KOHIMA, AUGUST 28
For their sexual identities and orientations, members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community continue to face censure and discrimination from statutory bodies and the society in general. The stigma is helping in perpetuating Human Rights violations against the welfare and wellbeing of this section of the people, a recent seminar in Kohima stated the message. For that, members of the media have a role to play in erasing the stigma the marginalized people suffer, members of the Fourth Estate, and workers from the Media attending the event were told.
A media event was held in Hotel Vivor in Kohima town on Friday to discuss issues concerning sexual orientations and gender identity, and transgender populations and associated concerns about HIV, health and Human Rights.
The interaction, a seminar, was organized by the Mumbai-based The Humsafar Trust, in collaboration with the Nagaland State Aids Control Society (NSACS), an HIV/AIDS-intervention agency of the Government of Nagaland.
The key objective of the event was to help establish a network of media professionals who are up-to-date with knowledge about HIV, Men who have sex with men (or MSM), sexual minorities, sexual diversities and Human Rights.
According to resource person Sonal Giani, Advocacy Officer of the Humsafar trust, the program was organized to enhance media coverage of MSM, and sexual minorities in national AIDS responses and also against marginalization of sexual minorities (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and the transgender).
Another objective was also to enhance media coverage toward building ‘a favorable public opinion and social inclusion so as to reduce stigma and have a deeper understanding of sexual diversity’.
Giani, who spoke about several topics, dwelled essentially on the fundamentals of sexuality and the legal and medical aspects of it. She also addressed the topics of media and sexuality.
Giani, who has been associated with the The Humsafar Trust for years, shared her experiences in dealing with the sexual minorities including the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and the transgender.
While making it known that there exists a good number of sexual minorities in the society, Giani said this section of sexually-different people have been marginalized merely because of their sexual identity.
She underlined the need for the public to support and motivate the sexual minorities, so as to make them live without stigma and discrimination.
“In our country, the sexual minorities are yet to be given recognition of their human rights,” Giani said while making a comparison with Thailand which has the society’s support to this section of people. She added that our country India also has very less legal support for these people.
She emphasized on giving more legal support to the sexual minorities, such as – setting up a welfare board, separate HIV cell, separate toilets, providing reservation similar to OBCs and in making them socially included.
Giani also observed that many of the members of the sexual minorities, especially the transgender population, have been cut away from family ties, resulting to let them live in isolation and distress. She added that even ‘Right to health’ is violated for these people. “This group of people has gender identity dysphoria and serious mental health concerns,” Giani said adding that counselors are yet to address issues concerning this group of people.
Addressing a host of media professionals, Giani urged the members of the Fourth Estate to contribute in such ways that the public will learn to accept this section of people as they are. “It is time, the society accepts this group of people as they are and make them socially included,” she remarked.
Members and officials of the NSACS also attended the event.
The Humsafar Trust
The Humsafar Trust (THT), started in 1994, is a community based organization of self-identified Gay men, MSM, Transgender, Hijras and LBT persons.
The organization works on issues of sexuality, gender, health and human rights through four thematic ideas; health, advocacy, research and capacity building of sexual minority groups.
The THT has the vision to seek a holistic approach to the rights and health of sexual minorities and promote rational attitudes to sexuality.
Its mission is to strive for human rights, social well being of sexual minorities and provide them comprehensive health services.
For counseling services, the THT can be accessed via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Citizens’ Factfile: What is LGBT?
LGBT or GLBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. In use since the 1990s, the term is an adaptation of the initialism LGB, which itself started replacing the term gay when in reference to the LGBT community beginning in the mid-to-late 1980s, as many felt the term gay community did not accurately represent all those to whom it referred.
The initialism has become ‘mainstream’ as a self-designation and has been adopted by the majority of sexuality and gender identity-based community centers and media in the United States and some other English-speaking countries. The phrase is also used in some other countries, in whose languages the initialism is meaningful, such as Argentina, France and Turkey.
The initialism LGBT is intended to emphasize a diversity of sexuality and gender identity-based cultures and is sometimes used to refer to anyone who is non-heterosexual or non-cisgender instead of exclusively to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. To recognize this inclusion, a popular variant adds the letter Q for those who identify as queer or are questioning their sexual identity as LGBTQ, recorded since 1996.
Some intersex people who want to be included in LGBT groups suggest an extended initialism LGBTI, and this initialism is used in all parts of “The Activist’s Guide” of the Yogyakarta Principles in Action. Some people combine the two acronyms and use the term LGBTIQ.
Whether or not LGBT people openly identify themselves may depend on whether they live in a discriminatory environment, as well as on the status of LGBT rights where they live.
LGBT Rights in India: A hard road
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in India face legal and social difficulties not experienced by non-LGBT persons. Sexual activity between two persons of the same sex is criminalised, and is punishable by incarceration.
India does, however, legally recognize ‘Hijras’ (a transvestite or eunuch )as a gender separate from men or women, making the country one of the few in the world to legally recognize a third gender.
Law regarding same-sex activity in India
Homosexual intercourse was made a criminal offence under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. This made it an offence for a person to voluntarily have “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.” In 2009, the Delhi High Court decision in Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi found Section 377 and other legal prohibitions against private, adult, consensual, and non-commercial same-sex conduct to be in direct violation of fundamental rights provided by the Indian Constitution.
According to a ruling by the Indian Supreme Court, decisions of a High Court on the constitutionality of a law apply throughout India, and not just to the territory of the state over which the High Court in question has jurisdiction.
On 23 February 2012, the Ministry of Home Affairs expressed its opposition to the decriminalization of homosexual activity, stating that in India, homosexuality is seen as being immoral. The Central Government reversed its stand on 28 February 2012, asserting that there was no legal error in de-criminalizing homosexual activity.
This resulted in two judges of the Supreme Court reprimanding the central government for frequently changing its stand on the issue. “Don’t make a mockery of the system and don’t waste the court’s time,” an apex court judge told the government.
On 11 December 2013, the Supreme Court set aside the 2009 Delhi High Court order de-criminalizing consensual homosexual activity within its jurisdiction. The bench of justices G. S. Singhvi and S. J. Mukhopadhaya however noted that parliament should debate and decide on the matter.
On January 28, 2014 Supreme Court dismissed the review Petition filed by Central Government, NGO Naz Foundation and several others, against its December 11 verdict on Section 377 of IPC.
Transgender rights in India
The Tamil Nadu state in India was the first state to introduce a transgender (hijra / aravani) welfare policy. According to the transgender welfare policy transgender people can access free Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) in the Government Hospital (only for MTF); free housing program; various citizenship documents; admission in government colleges with full scholarship for higher studies; alternative sources of livelihood through formation of self-help groups (for savings) and initiating income-generation programmes (IGP).
Tamil Nadu was also the first state to form a Transgender Welfare Board with representatives from the transgender community.
In India one group of transgender people are called Hijras. They were legally granted voting rights as a third sex in 1994. Due to alleged legal ambiguity of the procedure, Indian transgender individuals do not have access to safe medical facilities for SRS. On 15 April 2014, Supreme Court of India declared transgender people as a socially and economically backward class entitled to reservations in education and job, and also directed union and state governments to frame welfare schemes for them.