Gay India News & Reports 2011 Sept- Dec

1 Campuses Lead Gay Rights Struggle 9/11

2 Sex and The Church 9/11

3 Gay sex on rise in South 10/11

4 Indian TV soap operas step out of the closet 10/11

4a Sahodaran 2012 calendar launch 10/11

5 Eunuchs have two choices… 10/11

5a October 2011 Issue of Pukaar Journal 10/11

6 The reluctant Commonwealth 11/11

7 Second annual Pride events since decriminalisation 11/11

8 4th Delhi Queer Pride March 12/11

05 September 2011 – ILGA Asia

Campuses Lead Gay Rights Struggle

It was with some trepidation that Nivvedan, a student at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) – Bombay, helped launch ‘Saathi’ (Companion), catering to the needs of people with different sexual orientations on campus. Yet, when Saathi held its first meeting in July it attracted not only students but also alumni and even some members of the faculty. “There’s a lot of confusion around sexuality in our society. We have encountered it in our campus too,” Nivvedan told IPS. Nivvedan expects Saathi to grow as “students who need support gain better confidence in the sessions. Right now most of them would rather discuss things in an informal way with other fellow students.”

“I believe the issue of sexual orientation, homosexuality etc. should be discussed and awareness created right from student life,” said Nivvedan, acutely conscious of the fact that the initiative is the first one of its kind on an Indian campus. Ketan Tanna, activist with ‘Gay-Bombay’, an informal group of “like-minded gay people,” says: “None of the colleges in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) has active lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activism or any guidance cell, so this is a first.” The initiative by IIT-Bombay suggests that gay rights are slowly gaining acceptance into India’s conservative society and that its decriminalisation by an order of the Delhi High Court order in 2009 is beginning to have an effect.

In 2009, British colonial law dating back more than 150 years ago that held same-sex relationships as ‘unnatural’, was overturned by the Delhi High Court, responding to a clamour for change from gay rights activists and members of civil society. “A level of dialogue around sexuality began after the Delhi High Court ruling,” Magdalene Jeyarathnam, founder-director of the Centre For Counselling in southern Chennai city, told IPS. “There has been a surge in the number of young people who have come out over the past couple of years.”

“I see this movement gaining power, strength and momentum with each passing day,” she added. Pawan Dhall, director of the Kolkata-based NGO ‘Solidarity and Action Against the HIV Infection in India’ which pioneered a sensitisation movement on gay rights in the late 1990s, said the country’s top campuses are in fact leading gay rights activism. In Kolkata, a group called ‘Students against Campus Homophobia’ is active in the city’s Jadavpur University (JU), well known for its liberal ambience as well as academic excellence. JU already offers ‘Queer Studies’ as an optional subject at the post-graduate level in its English department.

Read article

September 17, 2011 – India Today

Sex and The Church
– Rising cases of sexual abuse within the church in Kerala force clergy to rethink on homosexuality

by M.G. Radhakrishnan
The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexuals, practising homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. (I Corinthians (6:9-11).

On September 11, the Synod of the Marthoma Church, a prominent Kerala-based non-Catholic denomination, replaced Euyakim Mar Coorilos as the bishop of its Kunnamkulam-Malabar diocese. In July, Coorilos had become the first Christian bishop to be sued in India for allegedly committing sodomy. The petition was filed by Sam Kutty, 38, a former diocese employee before a judicial magistrate in Pathanamthitta, accusing the bishop of sexually abusing him in 2009 inside a retreat centre run by the diocese. The judicial magistrate has directed the local police to investigate the complaint.

For the Christian church and community at large, which consider even consensual homosexuality a cardinal sin and perversion, the news was blasphemous. The Coorilos incident is the latest in a spate of sex crimes that has surfaced recently involving priests and nuns in Kerala. In 2008, the Pope suspended Bishop John Thattunkal of the Latin Catholic Diocese of Kochi on charges of adopting a 26-year-old woman. That very year, the church dismissed a 45-year-old nun after an MMS clip of her indulging in sex was widely circulated. In 2009, Sister Jesme, a Catholic nun, listed her sexual encounters in a tell-all autobiography. Later that year, CBI arrested two priests and a nun in connection with the murder of a nun-Sister Abhaya-17 years ago inside a convent. In 2011, an autobiography by Shibu Kalaparamban, a priest for 13 years rocked the Syro-Malankara Church, the country’s largest Catholic church. Kalaparamban was suspended from the church (see box).

