The Students Federation of India (SFI) is making a statewide push for LGBTQ rights on college campuses. Its plans include mega conventions, awareness campaigns, counselling family members and the provision of legal support.
On September 6, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court legalised same-sex relations between consenting adults.
“If any member of the LGBTQ community faces harassment in campuses, please come to us. We will help you. Even if students face problems at home, we will counsel parents. If students need legal help, we will reach out with that… Their identity will not be revealed if they do not want it to be,” said Aparatim Roy, SFI state committee member.
“There are so many instances in which members of the community were harassed. There are even instances where family members of students have hired criminals to act against couples,” said Apratim.
As part of the initiative, SFI members are reaching out to colleges, universities and hostels, where it is planning a series of awareness drives regarding LGBTQ rights. Outside campuses, the SFI said it plans to focus on reducing social stigma.
“We have already organised a convention on this issue, in which LGBTQ community members have participated and spoken. We are planning another big one shortly. We are not opening a separate unit for them. We do not believe in segregation. We are reaching out to the LGBTQ community as one of our own and fighting for their rights,” said Srijan Bhattacharya, SFI state president.
“In the convention held recently, apart from noted speakers, community members voiced their thoughts and opinions. Some BJP leaders have already called it (the community) a disease. We will combat such ideology in campuses,” said Mayukh Biswas, SFI all-India joint secretary.
In 2016, the Kerala SFI unit had included the option of “other gender” in its membership forms in Kerala. Later, it also launched a campaign giving membership to a transgender student. A member of the LGBTQ community was also elected as an SFI district committee member in Thrissur.
Pawan Dhall, founder of Varta Trust, which runs India’s first LGBTQ health and legal helpline ‘Reach Out’, said, “We welcome the initiative. It’s long overdue. Previously, such statements came from political parties.”