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These Shocking Truths About LGBTQ+ (Phobia) Show India Doesn’t Get That LOVE Is LOVE!

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India is believed to be the ‘land of diversity.’

Yet, we’re far from being the land of ‘acceptance.’ Discrimination against a person due to their sexual/gender identity and orientation follows them in employment, relationships, adoption choices and general acceptance in the society. Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia are deeply embedded into people’s minds leading to a whole spectrum of derogatory practices. From refusing to acknowledge the LGBT community to outright violence, killings and conversion therapy, we read such news on a daily basis.

Paradoxically, ancient Indian texts such as Kamasutra, Mahabharata, and more have accepted and encouraged homosexual practices. The text ‘Vikriti Evam Prakriti’ taken from the Rigveda, which means “what seems unnatural is also natural”, recognises homosexual/transsexual dimensions of human life. We can still see erotic sculptures of men and women in Khajuraho Temples.
Then what brought such a negative skew in people’s mindsets?

At the Lakshmana temple in Khajuraho (954 CE), a man receives fellatio from a seated male as part of an orgiastic scene.

History suggests that the British Colonial Rule in 18th century criminalized homosexual activities calling them “against the order of nature” (Section 377 of IPC) leading to a fast decline in their acceptance.

As it turns out, the majority of Indian population is still living in the 18th century. A bizarre survey, conducted by Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance in 2019, across 12 cities in India, revealed that 56% of Indians would refuse an organ from a homosexual person while 54% believe that LGBTQ persons should not be allowed to donate organs at all. (1)

In urban India where awareness of LGBT rights is prevalent, the scenario looks a little more positive. People are willing to accept and hear their voices through social media, pride parades and meetups. Far away from this acceptance, families in rural India indulge in secret honour killings of gay men, lesbian women are subjected to family-sanctioned corrective rapes, which are often perpetrated by their own family members. Refusal to marry brings more physical abuse.

New Delhi: LGBT Community members and supporters carry a rainbow-coloured banner during the Delhi Queer Pride March in New Delhi on Sunday. PTI Photo by Kamal Singh (PTI11_27_2016_000185B)

LGBT people are scared to come out because of stigmatization and parental reaction towards homosexuality. Most LGBT people are acceptable to family only if they agree to behave like heterosexuals. The lack of family support deteriorates their mental health and the pressure to conform often leads to depression, thoughts of suicide and psychosomatic diseases.

A study (2) published in 2009 compared gay, lesbian, and bisexual young adults who experienced strong rejection from their families. They were 8 times more likely to have tried to commit suicide, 6 times more likely to report high levels of depression and 3 times more likely to use illegal drugs. Homophobic landlords refuse to lend their houses to gay and lesbian couples because of the society and instruct their children to stay away because they’ll convert them into a homosexual.

The widespread practice of family members forcing LGBT people to undergo “conversion” therapy which ranges from conditioning and giving shock treatment to hormone replacements and surgery precipitates more stigma. It’s important to note here that these therapies have NO scientific evidence to back them up and lead to serious ethical violations.

Transphobia is another pressing issue in today’s times. A study by Stanford in collaboration with Civilian Welfare Foundation, a non-profit in Kolkata took interviews of 300 doctors to check their biases. It was found that ‘doctors’ find it hard to believe that transgenders get raped and refuse to prescribe anti-HIV medication to them (even though they are a high-risk group for HIV. (3)

These core beliefs stem from childhood where children are told to ‘behave’ or hijra or eunuchs will come and take them. Unapproving stares, rejection of entry in public places and associating them with prostitution are constant struggles faced by them.

Biphobia is experienced in more subtle forms, nevertheless, is extremely regressive. Comments such as “You’re just confused”,This is just a phase”, “You’re widening your horizons to spice things up”, and the worst of them all, “Will you be interested in a threesome?” are downright pathetic. A bisexual person might already be in a mental turmoil of neither being ‘gay enough’ nor ‘straight enough’ which can deter them from seeking romantic relationships (4) and then hearing such statements gives rise to anger, sadness and hostility within them.

Through this article, we want to showcase the harsh reality of LGBTQIA+ struggles and extend our support to them. It’s high time we start acknowledging our privilege, use gender-neutral language and educate ourselves to make this society inclusive of diverse forms of LOVE because, in the end, LOVE IS LOVE!

References
1.Homophobic India? Survey Finds 56% of Respondents Would Refuse Organ from LGBTQ Donor (2019) Retrieved from here.
2. Stigma and Discrimination (2016) Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Retrieved from here.
3. Pallival, A. (2017). How could you have been raped?’: New study on how India’s transgender people face bias from doctors. Retrieved from here.
4. Varma, P. (2018) Where Is The B in LGBTQ? On Experiencing Biphobia Retrieved from here.
Featured image is for representational purposes only.
You must be to comment.
  1. Rohitvvv

    I think we are moving faster in terms of lgbt acceptance. Many corporate sector companies have made more lgbt inclusive policies. We are seeing nearly no homophobia in bollywood movies unlike the past. But we can move more faster in lgbt acceptance. I think we indians should not follow the sharia laws and make a more liberal society. Live and let live !!

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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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