Interestingly, the bishop’s case comes even as attempts for a dialogue on homosexuality have begun for the first time inside the conservative churches of Kerala where Christians form 19 per cent of the population. The efforts have been set in motion by a homosexual Baptist pastor couple from the US, Stephen R. Parelli and Jose Enrique Ortiz. "On issues of sexuality, Indian churches are as conservative as the most conservative evangelical groups of the US. The curriculum of Bible colleges here is the same as followed by the most fundamentalist groups in the West. Hence the dialogue we began here is no mean achievement. There are priests and nuns with same-sex orientation here too as anywhere else in the world," says Parelli, executive director of Other Sheep, a Christian ministry that works for sexual minorities.

Read complete story here

October 1, 2011 – Deccan Herald

Gay sex on rise in South

by Kalyan Ray – New Delhi
In what can emerge as a fresh public health challenge, literate young men in southern India are increasingly getting involved in high-risk activity of having sex with men without protection, making them vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Though there is barely any reliable statistics available on the MSM (Men having Sex with Men) prevalence, as many as 8,615 members of the MSM community were interviewed in a new behavioural survey carried out in 15 districts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. In majority of the districts, HIV prevalence ranged from 5 to 30 per cent among high risk men while prevalence of other sexual diseases in the same community vary from 2 to 20 per cent.

The researchers claimed that actual numbers of the MSM population could be more because it was “representative sample”, which means only about 700 MSM people from each districts were interviewed for the study conducted between 2006 and 2010. The scientists took care to ensure that the same person is not interviewed twice. The average age of MSM members vary between 24 and 30. Most of them — between 70 and 90 per cent — can read and write, and almost one-third of them are married. But a very few are circumcised, which has a protective effect against HIV.

The estimates of Indian MSM population vary drastically. While the National AIDS Control Organisation claims it could be 3.5 lakh, the UNAIDS has put the figure at 400,000. “Its difficult to reach out to that population and map them. There is no enumeration. The study has representative samples to highlight their high-risk behaviour,” Ramesh Paranjape, director of National AIDS Research Institute, Pune, told Deccan Herald.

NARI along with four other institutes under Indian Council of Medical Research, Avahan — Indian HIV/AIDS unit of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — Karnataka Health Promotion Trust and non-governmental outfit FHI 360 carried out the behavioural study. It reached out to the MSM community in four Karnataka districts — Bangalore (Urban), Belgaum, Bellary and Shimoga. The report shows that barring three districts — East Godavari and Vizag in Andhra Pradesh and Pune in Maharashtra — everywhere else a significant chunk of the MSM community did not use condom in their last sexual activity primarily because the partner did not want it and non-availability of condoms. In certain cases, cost also plays a role in deciding the choice.

October 2, 2011 – AFP

Indian TV soap operas step out of the closet

New Delhi – The saturated colours, shrill background music and over-dramatic dialogue are the hallmarks of any ordinary Indian television soap opera. What happens next is a lot less typical. "I can never love you or any other woman. I am in love with a man," a young man tells his shocked wife, while his boyfriend looks on, relieved. The popular Hindi-language soap "Maryada: Lekin Kab Tak?" (Honour: But at What Cost?) on the Star Plus television channel, which featured the pathbreaking storyline in June, says it attracts 13.5 million viewers weekly.

Screenwriter Damini Shetty told AFP: "We wanted to break new ground with ‘Maryada’ and talk about issues that people typically shy away from." The show focuses on a patriarchal, conservative family in small-town northern India, the Jhaakar clan, whose eldest son Gaurav is gay. "It would have been easy to show a gay person in a hip urban set-up, but we wanted to show it in this context to show that it’s a reality in every society, in villages, in small towns, where people struggle, like Gaurav, to come out to their families," added Shetty.

