I am amazed at the coverage almost all major papers have given to LGBT issues. Happy and gay times ahead. Have compiled most of it for you according to the papers they were published in. Here goes Hindustan Times coverage
Out of the closet, on to the streets
June 27, 2009
First Published: 22:25 IST(27/6/2009)
Last Updated: 22:33 IST(27/6/2009)
On July 2, exactly a decade ago, 15 men met in Kolkata’s badly maintained Park Circus Park. It started drizzling the moment we assembled and all of us ran to seek shelter in a dilapidated gazebo standing forlornly in a corner. But those were exciting times and the ‘fabulous 15’ set off for what was then called the ‘Rainbow Walk’. The plan was to follow a leisurely trail visiting officials, NGOs, judges and all those who matter and tell them what we were all about. ‘We’ here being faggots, gay men, g*ndus, naan-khatais, gud — whatever you want to call us homosexuals.
It was a pretty rag-tag bunch, wearing similar yellow t-shirts with the legend ‘Walk on the Rainbow’ printed in pink letters (what else) saying it all. The t-shirts had been printed and packed lovingly by a giant gay man called Owais Khan who worked for a corporate in Bangalore. Nearly all of us had made it to Kolkata on our own steam and had been picked up by the quiet Kolkatan called Pawan Dhall from Howrah terminus, a whirlpool of perpetual chaos.
But the most memorable part of that ‘Walk on the Rainbow’ was being stopped by a grand old Bengali Maashi Maa (auntie) and asked: “What on earth are you guys walking around for?” to which I replied, “Oh, we are homosexuals and we are asking the government to get rid of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.”
After seeing the rather puzzled look on her face, I explained what the whole enterprise was all about. “You see,” I said patiently, “there is this really awful law that says that anal or oral sex is against the law of nature and must be punished with 10 years in jail even if both parties consent to it.” Before I could explain further, I had an outraged Bengali lady on my hands: “You mean to say that this useless government has nothing to do but peep into everybody’s sex life? You mean even your bottom is not your own?” She seemed to be getting really mad as she pronounced the Bengali street word for buttocks in well-rounded contempt.
It’s then that I realised that India’s heart is good and gracious. The kind of homophobia I would see in New York or London was just missing even in a hide-bound great city like Kolkata. But was it really that easy? I wasn’t sure.
As a street counselor in my organisation, Humsafar Trust and my experience manning the Trust’s helpline in Mumbai, I had talked to scores of young men and women who were puzzled first and then traumatised when they learnt about their sexual orientation and tried willy-nilly to adjust to mainstream society. It wasn’t that easy specially because there was no homophobia of the Western type here. Nobody in India really took homosexuality seriously till you refused to get married and insisted on making everybody’s life miserable by defying social norms of dress or composure.
That was the issue as the Indian middle class faced a new phenomenon — whole segments of population whose only common trait was that they loved the same sex. It was exactly like a teacher or parent seeing that a child was writing using its left hand. And just as nobody now sees that as a problem, one wondered why this business of sexual orientation had become such an issue. But obviously it was an issue. As the days passed, not only were there horror stories of young men and women being forcibly married, sent for psychotherapy and aversion therapy, but they were also being beaten, caned, injected with hormones, sent to ashrams to be changed through ‘lessons in morality’, called scum of the earth by priests — and sometimes even driven out of homes. What was the issue?
It was obvious that sexual orientation and gender identity were not easy subjects to handle. Neither schools nor colleges had any inkling on how to do that through sex education. Even most parents didn’t have the skills to explain to a child why he or she shouldn’t be attracted to somebody of his or her own sex.
In that respect, I was a lucky guy — my father not only didn’t bat an eyelid when I said I was attracted to other boys, but he even went and got whatever literature on the subject he could get for a nerdish kid; I still have the two volumes of Havelock Ellis with me as a gift on my 12th birthday.
At the Humsafar Trust, the stories tumbled out along with the men carrying them like a huge burden — rejection by family and friends, violence in public spaces for being ‘different’ and being blackmailed by goons and the police using an archaic law that was rarely used. What seemed to be used were a set of nebulous laws that supposedly maintained “social order and threats to public order”. As the net widened, I heard of cross-dressers being beaten and raped by the police and goons, and young men being raped by stronger male relatives. It looked like the law was a beautiful carpet under which crawled a whole lot of worms.
What one concluded was that homosexuals (the term includes lesbians) and cross dressers were persecuted because they were ‘not natural’, which, of course, was an oxymoron. The point was — was this new? Every homosexual thinks he’s the only one alive but as the years go by and you seek out others like you, things get a lot easier.
