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For The LGBT Community, The Battle Is Half Won

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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In India, although article 377 was repealed 2 years ago, not much has improved.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.

You must be to comment.
  1. Meghavarshini

    I feel that you are clubbing two serious issues together. Homophobia is the fear of homosexuality and transphobia is the fear of the transexual condition.

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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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