Actor Daksh Ajit Singh, who plays Gaurav, said he received a lot of fan mail from viewers who see their own lives reflected on the small-screen. "One gay fan from Delhi wrote to me saying that his mother loves soaps, and after watching this show, she has finally stopped pressuring him to change and get married," Singh told AFP. He also recalled an exchange with an old friend of his, who watched the show and was taken aback by the subject matter. "He said he watched it with his children and was embarrassed to see me with a guy. I told him it was no big deal. We are only showing what is real, that’s all," Singh said.

As satellite television took off in the subcontinent in the 1990s, Indian soaps slowly began to tackle controversial subjects like marital rape, female foeticide, and child marriage, all the while tugging at the heartstrings of their largely female audience. Recently, a number of shows have ventured into the uncharted territory of featuring gay characters. In addition to "Maryada", supernatural teen drama "Pyaar Kii Ye Ek Kahaani" (This Is A Story About Love) featured a sub-plot involving a gay architect who developed a crush on his flatmate. "Mahi Way", a show about an overweight writer, Mahi Talwar and her gay best friend is a cult favourite on YouTube.

The largely positive response to these television programmes reflects the changing attitude to homosexuality in India. Two years ago, a landmark Delhi High Court ruling decriminalised homosexuality, which was illegal under a 150-year-old British colonial law that banned "carnal intercourse against the order of nature". Conviction carried a fine and maximum 10-year jail sentence. Gay pride marches have become good-humoured annual events in several Indian cities. Other indicators of the community’s growing prominence include a boom in gay magazines, same-sex Valentine’s Day cards and the Bollywood hit "Dostana", in which a mother happily welcomes her son’s supposed boyfriend to her home.

In a sign that prejudices still run deep, however, in July 2011 Indian health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad referred to homosexuality as "unnatural" and "a disease which has come from other countries" during a televised speech. Although gay rights activists were quick to condemn Azad’s remarks, many people said they agreed with his views. India still boasts no high-profile figures who are openly gay or lesbian in the fields of sport, politics, or entertainment and many Indians continue to regard homosexuality as a mental illness.

Media critic Shailaja Bajpai believes shows like "Maryada" are quietly paving the way for greater social acceptance of homosexuality. "It’s to do with the nature of television watching. Because TV comes into our homes, it pushes people to talk with their families and friends about things that ordinarily make them uncomfortable," she told AFP.

October 24, 2011 – Orinam

Sahodaran 2012 calendar launch

Sahodaran, the Chennai based NGO dealing with HIV/AIDS communication and prevention among men who have sex with men (MSM), launched its third calendar featuring sexy south Indian hunks. For those who want to get an idea of what the 2011 calendar was like, the photographer, Kapil Ganesh, has put some of the images on his blog and has promised to put up a few from the newly launched 2012 calendar by next week. If you want to find out a bit more about the calendar and Sahodaran, you need to know a bit about Sunil Menon who set up the organisation. Sunil was one of the first activists to get involved with HIV/AIDS issues with MSM in South India and has kept Sahodaran and its outreach programmes growing, extending it into becoming an advocacy space for gays, kothis, and other MSM, and transgenders.

It was an activity I really appreciated, because when I was growing up in Chennai it seemed like this was one city where no sort of gay activism was likely. Of course, there were lots of gay men, but no one seemed interested in starting formal spaces for queer people to meet and get to know each other, leave alone plan for any kind of activism. When Sunil set up Sahodaran, he also set up an informal group called Chennai Mitra that aimed to provide this sort of space, meeting at the office that Sahodaran had set up on Sterling Road, which was really a bit of a culture shock for me because that was just a few metres away from the college I had gone to (Loyola), at a time when it seemed like nothing gay would ever happen.

I went for a couple of Chennai Mitra meetings when I went home to Chennai, and it felt remarkable to be able to visit such a space in Chennai (walking up to the office past, if I remember correctly, the TamBrahm uncle on the ground floor who looked suspiciously at people going in, but still rented the space to Sunil. Of course, I might be completely wrong on this, and perhaps the uncle was just dyspeptic). In time, other groups like Movenpick/Orinam (2003-) and Chennai Dost (2009-) came up, and Sunil was able to focus on Sahodaran – and also his parallel career. One of the most remarkable things about Sunil is that he has managed to build his NGO right alongside a very busy career as a fashion show choreographer, probably the best known one in South India. I’ve seen Sunil talking to his outreach workers about preparing presentations on HIV statistics, while almost in parallel screaming on the phone at designers, lighting people, and stage designers who haven’t got their act together in time!

