Halla Bol against 377: soon to be silenced?

Those who believe in equality, liberty and universal human rights must come together right now and ensure that India retains its rainbow of diversity. Representatives of the MTH community based organisations, partnering with Pehchan North Region office gave a strident call for the scrapping of the obsolete and homophobic section 377 of the Indian penal code. The ‘207 against 377’ campaign was launched in Patna a fortnight ago.

The event, attended by representatives from the State AIDS Society, leading city NGOS and international organisations. The impact of the contentious Supreme Court decision that re-imposed the criminalisation of consensual penetrative intercourse between members of the same sex has resulted in hundreds of HIV positive people once again going ‘underground’ – not being able to access ART treatment and further putting society at risk, said Gyan Ranjan of Bihar Network of (HIV) Positive people. IPC 377 adds injury to the insults already heaped on effeminate males and transgender people, exposing them to blackmail and extortion from corrupt policemen.

“It is a bad law that forces over 8 crore people of India to remain invisible, and prevents HIV prevention workers from delivering services to the most vulnerable communities. In the past, HIV workers have been thrown into prison on trumped up charges of ‘abetting unnatural sex’ under IPC 377, when they reached out to non-heterosexual populations with condoms and information on safer sex,” said Nilesh Kumar, advocacy officer for Pehchan, one of the 207 organisations in the HIV Aids Alliance that are part of this national campaign. Some 4,53,750 HIV positive MSM, transgender, and Hijra are currently connected with HIV and AIDS treatment through government and NGO partnerships nationwide, he said.

Speaking in the same vein, Bihar State AIDS Society director for Targeted interventions Pankaj Priya Choubey, reiterated the position of NACO and BSACS that IPC 377 should go in the best interests of the health of the nation. There are over 1,000 non-heterosexual HIV positive males identified in various districts of Bihar through the efforts of BSACS, partly because of the decriminalisation of same sex activity brought about by the Delhi High Court judgement. Most of these are from the labouring classes. The reversal of the judgement has created a fear factor which will hamper further interventions to stem infections via the non-heterosexual route, he indicated.

Kumar Deepak of DISHA urged the participants to engage with the local candidates from various political parties who are now on the campaign trail and seek their support to address this issue in the next Lok Sabha. “It’s time to take this issue about human rights and human dignity to the people. You have to work on changing the prejudiced mindset. The key is to work with the open-minded leaders who have already expressed their views in favour of scrapping IPC 377,” he said.

Arindam of PLAN international, while expressing solidarity with the campaign, urged the Bihar based organisations to work together in a spirit of unity and cooperation with other human rights based groups. Consultations with local administrations, health service providers, universities will go towards sensitizing the general population, he said.

Community based organisations from Bihar, based in Sasaram, Bhabua, Aurangabad, Purnea are expected to coordinate the campaign against 377 and engage with local leaders and organisations. The focus of the campaign is to shatter the pervasive ‘culture of silence’ and help civil society accept the LGBT minority which exists across class, caste, cultures, and religions.

So far 207 organisations have joined the ‘Halla Bol’ against 377, but the question that hangs in the balance is whether these ‘protests’ are just cosmetic in nature. The media forecasts that the next government may be led by a Hindu rightist party that clings to the myth and the prejudice that same sex expressions of love are ‘foreign in nature’. Once the BJP and its saffron sporting sadhus start calling the shots, it’s very possible that superstition and silencing of the liberal voices will start, and these CBOs and their supportive NGO friends may once again become invisible.

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Posted by on April 6, 2014. Filed under Breaking News,Editorial,RAINBOW. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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