Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: A call to make a well-measured scientific input to the debate about Section 377 that criminalises homosexual activity was made on Saturday at a citizen’s forum organised by Action Plus, a coalition of NGOs committed to working on issues of people living with HIV/AIDS.

The citizen’s forum itself was a sedate, cool-headed response by members of the communities most affected by the stigma, one each from the gay, lesbian and transgender groups. Suniti Solomon, founder-director, YRG Care, said the seminar is an attempt to challenge denials and the norms of gender.

Sumathi of LesBit, a support group for lesbians/bisexual women and transgenders based in Bangalore, spoke of her early exposure to a lesbian suicide of a young girl who was being forced into a conventional marriage. The very idea of living together with a male was despicable for women who are lesbians. However most families do not understand this; they keep up the pressure to form conventional relationships and get into heterosexual marriages.

Kalki, who started the Sahodari Foundation to help transgenders in 2006, said she was clear that the movement towards an equitable society that would include the transgenders would be a slow journey. “We do not expect changes instantly. For instance, though we look at ourselves as women and ideally would not want the “transgender” column in addition to male and female when stating sex, we realise there is a time for everything,” she added.

Srivath, a dentist, spoke on behalf of the gay community. Growing up, his effeminateness alienated him from friends, but he was lucky to have overcome this discrimination. Reaching out for support, he found others like him, who helped him to walk the mile.

Sexologist Narayana Reddy said the discriminatory attitudes against people with homosexual preferences and transgenders arose from the lack of knowledge in society today and wherever knowledge was available, a lack of comfort with it. He also called for a temperate debate on the Article 377 issue.

Psychiatrist Vijay Nagaswami said the concerns of the community must be taken out into the society and not merely debated among sympathisers. A panel of four jury members including L.Ramakrishnan of Saathii, Miriam Samuel of Christian Medical College, Vellore, advocate Anitha Sumanth and R.K.Radhakrishnan of The Hindu, also concurred. All the constituents of the society must come together and work towards changing attitudes, irrespective of how long it will take, he added.