Read complete article here

27 October 2011 – Pakistan Today

Eunuchs have two choices; to become a begger or a sex worker

Islamabad – While ringing the doorbell of a house in Sector G-9, a 27-year-old eunuch Reshma was chanting, “Give some money; may God bless you with good health of your children.” And after getting 10 rupees, the satisfaction was clearly visible on her face. Reshma cashes in on his beautiful face and graceful moves, by begging in the markets and door-to-door around Islamabad. But like most of Pakistan’s eunuch and transsexual community – mocked, pitied and shunned by society – his life has mostly been marred by hardships and sufferings.

While sharing her sufferings with Pakistan Today, she said, “Nobody respects us; for them, we’re here just to make fun or used as sex workers. Men harass us more than they do girls.” She said previously, she used to dance for earning money to ensure that she could sustain herself but she was subjected to sexual violence everyday in the process; therefore, quitted the job for good. “Now, I have became a beggar, which I think is comparatively respectable way of earning because of reduced chances of sexual harassment,” she said in her reedy, androgynous voice. She said majority of the people, especially women at homes, believed that they were close to God Almighty and that was the reason they did not refuse to give them alms or food, hence, making it quite safe profession.

Because of their perceived misfortune at having being born between the two genders, the traditional belief in Pakistan is that God will be more inclined to listen to their prayers. But this leaves the eunuchs with little other choice but to beg on the streets for pennies and many end up as prostitutes. Eunuchs were traditionally paid to help celebrate the birth of a son or to dance at weddings. In Muslim majority country, like Pakistan, where sexual relations outside marriage are taboo and homosexuality is illegal, eunuchs are also treated as sex objects and often become the victims of violent assaults.

“Every eunuch is involved in prostitution,” said 22-year-old Arooj, who is ready for sex for mere 200 rupees. “This is hard, but I earn more doing this than the begging,” she added, as she looked for clients at a famous market of Islamabad. Arooj said she became a prostitute at the age of ten and since then was raped every day, but she had other option for survival. “Lots of bad guys select eunuchs and rape them for satisfaction and fun, they burn them with cigarettes,” she said. “We are as human as men and women, but different,” she remarked, adding that she was born a male but with a female soul. “We are a different breed. We pleaded the judiciary to accept eunuchs as a different gender category. We are treated badly, particularly by police,” she said. “They mostly intimidate us without provocation and snatch our hard-earned money.” However, she noted that the police had been more “positive” toward eunuchs after the Supreme Court ruled in their favour.

Eunuchs claim that they are treated worse than animals in Pakistan, highlighting that there is a government department for wildlife and animals, but no institution for them. According to a survey carried out by Gallup Pakistan last year, more than 55 percent Pakistanis say that the eunuchs should be given special quota in educational institutions and offices so that they can have a better life. Whereas 25 percent do not agree and 20 percent state they do not know. However, a majority (60 percent) believe that they would not like to be friends with them with only 14 percent responding in affirmation while 26 percent say they cannot say for sure.

October 2011 – Naz Foundation

October 2011 Issue of Pukaar Journal

Intro: Naz Foundation International (NFI) is a development agency specialising in providing technical, institutional and financial support for the promotion of sexual health, welfare and human rights of males who have sex with males in South Asia. NFI believes in a world where all people can live with dignity, social justice and well-being.

With a primary focus on marginalised males who have sex with males, NFI’s mission is to empower socially excluded and disadvantaged males to secure for themselves social justice, equity, health and well-being by providing technical, financial and institutional support. NFI believes in the innate capacity of local people to develop their own appropriate services, where the beneficiaries of a service are also the providers of that service. NFI will always support such initiatives.

