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Who Should Be Blamed for Homophobia? Our Upbringing or Lack Of Sex Education?

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By Baidurya Sen:

Homophobia, literally means a fear of gay people. It broadly indicates the prejudices and hostility which the society has against them. Also it means that certain ideologies are prevalent in the society that deliberately discriminates some people by segregating them into a different class of its own based on their preference of sexuality. It manifests in the form of physical and verbal attack, making crude jokes or discrimination in workplace.

A survey done by CNN-IBN in 2011 shows that 73 percent of the Indian population wants homosexuality to be illegal. This is a blatant example of the homophobia in our society. Often it is wondered where homophobia stems from. Is it from our upbringing where we gradually imbibe the societal prejudices or is it through lack of sex education which does not make ourselves fully aware about the homosexuals.

It is true that when a child is born in today’s world, by the time he reaches his teenage years, he will be infused with considerable amounts of homophobic knowledge. Most of it comes via media. There are lots of myths going around regarding homosexuals, such as they are the carriers of AIDS virus and that they are mostly paedophiles with acutely perverted mindsets. Gay person is shown in the movies and sitcoms as someone who has a girlish tinge to his character and preys on any handsome man that he may come across, which is stereotyping in the most crass terms which pertains to the narrow mind-set. Also, it has been largely stereotyped with fashion designers and those in the entertainment business. Also there is a widespread false perception that a homosexual or a lesbian is inherently a spoilt character. Much of these prejudices can be dealt with properly via sex education. Proper sex education lessons are needed from an early age so that a child can dispel a lot of these myths.

Even parents should take a proactive role in imparting sex education to their children. Not only children should learn the biological or physical attributes, but also should have a firm concept of the sociological and psychological angle of sexuality. And the parents should never feel that enlightening their children of the different sexual preferences that a person might have may induce them in exploring these. On the contrary, they can make informed choices and discriminate between what is real and what is fiction. The children will then develop a temperament wherein they can also include the gays and lesbian with open arms into their world.

Homophobia should not find any place in today’s society which considers itself modern and accommodating. With time, no section of the society should be ostracised or repressed. Just by thinking they are somehow different from us is also a wrong attribute. All of them should enjoy equal rights and privileges and have a say in today’s world.

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  1. Chris Chopp

    Homophobia is alive and well even in “developed” countries such as UK, USA, AU. Get a group of guys together and in less than a few minutes you’re sure to hear at least one gay slur. It’s endless. Straight men are obsessed with gay men, commenting about them, pointing them out, ridiculing them, etc. And their obsessed with gay women, but only if they think they have a chance to score with them or “convert” them. I’ll leave the freudian reasons why for another time.

    Homophobia in India is a whole other story. You’re combating long engrained bigotry of skin color, caste stature, state heritage, religious affiliation, and gender with this topic. Western countries (with few exceptions) don’t factor these conditions into whether or not we “accept” someone as gay. If anything it’s wealthy families who are stupidly concerned that their family name will be tarnished.

    It is true gay men have a higher predisposition to carrying or being exposed to HIV. Partly this is still based on a shame factor, lack of education in western countries. Small town kids flee their homes at 18 for large cities with little to no understanding of gay sex or the risks involved. There are many many more reasons, I summed it up dramatically. In reality, the majority of HIV infected people continue to be straight women or ethnic backgrounds. Many theories exist here such as husbands who stray. Paedophiles are well documented as more likely to be a straight family member (90%) compared to a random gay stranger or family member.

    Fear, curiosity, jealously, ignorance, repression…all reasons why homophobia exists.

  2. Nitin Karani

    Being gay is not a preference. Neither are gay relationships just about sex. Other than that, I like this post and I am a big believer in the idea of sex education

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)’.

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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.”

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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.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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