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Move to give Transgender ration cards welcome July 27, 2006

Posted by qmediawatch in English, The Hindu, Transgender.
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Link to Hindu Report 07/27/06

Move to give transgendered ration cards welcome

J. Malarvizhi

  • Several transgendered have voter identification cards where they are identified as female
  • Their absence in campuses of higher education yet to be addressed

    CHENNAI: More than two-thirds of the transgendered community in Chennai already have family cards, according to Asha Bharathi, president of the Tamilnadu Aravaanigal Association. Only about a 1,000 of the 3,000 transgendered people in the city have not received the cards, she says.Tamil Nadu is probably the first to take up the cause of the transgendered in the State budget by proposing that they be given family cards and helped to form self-help groups, say representatives of some non-governmental organisations in the city.

    However, self-help groups are already there, Ms. Bharati points out. Several transgendered also have voter identification cards where they are identified as female.The NGOs hope the government will widen the concept of `family’ to include the transgendered who usually live in groups or small communities, which has been fulfilled in most cases in Chennai. L. Ramakrishnan, Country Director (Programs and Research), SAATHII-Chennai, said that in southern India, more than in the North, there were several instances of the transgendered living alone.

    They should not be neglected, he said. NGOs have welcomed the move to issue family cards. R. Lakshmi Bai, Project Director, Tamilnadu AIDS Initiative, termed it `an official recognition of the community,’ necessary for interventions in health and social welfare. Priya Babu, member, Sudar Foundation, an organisation for and by aravaanis, and a journalist, said education remained the most important requirement of the transgendered and their absence in campuses of higher education was yet to be addressed. “The transgendered are a socio-economically marginalised group. With few avenues of employment open to them, several are forced into sex work. Any move that addresses the issues of livelihood, food or nutrition is welcome,” said Dr. Ramakrishnan. “The proposal is definitely useful, even if I already hold the card as a family head,” said Asha. Aravaanis wanting cards may have TG to denote transgendered, she added. Passports issued by the Indian government currently have three gender categories — male, female and eunuch.

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    Gay Rights – TOI Editorial July 25, 2006

    Posted by qmediawatch in English, Section 377, Times of India.
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    Gay Rights . Times Of India, 21 July 06

    Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code has been under scrutiny for a while. The relevant section, which says that “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” is a punishable offence, is clearly a relic of the past. Indeed, the British introduced it into the criminal code nearly 150 years ago. In 2001, an NGO had filed a petition before Delhi high court against Section 377 on the ground that it violated fundamental rights and that it hindered HIV/AIDS prevention work.

    Three years later the high court dismissed the petition, which prompted the NGO to move Supreme Court. In a major boost to the NGO and others who wanted Section 377 amended, the apex court sent back the case to the high court for reconsideration. Now, the challenge to Section 377 has received a further shot in the arm. The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), a government body, has submitted an affidavit before the high court supporting the PIL. NACO has cited statistics to show that 8 per cent of the gay population in India is afflicted with HIV/AIDS compared to one per cent of the general population. NACO has also said that Section 377 pushes the issue of AIDS underground. There is undoubtedly a compelling case for amending Section 377 in a country where AIDS is a huge problem and homosexuality is stigmatised. Figures show that many of those afflicted with AIDS belong to groups with poor access to healthcare and information. These groups are particularly susceptible to harassment by the state under provisions such as Section 377.

    It needs to be noted, however, that contrary to media reports the PIL against Section 377 does not demand that it be scrapped. The petition asks for a ‘reading down’ of Section 377 to exclude adult and consensual same-sex activity. There is good reason for not wanting to scrap the provision. Due to gaps in our law, Section 377 remains a shield against sexual abuse of children.Amending the IPC alone won’t, of course, change the way gays and HIV/AIDS are viewed in India. This will require a change in Indian society, which can only be brought about by raising awareness about homosexuality. But amending Section 377 would be an important step forward.

    BBC – Secret Lives and Woes of India’s Gays July 21, 2006

    Posted by qmediawatch in English, Television.
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    Story from BBC NEWS. By Navdip Dhariwal
    Published: 2006/07/21 11:09:45 GMT

    There is an anonymous looking building in a conservative neighbourhood in the Indian capital of Delhi that on most days fails to attract much notice.On Tuesday afternoons through its creaky iron gate opens at regular intervals and rows of young men gingerly step in through the front door. This is Sangini, a support group for gays, that meets in secret. Those who attend have been told of it by word of mouth and advised not to advertise the meeting.The reason for taking such precautions – their way of life is illegal in India.Dressed in a bright pink salwar kameez, with his hair in a neat shoulder length cut, “Shilpa” gazes forlornly at the television set in the corner playing a DVD.He dresses as a woman to express his sexuality but has to keep the rest of his life under wraps.

