Showing posts with label India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label India. Show all posts

January 11, 2019

Stigma is Keeping Delhi Men From Getting Tested for HIV

When the news broke that India’s Supreme Court had struck down a colonial-era law making gay sex illegal, the reaction in Delhi was jubilant, with public celebrations erupting across the capital.
Fast forward four months, and HIV/Aids charities are finding the old stigma and prejudice against members of the LGBT+ community are stubbornly refusing to go away.
Although attitudes towards gay relationships have softened in the past two decades, a 2016 survey found that even among young people, more than 60 per cent of respondents believed homosexuality was wrong.
That translates to “a lot of shame” among men who have sex with men (MSM), says Abhina Aher from the India HIV/Aids Alliance, a leading charity supported by the Elton John Aids Foundation (EJAF).
The Alliance has identified MSM as a key at-risk group being left behind in the country’s response to HIV, threatening India’s goal of meeting the UN’s “90-90-90” pledge by 2020. HIV prevalence rates are around 16 times higher in this group compared to the general public.
Intense societal pressure to get married at a young age makes the matter worse, Ms Aher says - Alliance estimates that 60 per cent of their MSM clients also have wives, making it very difficult to get them to open up about unsafe sex practices.
For many young men in India, anal sex is seen as harmless experimentation - the most common Hindi word for it is masti, literally meaning “fun”, or “mischief”. A complete lack of sex education means most people don’t realise it carries the same risk of infection as other forms of sex. 
“We get people who will say they f***ed a man but won’t admit that they liked it because it undermines their masculinity,” says Ms Aher. 
“If you don't want to acknowledge you are having sex with a man, you won't have conversations about STIs, you won't be careful about correct condom use. You don't want to talk about it - you just want to get it done!” 
Groups like the Alliance are having to come up with innovative ways to reach men having sex with men, to let them know that they are at risk of HIV and need to get tested. 
One option is to take advantage of the explosion of smartphone use in urban India. It is now thought that more than 50 per cent of all men in large cities like Delhi are online, and popular apps like Facebook, Grindr, WhatsApp and Instagram offer access to untapped communities that have never been subject to HIV outreach before.
Online trials have had very promising results. After a one-month test run with a social media consultant, the Alliance found the rate of clients getting tested at its Delhi clinic who heard about the service online rose from 6 per cent to 45 per cent.
Another agency using funding from EJAF has launched the website Safe Masti, which includes India’s first anonymous online chat service for MSM seeking more information about safe sex.
Programme manager Harsh Agarwal says the site has reached two million people in just 15 months. He believes government programmes, which exclusively rely on traditional methods of encouraging people to find out their HIV status, are increasingly out of touch.
“There has to be a shift to online, 100 per cent,” he says. “When you can meet anyone in the world from the comfort of your own home, no one in their right mind would want to keep cruising for sex [on the street].”
Safe Masti’s online chat service is manned by Vishwa Srivastava, a charismatic young doctor who says that - as a gay man who is also HIV+ himself - he can relate to shy and worried clients in a way counsellors at a public hospital never could.
Mr Srivastava described one case of a 21-year-old student from a poor family who was awaiting his initial HIV test results when he first reached out to the Safe Masti chatline.
“He hadn’t ever told anyone else about his sexuality, let alone about his HIV status. We talked, and when the test came out positive, he called me crying. He was feeling guilty and trapped. He felt like he was being punished by God because he is a sinner, for having gay sex.
“He didn’t know how he was going to inform his family. I helped him, I even sent him a little money to pay for travel to an NGO where he could start treatment. More than that, I could offer hope, and give him guidance for how he could go forward with his life.”
Despite the shift online, Delhi remains well-known in the LGBT+ community for its network of massage parlours, which are still among the most popular places gay men go to pay for sex.
Speaking at the Alliance’s Samarth clinic, former masseur Avinash says it will still be “some time” before attitudes shift in the wake of the September ruling of the Supreme Court striking down Section 377, a clause of the British-era Indian Penal Code that was interpreted as outlawing gay sex. 
Avinash is an HIV+ former masseur who now provides outreach work for the Samarth HIV/Aids clinic in Delhi. He says social media has huge potential to raise awareness of HIV testing, but can never fully replace one-to-one interactions with the LGBT+ community (Adam Withnall/The Independent)
“Many don’t understand what the 377 [ruling] is,” he says. “They think it means two kuthi (Hindi slang for an effeminate man) can get married, and that’s something they don’t think should be done.”
Avinash says he regularly experiences first-hand the stigma against gay men in Indian society. “You get used to being called names. But there have been times when it was physical abuse too.”
He was one of the first clients to be tested positive when the Samarth clinic opened in 2016, at a time when he was cruising for sex with multiple partners more or less every night.
His contacts within the massage parlour network have been invaluable to the Alliance, and he still believes there is a place for the traditional outreach worker in the battle against India’s HIV epidemic.
“The chunk of the population may stop using cruising spots to hook up, but social media has its limitations,” he says. “People may be using a smartphone, but a lot are less educated and they won’t understand what you are trying to say.
“If I’m trying to bring a person for a health check, that message will still require some explanation, and some kind of support [afterwards]. You need that one-to-one personal touch to get people to understand.”
Money raised from public donations through the AIDSfree appeal will be used to support the Elton John AIDS Foundation projects in six key cities around the world (London, Nairobi, Atlanta, Kiev, Delhi and Maputo). Through UK Aid Match the UK government will double public donations up to £2m to be spent across projects in Maputo and Nairobi.