So then I started digging into history and all sorts of texts surprised me; from Socrates and Plato to Alexander the Great, there definitely seemed a whole lot of “us” way back in time. In India, personal histories came in with Islam and all the way from Mehmud Ghazni to Allauddin Khilji and Babar, homosexuals were very much present. This historical perspective gave an idea that homosexuality or homosexuals were not foreign but desi to boot. The nearer one got, the more complicated it became. One couldn’t name, say, any Khan in Bollywood because that practically amounted to dragging them out of their closets which was unethical.
The British in India brought in their own laws and prejudices. Section 377 originated in 17th century Britain and was introduced into the secular criminal codes from ecclesiastical statutes existing in the St James Bible. Before that, we never had such a law even under a bigot like Aurangzeb. The personal in India had remained personal till the British invented both the closet and the law to keep you in it. And the irony is that even though they have rid themselves of this law in 1969, it still lingers in all their former colonies.
Unlike other minorities, sexual minorities will remain minorities by their very nature. They are a reminder that society is a pluralistic multitude and that each of us are different yet equal.
Pride Marches throughout the world are the key to a society where each person is valued for who he or she is, without asking for anything in return. India’s LGBT community is slowly coming of age and will not go back into the closet. That’s for sure.
Ashok Row Kavi is founder-chairman of the Humsafar Trust and a gay rights activist.
© Copyright 2007 Hindustan Times
Press Trust Of India
New Delhi, June 27, 2009
First Published: 20:59 IST(27/6/2009)
Last Updated: 21:00 IST(27/6/2009)
Gay community welcomes possibility of repeal of IPC section 377
The news that government is considering repealing a law which criminalises homosexuality has brought cheers among the Gay community which is busy preparing for the second edition of Queer parade on Sunday.
"This is the best thing that can happen at this moment. It will reflect in the Gay Pride march which will take place tomorrow," Lok Prakash, managing trustee of National MSM and Human Rights Task Force here.
Gay rights activists are excited about the news that government is considering repealing section 377 of the IPC, paving the way for decriminalisation of homosexuality in the country. However, they are waiting for a response of the Delhi High Court where a case is still going on.
"We think it's fantastic. Instead of repealing why not change it completely. This section came into existence during British rule. It should have been done earlier," said a gay journalist who did not wish to reveal his identity.
"Atrocities of police on the gay community will stop if this section is repealed. HIV AIDS problem in the community can also be tackled as people will be more open to discussing their sexuality. If taken, it will a fantastic decision," said Arvind Narain, a lawyer and gay rights activist based in Bangalore.
© Copyright 2007 Hindustan Times
After 150 years, consensus nears on making homosexuality legal
Nagendar Sharma, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, June 28, 2009
First Published: 01:04 IST(28/6/2009)
Last Updated: 02:08 IST(28/6/2009
Ahead of annual marches by gays and lesbians in many Indian cities on Sunday, there is good news for them — having sex may no longer be a crime.
Signalling a major shift in its once-unyielding stand, the government has for the first time indicated it is willing to review a controversial 150- year-old law that makes homosexuality a criminal offence.
A meeting between the Home, Health and Law ministers is likely to be convened soon to discuss the issue of either completely repealing or amending section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which provides for 10 years imprisonment for “unnatural sex”. That includes homosexuality.
“The issue was being discussed in Ministry of Home Affairs and Health Ministry and it will come before the Law Ministry also,” said union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily. “The Home minister will convene a meeting of the three ministers soon.”
Earlier this month, Moily said “some sections of the IPC are outdated and may require a fresh look.”
Home Minister P. Chidambaram will chair the meeting, which is likely to evolve a fresh stand acceptable to all three ministries.
The flexibility in the government stand follows the change of guard in all the three key ministries.
While Chidambaram and Moily are understood to be in favour of a fresh look on the issue, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad hasn’t yet revealed what he thinks.
Previous Home and Law ministers Shivraj Patil and H. R. Bhardwaj strongly opposed any change in the controversial IPC section.
“The purpose of section 377 IPC was to provide a healthy environment in the society by criminalising unnatural sexual activities against the order of nature. The Health ministry is welcome to take all steps for ensuring better health of the people, but no tampering with well laid down legal procedure can be allowed without a firm reasoning,” Bhardwaj had told HT in October last year.
Continued from Page 1
This was why the UPA government in its first term refused a proposal from former Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss to make gay sex legal.
The Health ministry had argued that the provisions of the existing law “push HIV people underground, which makes such risky sexual practices go unnoticed”.
The Home and Health ministries had taken opposite stands last year, in their replies to the Delhi high court, on a petition filed by an NGO called the Naaz Foundation.
The Home ministry had strongly opposed any change in the IPC, while the Health ministry was in favour of scrapping the controversial section.
The scales were finally tilted in favour of the Home ministry when the law ministry supported its stand and made it clear that the government was not in favour of any change in the existing law.
The arguments in the Delhi high court are complete and the verdict is expected soon.
© Copyright 2007 Hindustan Times
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