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Same sex activists come together in Chennai May 25, 2008

Posted by qmediawatch in Lesbian, Suicides, Times of India.
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Same Sex Activists come together in Chennai – Times of India

CHENNAI: It was an unusual get-together for Chennai. And more radical was the agenda that rolled out. A group of activists, including women who celebrate alternative sexuality, on Saturday decided to start a counselling-cum-support centre for lesbians in the state.

Besides setting up a hot line that will lend them a ear, the support group will work towards preventing tragic suicides like that of Christy and Rukmani, who set themselves ablaze in their home in the city on May 17 after they were prevented from living together.

“The decision to set up such a centre was born out of a need to reach out to lesbians here and prevent their isolation,” said A Ponni, a researcher in the Bangalore-based, Alternative Law Forum. “And the case of Christie and Rukmani is not the first in Tamil Nadu. There have been a number of such cases here, and of women wanting to run away and get married,” she said.

According to a letter drafted by several Delhi-based activist groups, which would be circulated among progressive and like-minded people across Tamil Nadu, eight lesbian suicides have taken place in the state from the beginning of 2008 alone. In Kerala, in the past 10 years, more than 35 lesbian couples are said to have killed themselves.

Amidst growing concern for Tamil Nadu’s lesbians, activists came together in Chennai for the first time to protest against Sec 377 of the Indian Penal Code (carnal intercourse against the order of nature), besides chalking out plans to set up a centre that will counsel lesbians and fight their cause. The section is widely used by the police to book homosexuals.

Activist lawyer, Sudha Ramalingam, who spoke at the meeting, pointed out that criminal law came under the concurrent list. “Tamil Nadu, the land of Periyar and self-respect movement, could be prodded to demand for repealing this regressive law,” she said, adding that she would be part of an advocacy group to fight against Sec 377.

Meanwhile, the letter by ‘Voices against Sec 377’ and other NGOs, pointed out that “repression of same-sex desire is not just a case of imposing one kind of desire and lifestyle on everyone, but is one that often paves the path to a question of life or death.”

The groups urged the state government “to acknowledge the reality of this repression and provide the space for every human being to uphold their right to live and love with freedom…”

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