September 28, 2018

India Keeps Coming Out of The Dark: "Women Are Not Chattel" Man Is Not The Master, Strikes Adultery Law

India's Supreme Court has struck down a colonial-era law that made adultery illegal, calling it arbitrary and saying it is unconstitutional because it "treats a husband as the master."
Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code makes it a crime for a man to have intercourse with another man's wife "without the consent or connivance of that man."
The law gives a husband exclusive right to prosecute his wife's lover — and does not grant a wife power to do the same. It does not penalize the woman, nor any married man who has sex with an unmarried woman.
The 158-year-old law dates back to Victorian times, during British colonial rule of India. The penalty for adultery was up to five years in prison, or a fine, or both.
Noting that the law is singular in the penal code for treating men and women differently, Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, "The adultery law is arbitrary, and it offends the dignity of a woman."
He said adultery is grounds for divorce, but not jail time. The five-judge court said the law gives a husband license "to use the woman as chattel."  
"This is archaic law long outlived its purpose and does not square with constitutional morality," the bench said in separate, but concurring opinion to one issued by the chief justice.
The decision is the latest by an increasingly activist Indian Supreme Court that has done far more than the politicians in recent years to reorder sexual mores and advance gender equality in a deeply conservative, but rapidly modernizing society.
Misra, the chief justice, is retiring next week, and the court has been issuing rapid-fire judgments leading up to his departure. Many of the rulings are based on testimony heard earlier this year, but only released now.
Earlier this month, the court struck down a long-standing ban on gay sex. Last year, the justices outlawed the summary "triple talaq" divorce for Muslim men, and in a country with more child brides than anywhere in the world, the high court ruled that sex with an underage wife constitutes rape. 
The ruling to decriminalize adultery had been strongly opposed by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose center-right coalition is led by the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP. Modi advocated amending the law to make it gender-neutral while maintaining adultery as a criminal offense.
A female lawmaker from the opposition Congress party, Sushmita Dev, tweeted that the court had made an "excellent decision."
"A law that does not give women the right to sue her adulterer husband and can't be herself sued if she is in adultery is unequal treatment," she wrote. The adultery case came about as a result of a petition by Joseph Shine, a 41-year-old Indian businessman living in Italy.
Shine's 45-page petition "liberally quotes from American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, women rights activist Mary Wollstonecraft and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on gender equality and rights of women," according to the BBC. 
"Married women are not a special case for the purpose of prosecution for adultery. They are not in any way situated differently than men," Shine's petition said.

