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Lovli Was Gang Raped, But Instead Of Getting Justice, She Was Threatened With Section 377

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By Chapal Mehra

Participants take part in a gay pride march in New Delhi June 28, 2009. About a thousand gays, lesbians, transsexuals and supporters participated in the parade on Sunday. REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasinghe (INDIA SOCIETY) - RTR254OT
Source: REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasinghe 

On January 10th, Lovli and I walked the narrow by-lanes of Adarsh Nagar in West Delhi to one of the cruising spots where she, a transgender, was first raped by a group of middle-aged men. She is not a sex worker, she was not looking for gratification, and she was merely walking to the bus stand to catch a bus home. When she went to the police, they laughed at her story and threatened her with Section 377. She called other members of the transgender community who came to her rescue and took her to a private doctor who treated her. She now carries a small knife with her at all times – “In this country, we have to protect ourselves, nobody else will.”

Her words raise some important issues about the place of sexual minorities in India today. She isn’t the only one who feels oppressed under Section 377. There have been numerous reports of extortion and robberies where gay and bisexual men are regularly trapped either by the police or by thugs and threatened with exposure, public humiliation or prosecution until they pay up. The most distressing are stories like the young boy in Agra who tried to end his life when he was discovered in moments of intimacy with a male friend.

On February 2, 2016, close on the heels of Republic day, India’s Supreme Court will hear the curative petition on Section 377 – a colonial law that criminalizes “unnatural sex against the order of nature”. This petition will perhaps be the only opportunity for the Supreme Court to redeem itself, as it stands accused of incorrectly determining a case that pushed millions into forced criminality and reduced their fundamental and human rights to rubble.

In a broader context, the petition raises some fundamental questions about the values on which this Republic is founded – inclusiveness, equality, and freedom. What does it mean to be equal without the right to express desire? What is the right to life without the right to love?

As the court considers this petition, it must remember that in today’s India where to be different in any way may itself be an invite for institutionalized persecution, section 377 violates every single value of the Constitution. The Victorian law given to us by the British with the intent to destroy a diverse and inclusive cultural history of same-sex love does nothing but create further fault lines within an already fractured society thereby increasing oppression and persecution of sexual minorities.

While the law makes criminals out of all Indians, it is used to persecute and exploit some of its most vulnerable groups. By allowing this law to remain or denying to hear a petition against its own incorrect judgment the Court will be guilty of deliberate injustice. In a climate where fear reins among India’s minorities, any decision to dismiss or disregard this petition on procedure will be catastrophic. The Court will also be guilty of abetting the public health problem of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, which this law has a direct bearing on. The Court must hear the case, consider its merits but most importantly remember that any decision affects millions, many already deeply vulnerable and disempowered within homes, workplaces, communities and this republic.

In the end, the court must decide the moot question about Lovli and her position in the Indian Republic. A republic that wants to recognize her as a minority and give her reservation as a result of the NALSA judgment but deliberately disempowers her by not allowing her to express her sexual desire. A Republic that refuses to allow millions in positions like her the most basic human right that to love and express sexual desire. What is our role in this Republic? And does it serve any purpose to millions of us-this Lovli Republic?

You must be to comment.
  1. ankit pacha

    how can they say its unnatural… nature itself has over 100 species that practice homosexuality but only humans are considered to have homophobes… homophobia is unnatural…. research suggests that change is nature and hence people or government can't stop this change… nature has an aspect of evolution in it…. in species where population increases beyond a limit.. nature produces such kind of behaviour to reduce carbon footprint.
    do see this link.. i guess you must have seen it.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9WKW6fw7I4

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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)’.

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.

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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.”

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.

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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.

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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