you ever felt the world shrinking to one person? If yes, then you have certainly been in love.

I have loved.

I have felt Disney’s Chip and Dale’s jumping and dancing in my tummy.

Yet my story is different. Very different for reasons of my being gay, for reasons that I could not express myself in the years of my past, for the society and its hypocritical laws, for all those who can’t bear love let alone hate, my story has been different. I am Gay. I have always been, and I like it this way.

(Here I am not going to dispel misconceptions surrounding homosexuality. I think enough information is already available over the internet. I hope the media will be helpful in clearing all your doubts or educating you in the first place. I write as a social commentator and would like to be excused for anything which might possibly be perceived as implicitly offensive.)

Often as social animals we tend to solemnly and brazenly defend some identities in our lives. But mostly, in my opinion, these identities aren’t solely ours. We fight for our religion, our nation, our language, our culture, and much more. But in the din of fanatic fundamentalisms we forget to fight for ourselves- as individuals, as men who have a right to life and a free will. This fight, I must add, is not limited to just sexual identities, though in my words here I shall be focusing on the same.

We forget that we have a duty towards ourselves, towards the multitude of emotions we feel. I do not advocate a breach of social contract- wherein we give up certain of our rights as free (read isolated) people to stay in the fabric of society. However, we should certainly check when we are overdoing for the society and undermining ourselves. Each one of us has a distinct discretion for the above which should be exercised freely.

I am gay and it has been a roller-coaster ride. It is really tough to understand yourself when you know, unfortunately at a very naïve and tender age, that things are not going to be all jolly and smooth for you. Every one of us, heterosexuals and homosexuals alike, goes through a phase of understanding which involves imbibing certain changes associated with the post-puberty period. But this period rather becomes very stressful for those who cannot conform to the gender identity which is assigned to them by the society. The society scoffs at those who fail to conform to its expectations. The society creates an environment of moral righteousness, and this view, which is rather stupid, funny and hypocritical, is defended by the epitome of human philosophy- his religions and her politics.

Humankind is not an entity on its own. The entity and stakeholder of any life is the individual and not the aggregate of community. The right to life and pursuit of happiness is more important than any other social doctrine. The society exists for the individual, and not otherwise. So when the Delhi High Court favored decriminalization of consensual homosexual acts between adults on 2nd July 2009, it did what is required by rational minds, safeguarding the right of man to his life. “If there is one constitutional tenet that can be said to be underlying theme of the Indian Constitution, it is that of ‘inclusiveness’. This Court believes that Indian Constitution reflects this value deeply ingrained in Indian society, nurtured over several generations.The inclusiveness that Indian society traditionally displayed, literally in every aspect of life, is manifest in recognizing a role in society for everyone. Those perceived by the majority as ‘deviants’ or ‘different’ are not on that score excluded or ostracized.” – Honorable high court of the NCT of Delhi in Naz foundation v/s NCT of Delhi case.

Coming back, I am gay. It has been a tough life with its share of small sweet serendipity and I am sick and tired of the moral hypocrisy of the society. All I ever wanted is a life in which I, and millions of others like me, have never to come out. Not even to ourselves. That is it. I am not over-demanding. I might be asking too much from the world but we all fantasize, don’t we?

Come out in the open. Tell us your story. Mail us at [email protected] Anonymity (if required) will be ensured.

Photograph: mayaposch.com

By Garima Lekhwani:

From the disgusted looks on the faces of their parents at the time of their birth to the discrimination faced by them at workplace in adulthood, from the humiliation and baseless injustice inflicted upon them by the society to the sex-change operations performed on them without acknowledging their sex preferences: the problems and perplexities faced by the intersex people around the globe seem to be torturously never-ending.

Photograph: mayaposch.com

Intersexuality as a term was adopted by medicine during the 20th century, and applied to human beings whose biological sex cannot be classified as clearly male or female. It refers to those individuals who have sexual characteristics midway between normal males and normal females.

While medical science has long acknowledged the existence of millions of people whose bodies have chromosomal variations from the XX or XY of women or men respectively, our society shudders at the mere thought of recognising their existence amidst us. The rights and freedoms guaranteed to individuals as per the Human Rights Declaration and the laws of various countries protect ‘men’ and ‘women’; there is no mention of intersex people and as such there are no rights or laws to protect their interests.