    “We are always getting harassed by the cops,” Atul one of the group organisers complains, “My partner and I have been living together in secret for over seven years”.His friend Samai says, “they should legalise homosexuality – why should we be forced to keep ourselves hidden – the law and society needs to change”.


    But the law has not changed for 145 years. Brought in under the British rule, the legal system only recognises gay and lesbian relationships “as an unnatural offence”.Its continued implementation has bought much anguish and persecution to same-sex relationships. In some Indian states people have taken their own lives because they have found it too unbearable.

    It is not just police harassment that is concerning human rights groups.Anjali Ghopalan is a leading campaigner in HIV/Aids prevention. She claims that the law is preventing charities like hers from doing their work. “The authorities hide behind the law,” she says.

    “It is not uncommon for our outreach workers to be harassed by the cops constantly or as we have seen in recent incidents, two men being arrested for holding hands in a park – the law is being used to frighten people.”


    The US based Human Rights Watch has also expressed concern about India’s colonial law.They have written to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about their worries over the treatment of the gay community. Various groups are now lobbying the government and the courts for a change in the law.Ironically India has a long tradition of non-heterosexual relationships.

    There is evidence of it in its literature, the arts and ancient texts that date back thousands of years. Modern day India though still refuses to legalise homosexuality.The support group Sangini is preparing for its role in the campaign to overturn the law. Another one of the project workers, Aman, says that after facing years of prejudice and harassment by people who suspected he was gay – he has finally come out in the open to family and friends. “I finally feel relaxed,” he says.

    He was forced to leave home but he says “I now hope I can have children and a life like the straight people I know. If the world’s largest democracy cannot recognise our rights – what hope is there “

    Times Of India – NACO and Sec 377 July 21, 2006

    Posted by qmediawatch in English, HIV, Section 377.
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    Times Of India,New Delhi – Article Link

    NEW DELHI: In a move seen as a significant boost for the gay rights movement
    in India, a government body — the National Aids Control Organisation — has filed an affidavit in court supporting the demand to scrap Section 377 of IPC, which declares homosexuality an offence. Naco’s affidavit, submitted before the Delhi High Court, endorses the view of NAZ Foundation, an NGO, which has asked for the repeal of section 377. In the affidavit, Naco cites a survey it conducted which found that 8% of
    the 25 lakh homosexual population in India are afflicted with HIV/AIDS as compared to 1% of the general population affected by the disease. Homosexuals are, therefore, highly vulnerable to the disease, it said.

    “Section 377 adversely contributes to pushing the infection underground…and makes risky sexual practices go unnoticed and unaddressed,” Naco’s affidavit said.The organisation argued that because of the present law, homosexual groups were forced into “hidden spaces” and were vulnerable to harassment by the police and civil society at large. “The hidden nature of such groups leads to poor access to healthcare and safe sex information,” the affidavit said. Section 377, it added, had become an impediment to the success of various programmes launched to guide AIDS patients.

    Naco’s affidavit was in response to a PIL filed by NAZ Foundation seeking the scrapping of section 377. The PIL had been earlier rejected by the Delhi High Court. The dismissal came after the Centre justified Section 377, saying homosexuality was not acceptable in Indian society. Subsequently, NAZ filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court, which asked the Delhi High Court to consider the matter afresh.

    The Hindu – Aravanis, gays and the law enforcers July 21, 2006

    Posted by qmediawatch in English, HIV, Transgender.
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    The Hindu – Chennai (Staff Reporter)

    CHENNAI: They faced questions, gave some answers but mostly listened to what the third sex in the city had to say. Nearly 20 police personnel sat through an advocacy programme to create awareness about HIV/AIDS and problems faced by Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM) and transgenders, particularly from law enforcement agencies.

    The participants from 12 police stations fielded questions such as “What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?” and “Where are condoms available for free?” during the session conducted by N. Usman, a retired medical professional.

    Unprotected sex

    The doctor, however, reiterated how dangerous unprotected sex even with a familiar person could be. He also talked about the effectiveness of Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission centres at various government hospitals.

    The programme, organised on Monday, put more questions to the officers when it came to the conflicts the MSM and the transgendered had with the police.

    According to MSM spokesperson Jambulingam, field workers sent out by NGOs to distribute condoms sometimes face harassment from the authorities. He appealed to authorities to recognise and authorise the identity cards of these workers.

    A few police officials responded by pointing out the need to verify the antecedents of field workers, who they said, sometimes misused their identity cards. Though exchanges such as these were far and few, the programme organised by Chennai Corporation AIDS Prevention And Control Society, Tamil Nadu Aravanigal Association (THAA) and Indian Community Welfare Organisation, highlighted the need for more interactions.

    “There is still no social security for us,” said president of THAA P. Aasha Bharathi.

