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“Can Hinduism Act As An Ally For Homosexuality?”

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Before the ’90s, the term ‘homosexuality’ was synonymous with the word ‘stigma’ in the dictionary. Either people were forbidden from even thinking about it which made them never utter the word itself, or they were unfamiliar with the concept as a whole.

However, as society has progressed into the 2000s, the LGBTQ+ community has successfully revolutionised the status of homosexuals all over the world. In recent times, even India has made a quantum jump in the rights it provides to the LGBTQ+ community after revoking Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and thereby decriminalizing sexual activity and relationships.

Vishvanath Temple, Khajuraho/ Wikipedia Commons

But an intriguing question that stares the Hindu community in the face is why it has taken so long to be receptive towards the LGBTQ+ community when our religion encompasses tales of Gods taking androgynous forms at different points to serve different purposes?

Almost all other religions are in agreement over the belief that all activities that provide pleasure to the physical body must be denounced as they translate into lust, which is equivalent to sin. Furthermore, every religion, from Islam to Christianity sees homosexuality as heresy and explicitly forbids it in their holy texts. Hindu mythology provides a provocative new dimension to homosexuality.

“Can Hinduism Act As An Ally For The Queer Community?”

While texts like the Manusmriti dictate punishment for intra-sex relationships, other evidence differs by offering examples, such as that of, Ardhanarishvara, who is the androgynous amalgamation of Shiva and his wife, Parvati. This makes us question that if God really dictates much of our actions and is instrumental in forming our opinions, why is there still an undecided stance among the Hindu’s over the matter of homosexuality when God himself has been found to exhibit that very feat?

The examples of homosexuality in Hindu mythology do not stop there. A common (Hindu) man is well versed with the epic of Mahabharata. Shikhandi (born as an incarnation of Amba) performs a ritual to turn into a male warrior to take her revenge from Bhishma. Shikhandi, therefore, also offers a terrific example of the manifestation of feminist ideals during that epoch.

However, despite the availability of evidence that supports the homosexual narrative in Hindu Mythology, many Hindu practitioners and devotees still conveniently choose to ignore these facts. Baba Ramdev, for example, very easily turns a blind eye towards the androgynous forms of Shiva and Parvati and other homosexual references in the Hindu Mythology and goes to the extent to claim that “yoga can  help ‘cure’ homosexuality.”

Many other priests hold a similar stance. This dichotomy in our society has made the matter of homosexuality nearly impossible to understand. Furthermore, due to extremist views presented by publically known figures, people are very easily brainwashed into believing baseless claims proposed by contemporary (so-called) priests as opposed to what has been stated in religious texts itself.

It is well known that religions state the guidelines for people in order to achieve salvation. For a religious being, salvation is the purpose that guides their lives; hence, people often go to great lengths to fulfil that purpose, but oftentimes in the garb of achieving what seems a difficult task, they forget that the underlying principles that help one achieve it are actually very simple. In Hinduism, ‘moksha’ is analogous to salvation: it is the freedom from the cycle of birth and death.

Vishvanath Temple, Khajuraho/ Wikipedia Commons

Moreover, it is stipulated that ‘moksha’ (salvation) is attained by the soul or the ‘atma’ (soul) which is independent of the physical body as well as other attributes like race, caste, gender, and sexual orientation. All it requires a person to do is to live a simple, selfless life in devotion to God and abstain from materialistic practices. It includes mastering control over excessive or irrational sexual desires as well.

Nowhere does it suggest that rationality stems from homosexuality, but it implies that one must resist the urge of being unfaithful to their partner or indulge unnecessarily in sexual activity if nature doesn’t require one to. By this statement, it is fair to say that a person, if homosexual, who has mastered control over his or her impulses and desires, stands in a better position to attain ‘moksha’ as compared to a heterosexual person who has no discipline over him/herself.

It is true that Hinduism offers conflicting views over the matter of homosexuality. This is one of the reasons behind the misconstrusion and confusion of the facts relating to the subject. However, instead of getting lost amid myriad different opinions, we can find the answers to our questions by looking at the simpler explanations and concepts available to us.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says, What ineffable joy does one find through Love of me, the blissful Atman. Once that joy is realized, all earthly pleasures fade into nothingness. In simple terms, it states that the key to inner peace is self-awareness and it is that that helps one be liberated from materialistic and emotional needs.

Let us use God’s example to make the concept of homosexuality an organic, pre-existing phenomenon. Let us use this as a starting point to live as who we are. Let our soul and conscience be our guide rather than another man’s views. Love, not lust. Dignity, not disrespect. Acceptance, not animosity. It is as simple as that.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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