The Human Rights Declaration states that all human beings are equal in dignity and rights. However, Intersex infants are hardly treated with dignity. Their rights are violated by performing cosmetic surgery on them to make others feel comfortable while mutilating them and taking away their ability to enjoy a sex life. Instead of recognizing their sex as intersex, they are treated in a very inhumane way and compelled to ‘feel’ like male or female (many a times since birth itself) which may not be the same as their sex preference.

In India, the situation is a lot worse for such people. Not only are they made to feel ‘unwanted’ by their parents (due to the narrow-minded thinking ingrained in our society) but also are forced to conceal their identity due to fear of being ostracized from the society. No laws grant protection to them and they are perpetually looked down upon by the society, in case, their true identity is revealed.

Our ‘inacceptance’ of such people was revealed once again in the year 2006 when Indian athlete Santhi Soundarajan failed the gender verification test at the 2006 Asian Games leading to her being publicly ostracized and subsequently attempting suicide.

It is said that each life is a gift of God; then who gives us the right to make a mockery of His creation, be it a male, a female or an intersex?

When Nature itself does not agree with the arbitrary division of human beings into just two sexes, then who gives us the right to decide who forms a part of our society and who doesn’t?

It is high time that each one of us tries and answers these questions.

Queer in India

By Nivvedan Senthamilselvan:

The knowledge on sexuality for most of today’s Indian youth is (sadly) limited to Internet porn and those few giggly high school biology classes. What with our parents bearing down on the Government, voicing against introducing Life Social Education (a.k.a Sex Education) in schools, this is hardly surprising. The fact that the very word ‘sex’ is frequently met with a shudder from the society doesn’t help much either. But, a question is to be answered before I begin – Why this column? What is it that I write here that could be more informative than Internet porn?

If we turn our heads away from porn for a while (albeit unwillingly) and critically analyse the political, social and philosophical aspects of sexuality, we would be greatly surprised. One would realise that most of what the society has told us and led us to believe, and what has become our our view on “normalcy” is one Big Fat Lie. One can observe a classic case of majority suppressing the minority, not very unlike racism. The only difference being, in the case of sexuality, it is not so apparent which also makes it so much harder for us to tackle. To begin, however, we must have a clear understanding of what’s sexuality.

Let’s analyse the typical lifestyle norms enforced on everyone by the society. A child is born either male or female; A male child has to grow up to be masculine and a female child has to grow up to be feminine; Past adolescence, a man gets attracted only to a woman and vice versa; Then, they get married, procreate and the same cycle repeats. This society, thus has a set of lifestyle norms that hold that people fall into distinct and complementary genders (man and woman) with natural roles in life. It also holds that heterosexuality is the normal sexual orientation, and states that sexual and marital relations are only fitting between a man and a woman. Such a society is called a heteronormative society. But, what happens when one starts questioning these norms? Let’s attempt a couple of questions ourselves and try to reason them out.

Why should sex reinforce gender?

Before attempting to answer this question let’s clear something up. Often, people think that ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are the same thing. This is one consequence of a heteronormative society. ‘Sex’ refers to biological differences; chromosomes, hormonal profiles, internal and external sex organs that defines a person to be biologically male or female. Gender, however, describes the characteristics that a society or culture delineates as masculine or feminine. Thus a person’s sex is biological while gender is more cultural and depends on how an individual identifies himself/herself.

Now, who dictates gender roles and defines what is masculine and what is feminine? What about people who’re extremely uncomfortable with the gender imposed on them? What if an individual identifies himself/herself with members of the opposite sex? How can we call ourselves a free society if one doesn’t have the freedom to choose something as basic as a gender identity?

Why is heterosexuality the “normal” sexual orientation?

Let’s also clear something up here. Homosexuality or heterosexuality is not a “preference”, as some people might think. Sexual orientation is defined by one’s innate attraction – romantic, emotional, sexual or otherwise. It is a part of one’s identity. It can no more be changed than your blood group can be changed. While it is disputed in the academia if sexual orientation is genetically determined, there is a consensus, however, that changing one’s sexual orientation is not possible and attempts at that in the past have had disastrous effects.

Now, What is “normal”? Who defines what is “normal”? Does normal = majority? If so, is it befitting to call Hinduism, the “normal” religion of India? Is it “normal” because, only a heterosexual couple can procreate naturally? If so, is procreation the only reason for a sexual or a romantic relationship? If yes again, what is the purpose of existence of condoms? What about adoption rights or surrogate birth?

Before we attempt to answer these questions, we must dwell on sexuality for a bit, a bit deeper. But, more later…

One can only hope that we one day celebrate sexual diversity as much as we celebrate other forms of diversity like language and culture.