    BBC News – India HIV group backs gay rethink July 20, 2006

    Posted by qmediawatch in English, HIV, Section 377, Television.
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    Story from BBC NEWS:
    Published: 2006/07/20 15:24:20 GMT


    The Indian government’s HIV/Aids control body has backed calls for homosexuality to be legalised. The National Aids Control Organisation (Naco) said that infected people were being driven underground and efforts to curb the virus were being hampered. Naco supported a court motion filed by an Aids charity on Wednesday seeking to end a law criminalising homosexuality.Many homosexuals say they hide their orientation because of harassment, but correspondents say arrests are rare.Vulnerable to abuse

    “It [the law] can adversely contribute to pushing the infection underground and make risky sexual practices go unnoticed and unaddressed,” a Naco statement said.In evidence before the Delhi high court, Naco said that more than 8% of homosexual men in India were infected with HIV, compared to fewer than 1% in the general population.

    It said that homosexual people had not been provided with safe places to meet and were forced to use public areas such as toilets and railway stations.This left them more vulnerable to abuse by police, the group argued, and forced them into hiding with poor access to condoms, health care and safe-sex information.


    “The fear of harassment by law enforcement agencies leads to sex being hurried, leaving partners without the notion to consider safer sex practices,” it said.Correspondents say that Naco’s stance contradicts the position of the government, which told the Supreme Court last year that the country was not ready to accept gay people.The Supreme Court has since sent the case back to the Delhi high court.

    Figures released by the UN in May estimated that around 5.7 million Indians lived with Aids at the end of 2005, more than any other country and ahead of South Africa’s 5.5 million cases.India’s anti-homosexuality laws were drafted by the British in 1861. They make gay sex punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

    Section 377 of the Indian penal code prohibits “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”.Campaigners say that homosexuals face an uphill struggle to assert their rights in a country where public hugging and kissing – even among heterosexuals – attracts public disapproval.

    Article in Kumudam Reporter July 15, 2006

    Posted by qmediawatch in Tamil.

    This is an article that appeared in Kumudam Reporter.

    Article in Thinnai July 14, 2006

    Posted by qmediawatch in Online/New Media, Tamil.
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    An article that appeared in an online magazine Thinnai.

    PDF Link

    Article in Vikatan July 14, 2006

    Posted by qmediawatch in Tamil.
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    This is an article that appeared serially in the Tamil magazine Vikatan.

    Part I of the Article in PDF format

    Part II of the Article in PDF format

    Times Of India Article on Bisexuality July 2, 2006

    Posted by qmediawatch in Bisexual, English.

    TOI article on Bisexuality .Publication:Times Of India Mumbai; Date:Jul 2, 2006; Section:Times Review

    TWO BITES – Could you be bisexual? Like blogs and iPods once were, this is the new buzz today. Everybody is saying that everyone else is ‘bi’. Nilanjana Sengupta on whether it is possible for us to be so inclined By Sabrina Buckwalter .

    A few years ago, Angelina Jolie famously said she enjoyed spending time with her female lovers. Though no such high-profile entity has advocated the cause of bisexuality in India, it is a phenomenon that is being talked about, overtly and covertly. Being bisexual is no longer the exclusive domain of ‘an’ actor or ‘a’ director. It could be your neighbour, your best pal’s girlfriend, or your favourite youth icon. It doesn’t seem to need the kind of ‘coming-out’ process that is so integral to gays and lesbians, or even the support structure of activists. It seems you can be a bed-hopping urban bisexual for whom a heterosexual relationship is not just a security blanket.

    “Over the years, there has been a distinct change in how bisexuality is perceived. There is more conversation about it today, and it is part of an identity that goes with being cool and fashionable,” says Vinay Chandran, executive director of Swabhava Trust, an NGO that looks after the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, also called LGBT. But can bisexuality truly be a natural human behaviour?

    Though the textbook definition of bisexuality as attraction to both men and women is clear enough, there are studies that propose it as a defence against homosexuality. In the First World, men see bisexuality as a stepping stone before they eventually and inevitably jump full on into gayness. ‘Bi now, gay later’, they call it. In India, a sub-conscious need to emulate the herd leads to gays experimenting with marriage, and therefore bisexuality. More importantly, it helps them stay on the right side of the law with Section 377 of the IPC criminalising same-sex relationships. Religious ideas linked to procreation and the need to find an issue to perform the last rites also lead many men into tying the knot, when they would rather be with other men.

    Forty-year-old Lisa, who discovered her husband with another man five years into her marriage, was told by her counsellor that 99% of men are homosexual and they only marry to have children. “I don’t necessarily subscribe to that theory,” she says sighing. “But it helps me stay in my marriage.”

