KARNATAKA

Call for exercising tolerance towards sexuality minorities

Staff Reporter

People’s Panchayat on ‘Stigma and Homophobia’ was organised by Action Plus



Action Plus works for the rights, education and care of People Living with HIV and AIDS

Similar panchayats will be held in other cities in the next few months



Bangalore: “If I had got the required attention and recognition from my family, friends and society, I would have become a teacher by now. But life played a different game with me and I had to undergo a lot of torture and harassment from my people because I was not what I wanted to be. I was Mallikarjuna Swamy [boy] earlier, but I always wanted to be a girl,” said Chandini, a transgender.

Chandini, Revathy, Sashi, Christy and Dil Feraz are the five members from the sexuality minorities who deposed before the People’s Panchayat on “Stigma and Homophobia”, organised by Action Plus on Wednesday. This organisation is a coalition of 15 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from across the country working for the rights, education and care of People Living with HIV and AIDS.

All the five members narrated their childhood experiences and the harassment they faced from family, friends, neighbours, teachers and public as they discovered their identity and sexual preferences.

Adoption

Revealing that she wanted to experience all the phases of womanhood, Chandini said how difficult it was for her to adopt a child.

After going through several hurdles, she was finally able to adopt a sex worker’s girl child with the help of some friends and organisations.

Revathy explained how she faced violence in society. Christy, a female to male transgender, said: “It is unfortunate that the society does not allow us to have our own identity.”

Panel

An expert panel, comprising Arvind Narrain of Alternative Law Forum and community leader Reginald Watts, summed up the reality of stigma and homophobia from the medical, legal, ethical and rights perspectives.

Tolerance, acceptance

Leaders of various faiths, who heard the experiences of these members, said it was high time that Indian society practised religious tolerance and social acceptance of sexuality minorities.

Father Francis Guntipalli from the Catholic Archdiocese said that all oppressed people and minority communities were dear to God. “It is unfortunate that despite the constitutional guarantee to equality, sexuality minorities are facing harassment at the hands of police, who have to protect them,” he said.

‘Need for change’

Nirmala Vasantkumar of the CSI diocese said it had taken ages for women to achieve equality. “We need to bring change, and we have begun. But it is a long struggle ahead and the church is with you,” she said. Jain leader Muni Dharmesh, a disciple of Acharya Mahapragya, commended the organisers for bringing people of all faiths together. Chandramouli and Saud Akthar spoke on behalf of Hindu and Muslim communities, respectively.

Other panchayats

According to the organisers, similar panchayats would be held in other cities in the next few months.

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