LGBT in India

By Vrinda Ravi Kumar:

Sex has always been a taboo topic, but lately things are changing. This change is for the better, in the long run, but the transit stages have some very questionable stops. If the result of these multiple movements ends in being better for the general, can we make the road any easier?

Construction of your own identity in the process of growing up is a difficult job. It is normally helped along by parents, teachers, friends, in some dubious cases, neighbourhood aunties as well.

A good question to be raised here is if your self constructed identity clashes with that provided by your environment, which is to be followed? The first answer that jumps to mind is that people tough enough to handle the consequences can afford to follow their own instincts, while others choose the ‘easier’ path. I ask you, is denying your own instincts easy? It leads to depression, frustration and a good amount of self doubt, and makes the perfect breeding ground for a myriad of identity crises. As if teenagers today don’t have to deal with already.

Sexuality is a prime factor in identity. The default setting for our society seems to be heterosexual, and any deviation can be seen with a mixture of views — hatred, intolerance, admiration, jealousy — all depending on which circles you run in.

Youth today, in general, seems to care less about society, and one should not judge a system by its majority. The reason for this development is not clear, and I don’t think it matters very much. The progression is clear, and the message is clear too. Homosexuality is not hidden in closets anymore.

On the flipside, with the prevalence of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, there is a growing, violent community of homophobia. People have paid with their lives for their choice of sexuality, and they are to be greatly admired for their bravery in following what they felt was right in adverse conditions. Teena Renae Brandon, an American trans man was raped and murdered at the age of 21, when it was learned that he was anatomically female. This is one case in hundreds. Is human dignity and life less important than society’s need to feel comfortable? Is it anybody’s right to end somebody’s life just because they call themselves homophobic? It is not, and neither is it anybody’s right to dictate what sexuality anybody else should choose. Various states are now in agreement, and have amended or put in place laws that protect us, but the real challenge is to kill the hate in people.

All this is very well on paper and in speech, but how does one actually face their environment with themselves in the wringer? It’s a tough thing to do, but the only way to REALLY get through anything is to actually do it. Once you do, there is no need to hide anymore, and there IS a growing community out there to support you. We have it much easier than the generation before us, and we owe it to the next generation not to let our identities be quelled by conformity.

Compromises are for people who deal with assets and money. An identity is not open to a deal.

Gay surrogacy in India

By Adeena Jamal:

Surrogacy refers to an arrangement in which the surrogate is the child’s genetic mother. The woman’s egg is fertilized in a laboratory using sperm from the man who wishes to raise a child. This form of surrogacy may be used by a woman with medical issues that affects her ability to ovulate normally. This agreement is a contract between the persons availing assisted reproductive technology and the surrogate mother. With the proliferating technological development, the medical arena has also advanced and thus, the several technologies provide better facilitations for new age birth methods. Surrogacy challenges traditional ideologies of the concept of parenting. Therefore, several legal compllications are a part of surrogacy.

India reformed its policy towards surrogacy by passing the Artificial Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2010. Approximately 15% of the couples across the world are infertile. Thus in the interest of infertile couples, surrogacy is a viable option. In the purview of the supplementary complexity, it is vital to regulate the functioning and the entire process. Also the clinics that operate upon surrogate couples need to ensure that the services provided are ethical and that the medical, social and legal rights of all those concerned are protected. Still it remains nebulous whether gay couples possess the right or not to have a surrogate relationship.

Surrogacy, in a stereotypical reference, comprising of a sperm donor, the lady who agrees to pregnancy achieved through assisted reproductive technology and a person who is not a sperm donor from the couple.

Now, surrogacy acts a relief only for married couples. The ART (Regulation) Bill, 2010 defines “couple” as two persons living together and having a sexual relationship, that is legal in India. In India, it is still uncertain regarding the route through which unmarried gay couples might enter into a surrogacy agreement. However, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, outlaws homosexuality in India; while a 2009 Delhi High Court verdict effectively decriminalized it. So the entire point of contention lies whether a gay couple has the legal rights to have a surrogate agreement with a woman who is ready to provide with a womb. Married homosexual couples (from countries where gay marriage is legal) can have their surrogate child in India. However, unmarried gay couples may not be able to seek surrogacy in the country, as the bill defines “unmarried couples” as: “A man and a woman, both of marriageable age, living together with mutual consent but without getting married.”, including homosexuals residing in India as well.

Now the entire flaw in the bill is why gay couples are not allowed by the ART bill to have surrogate mothers. With a more open minded society, the requirement of the hour is to allow gay couples to have surrogate mothers.