    In India, the chances of a person being confused about his or her sexuality are particularly high. One is expected to be normal, which is a description of heterosexuality. But interestingly, here the concept of friendship between same-sex people is much deeper than elsewhere. It is common to spend more time with people of the same gender in boarding schools and family functions. Inevitably, experts say, some people grow fonder of members of the same sex. They end up performing the rites of heterosexuality but long for a different company. This is how bisexuality resides in India, in a socially accepted disguise. There are a fair amount of people who regard bisexuals as genuine enough to enjoy both the genders. Homosexuals describe such bisexuals as greedy and fickle, selfish people who just can’t seem to make a commitment. Gay men also don’t tend to get involved with bisexual men because they think these men are not serious about their sexuality. “Bisexuals are seen as people who can balance it out, or enjoy the best of both worlds,” says a 35-year-old gay man who was once married to a woman. “But I could not manage it.” Counsellors say that homosexuals who marry — either due to societal pressure or because they think they can get away with it — invariably cannot keep the garb on for long. They find the touch of the opposite sex uncomfortable and soon suffer from depression. Those who remain are probably genuine bisexuals. They are rarer than one thinks. Time and again the ‘bisexuals’ one encounters are the ones suffering the camouflage of marriage. Like one of Bollywood’s leading filmmakers. His personal favourite flick is Ang Lee’s Oscar-nominated Brokeback Mountain because the Heath Legder-Jake Gyllenhaal story has many similarities to his own life. Though he is “happily” married and has a son from his stunning wife, he lets it be known that his heart beats for another man. He admits that though he has worked with some of Bollywood’s most attractive actresses, he was never attracted to them. Almost 25 years ago, he realised that he was more attracted to the leading men in the movies than he was to the ladies. And he has been in a relationship with a male for over a decade while sustaining the farce of his conventional marriage. “I come from a conservative Hindu home. My parents would’ve been shocked if they knew of my sexual preference. And I have no intentions of hurting them.” He also feels that “a wife, and an attractive one at that, is an enviable prop”. His wife is unaware of his preferences.

    It is perilous to generalise about any group because human behaviour is complex. For instance, not all heterosexuals have the same concept of man and woman. A heterosexual serial rapist and a similar but more law-abiding man who is devoted to his wife will not have the same concept of ‘woman’. Similarly, people who share a sexual orientation do not necessarily have identical views or practices with respect to gender, relationships, monogamy or any other topic.

    “One has to separate attraction from behaviour. Just as a heterosexual woman may find herself attracted to many men but choose to make her life with only one, a bisexual person may be attracted to many people but choose to make his or her life with one person,” says Dr L Ramakrishnan, country director (programs and research) of Solidarity and Action Against HIV Infection in India. This means that in many cases, the attraction to same-sex members may be nothing more than fleeting moments in the life of a regular person who probably would never physically stray outside heterosexuality.

    While discourse about bisexuality may be surfacing in recent times, it’s as old as human civilisation. It pre-dates evolution of humans. Several species of animals, most noticeably bonobos and other apes with whom we share significant parts of our evolution, exhibit sexual activity with both sexes.

    In India, sexual activity with members of both sexes is discussed in texts such as Kamasutra, and depicted in art and sculpture such as Rajasthani paintings and Khajuraho sculptures. ‘Same sex love in India’, authored by Saleem Kidwai and Ruth Vanita delves into instances in ancient, medieval, modern, and post-modern Indian texts, and Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Islamic, and Christian literature. The Hindu god Harihara or Ayyappa was apparently the son of Vishnu and Shiva, the former in drag and the latter pursuing her “as a lordly elephant would a sheelephant”. Skandha, literally meaning a jet of sperm, was born after the fire god Agni swallowed Shiva’s semen. In the Mahabharata, Arjuna, aroused by Krishna’s beautiful waist and red lips had sex with him as ‘Arjuni’. TNN

    (Inputs by Meena Iyer)

    Chimps too, starfish even

    Bisexuality is not a human being’s exclusive domain. Formal studies show that other animals are equally excited about a samegender romp. In the entire animal kingdom, more than 500 species have been found to have behavioural and even biological bisexual traits.

    According to chimpanzee and gorilla expert, Jane Goodall, chimpanzees form small bisexual social groups. Led by a mature male and a mature female, they engage in sex with the same gender, and with the opposite gender as well for procreation. Bisexuality has also been observed in orca whales, bottlenose dolphins and humboldt penguins. And even among some fish, flatworms and crustaceans.

    After a decade-long research stint, Dr Bruce Bagemihl put down his observations on the subject in his book titled, ‘Biological Exuberance — Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity’. He says that animals like gazelles, bison and antelope form bisexual bonds that extend much deeper than sexual activity. He saw long-term coupling behaviour in some animals. A male bottlenose dolphin, for instance, will engage in heterosexual sex early in life. But as he ages, he will partner with a male dolphin for many years, forming a sometimes sexual, and often a protective and an intimate relationship.