May 30, 2018

Transgender Woman Attacked and Killed by Mob After Reading WhatsApp Rumors

Image result for whatsapp new delhi

A transgender woman was killed and three others seriously injured when they were attacked by a mob of angry locals acting on rumors that the women were child traffickers in the Indian city of Hyderabad.
V. Satyanarayana, a deputy commissioner of police (South Zone) in Hyderabad, told CNN Monday that the women were begging in the southern suburb of Chandrayanagutta on Saturday night when they were set upon.
"They were begging for money from some shopkeepers in Chandrayanagutta at 11 p.m. when some unruly youths started saying they had come to kidnap children," Satyanarayana told CNN.
Satyanarayana said up to 20 people took part in the attack, while a crowd of up to 200 people stood by egging them on.
    The accusations stemmed from WhatsApp messages that have gone viral in the region, claiming that transgender women are behind a plot to kidnap young children. As of Monday, Satyanarayana said 12 people had been arrested. "For the last 15 days in India, especially in the Telugu-speaking states, a lot of rumors on WhatsApp and other social media have been shared about gangs kidnapping children," Satyanarayana said.
    He said images of dead children purportedly from India had been shared via text message, but they were found to originate from the war in Syria or alleged ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in Rakhine State, Myanmar. There is no basis for rumors of kidnap gangs in Hyderabad, he added. 
    "These mischief mongers are intentionally circulating such messages to create panic in the minds of the public," Satyanarayana said.
    Saturday's attack is not the first to have been triggered by false information circulated on WhatsApp. One day before the transgender attack, a man with mental health problems was beaten up in Pahadishareef, also in southern Hyderabad, over rumors that he was a member of a kidnap gang.
    When police arrived, they found the man had been stripped and beaten with sticks and pipes.
    By Manveena Suri, CNN
    New Delhi (CNN)

    May 2, 2018

    India's Supreme Court Asks Government Why They Want to Keep An Archaic Law Governing Same Sex Between Adults

     India's Supreme Court


     India’s government must explain its stand on consensual sexual relations between same-sex adults, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday, setting a July deadline for a response. 

    The court had heard petitions demanding the abolition of Section 377 - a colonial-era law that prohibits “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” - widely interpreted to refer to homosexual sex. 

    The court’s notice to the government “is a watershed in the whole fight against Section 377,” said petitioner Ashok Row Kavi, chairperson of Humsafar Trust, a charity that works with India’s LGBT community. 

    “The government will have to decide whether this colonial law should still stand relevant in a country that has its own constitution that protects fundamental rights of its citizens,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. 

    The Supreme Court had in a surprise ruling in 2013 reinstated a ban on gay sex after a four-year period of decriminalization, but it announced in January this year that it would reconsider the 2013 decision. 

    Those who submitted petitions to the court in the past couple months said they were living in constant fear of police due to their sexual orientations, and argued that the ban was unconstitutional. 

    Among the petitions, the judges considered on Tuesday was that of Arif Jafar, who was arrested under Section 377 in 2001 and was released after 49 days. His case is still pending. 

    Although the law banning homosexuality is rarely enforced in India, it is used to intimidate, harass, blackmail and extort money from gay people, activists say. 

    All forms of non-penile vaginal sex are also criminalized under Section 377. Gay sex is punishable by up to 10 years jail under the law. 

    There is no official data on the LGBT population in India, but the government estimates there are 2.5 million gay people, reflecting those who have declared their sexuality to the health ministry. 

    Campaigners say real numbers are far higher, as many conceal their identities fearing discrimination in a country where most marriages still take place within the boundaries of caste and religion. 