LGBT

By Shashank Sinha:

LGBT is an abbreviation for “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender” peoples. In fact its range has widened to incorporate all people having non-heterosexual tendencies. The community was originally intended to signify a diversity of “sexuality and gender identity based cultures”, and to advocate the rights of its members. However, a lot of stigma has been attached with this group and even today being its member is considered a sign of disgrace.

Not only in India, but throughout the world being a non-heterosexual has many repercussions. In about 80 countries around the globe, homosexuality is illegal by law. In Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and various other countries, homosexual acts are punishable by death. Criminalization of homosexuality remains strong in more than half the countries in Africa.

Even in countries where it is legal, negative attitude towards the members of the LGBT community is order of the day. They face huge discrimination in social and political fields, and are subjected to widespread lampooning. Most of the members end up living a lonely and isolated life. Cases of suicides are common among these people with unusual sexual orientation.

In India, although article 377 was repealed 2 years ago, not much has improved. The affected section of the society stills feels insecure to come out in the open, for the fear of being neglected and ostracized. Not only the person concerned, but his entire family suffers from the stigma. They have to bear the ire of the dogmatic, insular society, which is trained to accept homosexuals as untouchables.

Homophobia is the term used to describe the fear of the homosexual, or the social ideologue which stigmatizes the LGBT. Strong religious beliefs, which severely disapprove of homosexuality is the most pertinent reason which causes people to be homophobic. This, together with the fact that we hardly have contact with individuals who are openly gay or lesbian, is what makes ‘straight’ people apprehensive.

There are many ways in which people belonging to LGBT community experience homophobia in everyday life, like malicious gossip, name calling, intimidating looks, vandalism and theft of property, sexual assault etc. All forms of homophobia are harmful, not only for the people who are openly living as LGBT, but for the society as a whole.

While living in a homophobic society, people tend to conceal their true identity for the fear of repercussions. Brought up with a mindset that disparages homosexuals, the realization that they might be one themselves leads to feeling of guilt and self-loathing. Concealing once sexual inclination involves concealing a significant part of our identity, and can lead to distress and depression among the protagonist.

Then there’s the fear of facing prejudice and discrimination from family and friends. Many people become homeless because of being rejected by their family members, after revealing their sexual orientation. The LGBT community is also the most affected by HIV/AIDS. The stigma and discrimination prevent the people from acquiring required HIV prevention treatment and care service.

For the LGBT people to survive in such an environment, they must challenge the prevailing views of sexuality and gender, and ultimately realize that they are excessively narrow. Instead of feeling shameful and misrepresented, they must grow to learn that the established ideas are just plain wrong.

Homophobia must be effectively tackled by addressing the prejudiced attitude, and discriminations in all areas of society. Laws against homosexuality should be revoked by the government of each country. Education has a huge role to play in removing the stigma associated with LGBT. Sufficient awareness programs should be held at school and college levels, to make the people aware that being a homosexual is not a diseased condition. Through active campaigning via different electronic mediums, a proper environment should be set up, where people feel free to come out and express their sexuality.

Also stereotyping of gays and lesbians, as broadcasted in movies and soaps, should be stopped. All this will encourage societies to embrace the diversity of different sexualities. Eradicating homophobia is essential for improving the quality of life for LGBT people, promoting fundamental human rights and preventing the spread of HIV.

Human rights in India

By Ankita Rastogi:

Human rights are basic rights and freedoms that all people are entitled to regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, language, or other status. Human rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life, liberty and freedom of expression; and social, cultural and economic rights including the right to participate in culture, the right to food, and the right to work and receive an education. Human rights are protected and upheld by international and national laws and treaties.

In India, the situation of human rights is a complex one, as a result of the country’s large size and tremendous diversity, its status as a developing country and a sovereign, secular, democratic republic, and its history as a former colonial territory. This complexity leads to many problems in managing and ensuring these rights to all the individuals. In its report on human rights in India during 2010, Human Rights Watch stated India had “significant human rights problems”. They identified lack of accountability for security forces and impunity for abusive policing including “police brutality, extrajudicial killings, and torture” as major problems. An independent United Nations expert in 2011 expressed concern that she found human rights workers and their families who “have been killed, tortured, ill-treated, disappeared, threatened, arbitrarily arrested and detained, falsely charged and under surveillance because of their legitimate work in upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Even the extent to which these rights are given to the citizens is pretty limited and hence they are often not able to safeguard the citizens.

