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Health Minister Calls Homosexuality A ‘Disease’: Debased And Debauched

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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:


You must be to comment.
  1. Sagar

    How can India have such an ignorant Health Minister on health and lifestyle related matters and what the LGBT community in India can do on such issues? I think the the LGBT community in India has left with one option, that is to get united on this single issue and to outst in the next election the alliance that fails to fire such a homophobe from the post of the Health Minister of the country.

  2. Arman

    Seriously! Why the hell do we have such people running our country? He is India’s health minister right ? What a hippocrite man!
    Homosexsuality a disease? Does he even know the meaning of the word ‘disease’ ? considering he is the health minister he should know this, but it seems that he is VERY illiterate. (A perfect example of what kind shit-head-retards are running this country)
    I would like to send a message to him GO AND GET EDUCATED FIRST DUDE! and then comment on what is going on.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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