    NEW DELHI/MUMBAI(Thomson Reuters Foundation) -

    Reporting by Roli Srivastava @Rolionaroll; Editing by Jared Ferrie. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

    April 11, 2018

    The Panic, Cries Could Not Be Described But They Were Heard [23 Dead in Mainly Children in Bus Crash, India]

    The remains of a school bus that plunged into a gorge in Himachal Pradesh, India, on Monday.

    NEW DELHI — A speeding school bus plunged off a mountainside in northern India on Monday, killing 23 children and four adults, an official said. Several children managed to survive.

    “The scene was full of panic, cries, chaos and disaster,” said Rakesh Pathania, a local politician who was at the site of the crash.

    The bus, the authorities said, was carrying elementary school students from a private school in the state of Himachal Pradesh in the Himalayas when it swerved and fell hundreds of feet into a deep ravine around 3:15 p.m.

    The bus was carrying 40 people, and the children who died were between the ages of 4 and 12, said Prabodh Saxena, the principal secretary of the state government.
    “It is not clear why the bus crashed,” Mr. Saxena said. “We have called for an inquiry.”

    One surviving boy, 10-year-old Ranveer Singh, told The Hindustan Times that he heard a loud bang and the bus started rolling down the side of the gorge. “Just then the window near my seat broke and I and a girl sitting by my side fell out,” he said.

    That girl, along with several other students, survived the crash. A convoy of cars and bicycles made up of passers-by rushed to bring injured students to a nearby hospital before ambulances arrived at the scene near the town of Nurpur.

    Between 300 and 400 local residents “worked like monkeys” to rush down to the crash site and rescue trapped passengers, Mr. Pathania said. Most of the children died from head injuries or suffocation. The bus was so badly crushed that workers had to “cut open the body of the bus” with rods and stones to rescue passengers.

    Mr. Pathania said 12 of the children were still in the hospital, and that one of them was in critical condition.

    Among the dead were the bus driver, two female teachers and an unidentified person who hitched a ride on the bus, Mr. Saxena said.

    The bodies of two dozen children, all under the age of 13, were taken to the government mortuary in Nurpur. There, they were placed on the building’s concrete floor, covered with sheets as their families arrived to identify them.

    A father of a dead child grieved outside a government hospital in Nurpur. Credit Ashwini Bhatia/Associated Press

    “I am deeply anguished by the loss of lives,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India said on Twitter. “My prayers and solidarity with those who lost their near and dear ones.”

    India has one of the world’s highest traffic fatality rates, according to the World Health Organization. More than 207,550 people were killed in road accidents in 2013, according to United Nations statistics.

    Poorly paved roads and a lack of guardrails make the country’s mountain roads particularly perilous. Vehicles are often old and not well maintained, and many drivers receive little formal training before getting behind the wheel.

    On Tuesday morning, another bus driver lost control of his vehicle on a dangerous stretch of highway near the city of Pune and veered off the road. Officials said the driver may have been speeding and that at least 17 people heading to a construction site, including children, were killed.


    One surviving child was identified only as Nishant.CreditAshwini Bhatia/Associated Pres  


    The bodies of the dead children were placed on the floor of a mortuary in Nurpur. CreditAshwini Bhatia/Associated Press 