Until the Delhi High Court decriminalized consensual private sexual acts between consenting adults on July 2, 2009, homosexuality was considered criminal as per interpretations of the ambiguous Section 377 of the 150 year old Indian Penal Code (IPC), a law passed by the colonial British authorities. However, this law was very rarely enforced. In its ruling decriminalizing homosexuality, the Delhi High Court noted that existed law conflicted with the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India, and such criminalizing is violation of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution.

Also, according to a report by Human Rights Watch, “Dalits and indigenous peoples (known as Scheduled Tribes or adivasis) continue to face discrimination, exclusion, and acts of communal violence. Laws and policies adopted by the Indian government provide a strong basis for protection, but are not being faithfully implemented by local authorities.” Denotified tribes of India, along with many nomadic tribes collectively 60 million in population, continue to face social stigma and economic hardships. These tribes even today face the consequences of the ‘Prevention of Anti-Social Activity Act‘ (PASA), which only adds to their everyday struggle for existence as most of them live below poverty line. National Human Rights Commission and UN’s anti-discrimination body Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) have asked the government to repeal this law as well, as these former “criminalized” tribes continue to suffer oppression and social ostracization at large and many have been denied SC, ST or OBC status, denying them access to reservations which would elevated their economic and social status.

It has been found that more than half of the prisoners of the country are detained without adequate evidence. Unlike in other democratic countries, the investigation in India generally commence with the arrest of the accused. As the judicial system is understaffed and sluggish, it is not uncommon to find innocent civilians languishing in jail for many years. For instance, the Bombay high court in September 2009 asked the Maharashtra government to pay Rs 1 lakh as compensation to a 40-year-old man who languished in prison for over 10 years for a crime he didn’t commit. The central government has informed Parliament that cases of human rights violation against minorities in the country have increased in the last two years.

It is sorrowful fact in the democratic India that people have to face discrimination and different kinds of atrocities by those assigned to protect their rights. And it becomes more essential than ever to be intolerant against such injustice. If not resisted these rights will end up being just a few words on a paper and soon India will turn into a nation imprisoned to its own laws and order.

Pansexuality

By Ateendriya:

“I’m not going to say I’m one thing when I’m not just so I can fit into people’s notions of how things are. I think people deny themselves by putting themselves into categories.”Alan Cumming, on his sexuality.

For ages now, the human community has lived and thrived on the very idea of conformity; a kind of an unwritten law that society functions on. Good things should come to those who abide by the majority ideas, and bad things and marginalization to those who dare to defy. A person’s sexuality is one such thing which had initially been divided into neat categories; a man falls for a woman and a woman falls for a man. And everything else is bracketed off as the other.

Till one point homosexuality was equated with a myriad of unspeakable crimes and many people still believe it to be some heinous aberration like pedophilia or molestation. And then came the revolutionary acts of rebellion and defiance against the irrational, rigid system which forces people to be what they are not. With this homosexuality was out of the closet- it was now for the people themselves to step out. Today, even though the struggle is far from over, people have come a long way to accepting what they had previously “other-ed”.

But despite this seeming liberal state of mind that is ever rising or so claim most, the very idea of categorizing and labeling is still largely inherent in people’s mind. The problem is not that homosexuality or bisexuality is not accepted by some or that such people are marginalized. The larger issue here is that fact that people still feel the need to label people as “gay”, “straight” “lesbian” “transvestite” and so on. Calling a group of people as belonging to a “gay community” when they may have nothing else at all in common is a tyranny of sorts. For one may be gay but it doesn’t always follow that they want to wear a tag on their sleeves at all times identifying themselves as one.

In times like these, when liberalism is yet another form of categorization, pansexuality is one lesser-known label which, ironic as it may sound, defies the very idea of labeling. Also known as omnisexuality, it refers to the potential for sexual attractions, sexual desire, or romantic love, towards people of all gender identities and biological sexes. Some self-identified pansexuals refer to themselves as gender-blind–that gender and sex are insignificant or irrelevant in determining whether they will be sexually attracted to others. The Oxford English Dictionary writes that pansexuality “encompasses all kinds of sexuality; not limited or inhibited in sexual choice with regards to gender or activity”.

This concept of sexuality rejects deliberately the strict gender binary and rigid gender norms; in that they are open to relationships with people outside the male/female population who do not identify themselves with either gender. This is an idea which the few who know, have a hard time comprehending. The very idea of not being bound by any sort of an imposed label seems to most people as some kind of a social crime in itself.