Read the full journal here: NZI history, mission, achievements and future:

2 November 2011 – Fridae

The reluctant Commonwealth

by Douglas Sanders
British Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Perth in October did not adopt sweeping recommendations for change that included calling for the repeal of anti-homosexual criminal laws. We are not surprised. But the door has not been slammed shut. Doug Sanders reports. British Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Perth in October did not adopt sweeping recommendations for change that included calling for the repeal of anti-homosexual criminal laws. We are not surprised. But the door has not been slammed shut. Doug Sanders reports. At one point the British Empire ruled over one quarter of the world’s people and its Navy ruled the waves. It was the largest empire in world history. British ships transported three million African slaves to the Americas before 1850. In spite of that commercial success, Britain led the Western world in abolishing the slave trade and slavery.

A remarkable aspect of the Empire was its slow evolution to what we now know as the Commonwealth of Nations. The US, of course, revolted, leaving the family in 1776. No other colony left the family by way of revolution. Latin America is full of states that had wars of independence, and Asia has some too, notably Indonesia and Vietnam. None in Britain’s Asian colonies. By 1931 the Empire was reorganised to recognise the factual independence that had gradually developed in countries like Canada, Australia and South Africa. In 1949 the present name “Commonwealth of Nations” was adopted. The Queen became the “head” of the Commonwealth, but it was decided that India could be a member, though it was a republic. The “Colombo Plan” was adopted, adding a development program to the body. Students from developing member states gained scholarships to study in richer member countries.

Post-war decolonisation, beginning with India in 1949, basically changed the organisation. It now has 54 members. The revolting US is not in. Nineteen are in Africa. Eleven are in Oceana. Ten are in the Caribbean. Eight are in Asia. Member countries have a total population of 2.2 billion. Of course, 1.21 billion are in India alone.

The Empire evolved first into a friendly club of the ‘white Dominions’ in 1931. It adopted a development focus after 1949. With decolonisation it became a predominantly third-world organisation. Could it become an advocate of human rights? It was deeply divided over sanctions against racist governments in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa. It has a history of censuring some countries for gross violations of human rights and democracy. It has suspended, at times, Fiji, Pakistan, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. It has broad policies on human rights and, in particular, against racism. But could it become a more active advocate of human rights?

Read complete article here

28 November 2011 – PinkNews

India celebrates second annual Pride events since decriminalisation

by Stephen Gray
Two of India’s largest cities held Pride events this weekend, with organisers saying it was a chance to “rejoice that we are here and will always be here”.
The organisers of Bangalore Pride also said they hoped the country’s Supreme Court would uphold the 2009 ruling which determined that laws against homosexuality violated the constitution. In a statement, they called for the state to provide public services to the LGBT community without discrimination, especially to the transgender community with regard to voter IDs, driving licenses, pensions and old-age homes.

One man who attended the New Delhi event was accompanied by his family. His grandmother told Asian Age: “I am 67 years old and I have come down specially to support this cause. I don’t understand why our society is still so rigid and prejudiced against queers. “If a person wants to be queer, that’s his or her right and they deserve equal treatment just like any of us.”

2000 people attended the event in New Delhi last year. In July, India’s health minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, caused uproar by referring to homosexuality as an unnatural “disease” from the west. Also this summer, a lesbian couple were granted 24-hour police protection after family members allegedly threatened to kill them. The women, named as Savita, 25, and Veena, 20, from Manesar, near New Delhi, married and went to a court to ask for protection. They were reportedly granted a safe house and full-time police protection.

Section 377 was enacted in 1860 under the British Raj, in line with the anti-sodomy laws in England at the time.

December 1, 2011 – Gay Bombay

4th Delhi Queer Pride March

by Aditya Bondyopadhyay

Dear All,

The 4th Delhi Queer Pride March was held on 27 November 2011 from Barakhamba Road-Tolstoy Marg crossing to Jantar Mantar. Please see the Video of the event here

Organised by the Delhi Queer Pride Commitee, all permissions were taken from the Delhi Police to host this march, and the police provided security cover during the event with over 40 male and female police personnel present. The march ended in Jantar Mantar with a reading of the ‘Charter of Demands for LGBT Rights’ and a 2 minute silence for those Hijra sisters who died in the recent Nand Nagri fire tragedy. The turnout was approximately 2000 persons. This Video is produced by TEG Mediatech Pvt. Ltd (www.efficientgroup .net)

You can also see an picture album of the Pride here