A closed-door survey, ‘Queer and Political’, has elicited over 750 responses so far from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, which is demanding that the political parties spell out their stand on same sex relations.
It was a major setback for gay rights activists when the Supreme Court in January this year threw out a ruling of the Delhi High Court that decriminalised homosexuality. Since then, gay rights activists and LGBT groups have been garnering support from various sections of society.
“Political parties simply cannot ignore us. We need to know their stand on IPC 377, which criminalises homosexual intercourse even when it is between consenting adults and done in private,” said Bindu Madhav Khire, gay activist and founder of Samapathik Trust. For the past two years, Samapathik Trust has been providing HIV/STI prevention services to 1,600 men having sex with men (MSM), gays and the transgender population in Pune and PCMC, through a targeted intervention programme funded by Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS).
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Khire pointed out that the LGBT community considers the law unjust and unconstitutional. “We believe sexual relations between any two consenting adults (irrespective of biological sex) is a private matter and the law should not step into the bedroom.”
“Our struggle continues. We have given letters asking for support from all the political parties. The Congress had slammed the SC for reinstating the ban on gay sex. But we need it writing from the political party which will carry our fight all the way to Parliament,” said Vivek Anand, CEO of Humsafar Trust, a Mumbai-based grassroots organisation that addresses health, social concerns of LGBTs.
Pallav Patankar, director, HIV programmes at Humsafar Trust, said a survey has been undertaken to understand the views of the LGBT community on who will best represent them. “Which party will really take up our cause? We need to be firm on our stand. The survey has already fetched a response that demands politicians take up their issues,” Anand said.
Equally perturbed are the sex workers at Budhwar Peth, who have time and again demanded pension. Tejaswi Sevekari — founder of Saheli Sangh, a sex workers collective of 1,760 women at Budhwar Peth — said politicians do not want to take any stand on their issues.
Meenatai Koli, secretary of the Sangh, pointed out that there are several older women who are no longer into prostitution. However, they have no source of income. “We will reiterate our demand for pension,” Koli said.
Many trangenders don’t want to be in ‘others’ category
Transgenders are in a fix as many don’t want to be included in ‘others’ list on the voter identity card. Vijay Jadhav, transgender at Budhwar Peth, said he is listed as ‘male’ in the voter card and prefers it this way as it is easier to apply for property-related claims. “There are so many other documents like PAN card, which do not have ‘others’ category. So, there should be a clear cut policy on these issues,” Jadhav said. Transgenders are not listed as either male or female, and face several problems pertaining to their identity right, from which ward to be admitted to at hospitals to even which jail they are sent to if arrested. That the state has recommended in its women’s policy to include sex workers, transgenders in the welfare programmes is a welcome step, said T Jayarajan, director, documentation at Pathfinder NGO, which provides targeted interventions to the marginalised groups. However, several issues are still unresolved, he added.