Most people incorrectly assume that pansexuality is another word for polyamorous; some because they lack knowledge and some merely because it fits their comprehension more easily to label any difference they see in society as a bad one. If pansexuals are promiscuous then one need not worry about the enormity and novelty of the concept; it is bad and it must be shunned. This is not true since, in fact, the proportion of pansexual people in committed, monogamous relationships is likely similar to any other sexuality. Pansexuality, though a tag in itself, allows those people to express themselves, who do not wish to be categorized into a one-dimensional state of existence.

The constricting and suffocating idea of putting people in boxes and labeling them brings to mind the strange division of men into three broad types, in Plato’s Republic. Such a concept of categorizing not only stifles a person’s individuality but snubs their uniqueness. The very basis of human existence is the fact that they cannot be thus demarcated and any attempt to do so will create a regressive society full of unexpressed, frustrated people, pigeon-holed into stereotypes, forever looking for a way out.

Ghulam Nabi Azad

By Shraddha Sankhe:

“MSM (Men having Sex with Men) is unnatural and not good for India. It is a disease which has come to India from other countries where men have sex with men”–Ghulam Nabi Azad, India’s Union Health Minister.

In all probability, most of the youngsters will clearly feel agitated about Mr. Azad’s comments on what he calls “unnatural sex” among men. It is very easy to feel the anger, express it and somehow move on. Just as nobody really comes ahead with a charity or the like support for any cause unless a personal loss is entangled in the effort–this issue might just die away till the Breaking News flashes a new statement of somebody of the Minister’s stature. Perhaps if the Minister’s stature that reminds us that Men Having Sex with Men is not a disease, just a very narrow perspective. Oh, and the revered Minister has no qualifications to be/speak on Public Health and (read: personal) Sexuality issues other than his loyalty to the Congress alliance. Queer enough?

Such a sharp irony, Mr. Azad spilled venom just at a national convention on HIV and AIDS, a meeting that was supposed to have fostered compassion and created awareness about the virus. Earlier he had suggested that watching television would “educate” the masses enough about the HIV virus. But his post-Article 377 statement seems totally unapologetic. He clarified later that he had been “misquoted” and the “disease” was actually HIV he was referring to. That was very convenient, Sir.

Days after New York, United States legalized Gay Marriage; Twitter, the micro-blogging website was on a self-attuned happy brigade. And why not? If we demand liberal economies in a liberal world, we sure expect liberal sexuality too, right? Although New York was the sixth yet United States’ largest state to legalize gay marriage, it has infused life into the gay movements of the world. Obviously, it didn’t come too easily for the New Yorkers either. The last minute decision reversal by two Republican senators turned the magic wand in favor of the thousands of gay couples in New York state.

Quick flashback: Baba Ramdev made a statement in 2009 to the Supreme Court saying, “(Homosexuality) can be treated like any other congenital defect. Such tendencies can be treated by yoga, pranayam and other meditation techniques.” Isn’t that awesome? All we have to do is believe and lo! We’re no more “tied down by a queer sexuality”! WTF? Also read what Pope Benedict XVI declared, “Homosexuality is a destruction of God’s work”.

Coming back to India, it has been two good years after Article 377 was scrapped leading to decriminalization of homosexuality between consenting adults, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community by Delhi High Court. “A disease from Western countries” is apparently among the hilarious opinions coming from a Health Minister of a country with a civilization older than his perception of the West. Just note that we hold a grudge against the Manusmriti for introducing and worse, documenting the “rules” of the caste-system in India. The much in question non-epic is apparently responsible for punishments denounced towards “homosexual individuals”. Hey, so India WAS indeed homosexual, wasn’t it? Back then perhaps Science taught them Earth was flat. So they believed them. But now Science says otherwise. So we believe the neo-believers. Likewise, can we perhaps… just grow up in our sexual thinking, right Minister Sir?

A black neighbor is welcomed but not a black son-in-law. Similar harsh reality in India is honor killing — a practice we grew up witnessing in headlines and neighborhood. We’re young believers who ought to right the wrong. Perhaps an open mind comes with a global experience and this could well be a “Western influence”. Calling homosexuality a disease has been a foot-in-mouth moment for Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad. We must understand that his comments have led to antecedents of outrage in the national and international communities. And this outrage is what will goad true justice to the LGBT community in India. We do hope.

Shraddha is a Senior Editor of Youth Ki Awaaz, a blogger, podcaster, obsessive tweeter – student of MA at the Missouri School of Journalism, USA, a Smith-Patterson fellow and a passionate journalist. You can follow Shraddha on Twitter by clicking the Follow button below:


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