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Clippings from the Mumbai press on Humsafar’s protest demonstration against Section 377 May 21, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Section 377, Times of India.
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All in Mumbai editions dated 20th May

Hindustan Times

Gay rights activists ride train of protest

Board locals, alight at several stations with placards to raise awareness, oppose laws against homosexuality
Shreevatsa Nevatia, Mumbai

GAY RIGHTS activists quietly but confidently made themselves heard on Monday. Nine of them boarded several local trains and stopped at almost every station on the Central and Western Lines, holding placards which read ‘We are against 377’ and ‘It’s better to love than hate’.

Activists of Mumbai’s first openly gay community based organisation, the Humsafar Trust, they hoped to raise awareness among the general pubic and mobilise several groups that have been tirelessly campaigning for an amendment of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which renders punishable “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with a man, woman or animal”, effectively criminalising consensual sex between men.

“We are also attempting to make people aware of the International Day against Homophobia that people around the world celebrate on May 17,” Girish Kumar, the group’s 30year-old leader said.

Originally from Karnataka, Kumar moved to Mumbai 12 years ago and believes that he has seen acceptance levels towards homosexuality rise.

“Even non-homosexual youth groups are coming forward and sup porting our activities,” he said.

This increased awareness, however, has not translated into a normalisation of the attitudes towards homosexuality or a letup in the harassment that gay men and women have to face on an almost daily basis.

Amit Singh (27) said their decision to stage protests at stations was a premeditated one.

“Ever so often you hear stories of gay men being arrested or extorted by the police on railway platforms or inside trains,” he said. “They have made harassing homosexuals a profitable business. This is why we need an immediate amendment to the law.”

There’s a reason why Monday was chosen as a day of protest: A writ petition demanding an amendment to Section 377, filed by Naz Foundation India, an NGO that works on the awareness of HIV/AIDS among gay men, has bounced back and forth ever since it was filed in the Delhi High Court in 2001.

It was dismissed by the Delhi High Court in 2004. An appeal was then filed in the Supreme Court, which remanded the matter back to the Delhi High Court. On April 7 this year, it was announced that the case would finally be up for hearing on May 19.

Halfway through their day-long campaign, Singh and his compatriots had found some reason to cheer.

Speaking from Delhi, chairman of the Humsafar Trust, Ashok Row Kavi, informed that since the Delhi High court adjourns for a summer break on May 31, final hearings of the case will mark the court’s calendar over the next few weeks, making a verdict seemingly imminent.

For long, critics of the petition have argued that in the absence of any other clearly stated law, a repeal of Section 377 will make the prosecution of child sex offenders virtually impossible.

Clarifying the position of the petitioners, Kavi said: “The petition filed by the Naz Foundation does not demand an abolishment of Section 377, it only asks for a ‘reading down’ so that consensual sex between men and adults no longer remains a criminal offence.”

The Times of India

It carried a story on section 377 to go with the photo of the demonstration. (for the text, please see the previous post)

Mumbai Newsline (city supplement of The Indian Express)

Navbharat Times (Hindi)

Yuva

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