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LGBT campaign that won school an award suddenly turns illegal

The school won the “national youth leader” award for socially conscious leadership.

Written by Shikha Sharma | New Delhi | Published: December 12, 2013 1:55 am

Students of Tagore International School,Vasant Vihar,will remember judgment day as an anti-climax of sorts.

The school won the “national youth leader” award instituted by the Khemka Foundation for socially conscious leadership,on the back of a one-of-a-kind campaign for the LGBT community run by its students,beating schools from across South Asia.

On Wednesday,they were informed by their teachers about the Supreme Court ruling that upholds the section criminalising homosexuality.

“It’s strange. A few days ago,we were felicitated for our efforts. Now,all of a sudden,what we are doing becomes

illegal. More than anything,

we are extremely shocked and upset at what has happened,” Shivanee Sen,project mentor and assistant counsellor at the school,said.

The students had launched “Breaking Barriers”,a campaign for the rights of LGBT members,when Safina Amin,one of the students,encountered a post on the school’s confession page on Facebook. “I’m a lesbian and you can’t understand me,” the post proclaimed. “That set me thinking,and I realised it was true. I didn’t know much about being lesbian or the LGBT community. Whatever little I knew was through television or internet. I imagined living my entire life without being understood. And then I decided to do something about it,” she said. “The idea was simple — to impart information about people with alternative genders and sexualities,create empathy and tolerance in students. The more we thought about it,the more sense it made,because the bullying,discrimination and harassment of LGBT individuals usually starts at the school level.”

It would take the team of 25-odd students nine months to reach there. The group would do extensive research and engage with members of the community to understand their issues. They created presentations and showed it to family members to neighbours. Late in October,the students decided to spread awareness in schools across the capital by giving presentations in other schools,holding workshops and shooting films.

“We did not see this ruling coming. We thought there will be controversy,there will be issues,but such a harsh decision was not expected,” Tanya Bhardwaj,another volunteer,said.

“Everything that we created cannot be talked about. But what breaks my heart is when I think of the LGBT members we met in this journey. I remember their strife and struggles,the discrimination they told us about,and how it will start all over again.”

But the students are not giving up yet. “All of us plan to write to the right authorities and get together as a group. We are also thinking of liaising with colleges and youth groups,and at least try and be a part of the youth response,” Sen said.

When they started out,the students were hoping to reach out to at least 10,000 people through 15 schools by the year end. “But all we have heard is a resounding no from schools so far. A teacher in Haryana even told us that her life will be at risk if she supports this campaign. But we are not giving up,” Sen said.

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