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    September 4, 2017

    The English Empire Homophobic Teachings and Laws Will Come to An End In India

    In a landmark ruling, India’s Supreme Court has confirmed an individual’s right to privacy—including sexual orientation—under the country’s constitution. The ruling on August 24 offers new hope for the LGBTQ+ community in India, still living under the homophobic legacy of the British Empire which criminalized same-sex relationships. A formal judgment on the law, known as Section 377, is still pending and the hope is that the court will repeal this toxic colonial hangover.
    This legacy dates back 157 years to a dark part of imperial history. In 1860, the British Raj—the empire in India—had been in place for three years. The British East India Company had given way to crown control after the 1857 Sepoy Rebellion and justified its conquest with a promise of bringing “civilization” to its colonies. Part of this civilizing rhetoric was tied in with reforming the ways in which desire and love were practiced and accepted.
    At the time, a multitude of social norms existed within the borders of the Indian subcontinent largely influenced by religion, geography, and occasionally by ethnicity. Suggesting there was a monolithic and singular attitude to anything was misleading. In contrast, there was a rich diversity of the ways in which sexuality was understood. Even in socially conservative areas, same-sex intimacy was simply a part of life.
    Awadh, in modern-day Lucknow, had a ruler who would practice living as the opposite gender at times, including changing sexual partners. Bengali novels from the late 19th century such as Indira describe lesbian relationships. Texts such as the Kama Sutra contain advice for consensual same-sex intercourse. And Sufi Muslim texts in East India explicitly mention homosexual male romance.
    This clashed with the British crown’s idea of how a society should be. In a system dictated by Victorian Christian morality, any form of intimacy that was not geared towards having and raising children was unacceptable. Homosexual desire was the worst of these offenses.
    With such a rigid vision in mind, the empire implemented Section 377in the Raj. The law made it a criminal offense to engage in any form of “unacceptable carnal desire.” Perpetrators could be jailed, given a heavy fine, or both. The law was exported to Australia, Southeast Asia, and African British colonial outposts as well.

    No united opposition

    Historically, Section 377 did not explicitly target homosexuals. It was meant to deter any type of sex that was not for the purposes of having children. This theoretically included protected sex between a heterosexual couple and also effectively outlawed forms of birth control. But in practice, this proved impossible to police, and over the decades, the implementation of the law came to focus purely on homosexual desire.
    India’s diversity of sexual expression proved to be a weakness against this relentless campaign. The lack of a united narrative about homosexuality across India meant that there was no singular dissenting voice against the forced implementation of Section 377 in 1860. This was combined with a powerful propaganda machine which linked British military success with rigid masculinity and the Indian conquest with femininity among men. In particular, historical pamphlets and writings on the military victory in 1857 and the earlier victory in Bengal (the Battle of Plassey) made clear reference to the “inferiority of the effeminate Indians”.
    There was also a concentrated and largely successful effort to alienate and undermine the agency of women and of gender non-binary communities, such as Hijra—a third gender identity who are born male or intersex but present as feminine in a dress. Today, Hijra are recognized and protected by law in IndiaPakistan, and Bangladesh.
    This resulted in the firm establishment of legalized homophobia (and also misogyny and wider queer discrimination) in the subcontinent over the course of the Raj. By the time the Indian independence movement began to gain viable momentum in the 20th century, the challenges to Section 377 had died out and any narrative of queer emancipation was erased from both sides of the debate.

    Homophobic laws retained

    At the moment of their birth, Pakistan and India moved toward new constitutions and penal codes, yet many remnants of colonial control remained. Section 377 was retained in their respective statute books. When Bangladesh gained its independence from Pakistan in 1971, it was maintained there as well. It is still maintained in all three countries of the erstwhile Raj—India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
    In fact, of the 72 countries of the world where homosexuality is illegal today, 36 punish homosexuality due to some version of 377. It is a toxic hangover which makes the 52-strong Commonwealth of Nations the most homophobic global bloc of countries.
    Two key commemorations of British history are being marked in 2017. The 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which partially decriminalized homosexual sex between consenting adults in Britain, and the 70th anniversary of the partition of India and Pakistan, which brought British imperial rule on the Indian subcontinent to an end. Both anniversaries are being celebrated as a triumph of progress and equality.
    The UK, Pakistan, and India are all correct to celebrate the long journeys they have taken. But it is vital that marginalized voices are heard, too. To confine colonialism to the history books, all of its legacies must be dealt with and erased completely. India’s Supreme Court could be on the way to making this happen. A petition is in the process of being submitted in the Bangladeshi Supreme Court but no progress has been reported, and there is no explicit case in Pakistan as of yet. Until this is redressed, there can be no true freedom.
    The ConversationThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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