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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Article in Financial Times London mentioning AASRA's work

Financial Times,London
Concern over Indian investors' suicides
By James Lamont in New Delhi
Friday Nov 7 2008 13:35

The global financial crisis is taking its toll in India's cities as some despairing investors and stockbrokers seek refuge from their losses and debt in suicide.

A wave of financially related deaths over the past month has sparked concerns about the vulnerability of unsophisticated investors and borrowers encouraged by rising markets and easy credit in one of the world's fastest growing economies.

"We are seeing a rise in the number of suicides happening as a result of financial pressures," said Johnson Thomas, the director of Aasra, which runs a suicide prevention helpline in Mumbai.
Concern over Indian investors' suicides
By James Lamont in New Delhi
Friday Nov 7 2008 13:35
continued from previous page

"People are committing suicide because of difficulties associated with globalisation and a life all about debt. Lots of people are living beyond their means."

As billions of rupees have been wiped off the Bombay Stock Exchange, Aasra has started holding outreach sessions in India's financial capital for distressed workers at financial institutions and the bourse.

A 24-year-old stockbroker in Hyderabad was one of the latest casualties of the markets fall. Police said Amir Ali Virani of Omen Solutions had taken his life after losing money when the Sensex index fell below 8,000 points last month. He was found hanging from a ceiling fan at his home.

A few days earlier in the same city, Bhupendra, another stockbroker, blew himself up with his wife and baby son by igniting a gas cylinder.

In spite of assurances by Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, that the country is resilient to the credit crisis, death for some is preferable to the shame of financial loss. Police in Mumbai last month discovered a family destroyed by overwhelming credit card debt. Seventy-year-old A. K. Nair and his wife had swallowed poison. Their middle-aged daughter and son had hanged themselves. Between them, they had 73 credit cards. The siblings had two cars and had taken out a bank loan to start a new business.

Also in Mumbai, a 34-year-old stock market investor, Parag Tanna, killed himself and his pregnant wife. In a suicide note to his mother, Mr Tanna, who had lost his job with a brokerage, said he saw no way out of his personal financial crisis.

Police estimate that 118,000 people in India killed themselves in 2006, a rise of 34 per cent over a decade.

About 1,000 farmers hit by crop failure and debt kill themselves every month, often with lethal draughts of insecticide, according to official figures.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Pakistani girl commits suicide/Appeal for release of her parents

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has obtained information that a girl whose parents have been detained in India committed suicide on November 3, 2008 due to the hardship of taking care of her sisters. We ask for your participation to join the petition asking for both prime ministers to take steps to release the detainees.

We earlier reported that 61 Pakistanis have been detained since May 2008 for alleged forgery of visa documents, which were according to them, issued by visa agents in Pakistan. (AHRC-UAG-013-2008)

Please write letters to the prime ministers of Pakistan and India asking them to take steps to release the detainees who are also victimised by visa agents in Pakistan.

To support this appeal, please click here:

A Petition to the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan

Dear _____,

PAKISTAN/INDIA: A young girl commits suicide in protest as her sisters starve and her parents and brother are detained indefinitely in India

A 16 year-old girl committed suicide on November 3, 2008, to protest against the increasingly desperate situation of her parents and eight year-old brother, detained in India's Jodhpur prison since May, and of her sisters left behind in Pakistan. Ms. Saba Hussain is the daughter of Mr. Mohammad Hussain (Passport number AC 370290, Visa Number P 756531), who has been arrested for the forgery of visa documents.

Hussain and his family entered India (through Mona Bao to Sao Jan city from Karachi) on March 28, 2008, and traveled freely within the country before being arrested on forgery charges on their return to the border in May. The family says that they were unaware of fraudulent changes that visa agents had made to their visas.

Hussain and his wife had left six girls in Karachi, Pakistan with his 80 year-old mother. Before going to India they had put aside enough food for a month, but seven months later the girls have nothing left to live on. Because the household is entirely female there is little the girls can do to get money. They have no male protection in a society that requires it, and to try to arrange loans would leave them vulnerable to abuse. Relatives taunted the girls, though they helped them for a short time. However now the siblings--most of which have had to leave school--are growing increasingly desperate, as demonstrated by Saba's suicide.

Other than the deceased girl, the daughters are Isha, 7, Aqsa, 10, Wajiha, 12 and Farah Naz, 20 years old. The mother, Mrs. Yasmeen Hussain, 45, (Passport number: KC 196391, Visa number: P 756529) and Master Abdul Karim are with Mohammad in prison.

There are increasing indications that visa fraud is coming from the nexsus between criminal agents in Karachi and members inside Islamabad's Indian High Commission. The distance between the two cities encourages people to use courier-agent services for visas, and some are being duped with insubstantial or forged products, and then arrested when they travel. They are often freely allowed into the country, allowed to travel between cities (and police stations) unchecked, but are stopped and asked for bribe money on their way out. Those that cannot afford it are arrested. There are currently at least 61 persons detained in Indian jails under this charge, some of them children.

I urge that the Indian government acknowledge the severe flaws in such cases, and that authorities both sides of the border thoroughly investigate the corruption that is allowing the visa scams to take place, and for innocent people to be jailed. The physical and emotional toll taken on these people and the families they leave behind is severe, as demonstrated by the suicide of Saba Hussain.

I demand that the Hussains and their young son be returned home to mourn the death of their daughter, and rebuild their household. The family must be compensated and offered rehabilitation for their ordeal. This must also take place for the 61 or so other Pakistanis detained in India under the same insubstantial charge.

Yours sincerely,


1. Dr. Manmohan Sigh
Prime Minister
PMO, Room number 152, South Block
New Delhi
Fax: +91 11 23019545

2. Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani
Prime minister
Prime Minister House
Tel: +92 51 920 6111
Fax: +92 51 922 1596

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Article on AASRA in liveMint mumbai

LiveMint Mumbai Oct 25,Sat issue
* Posted: Sat, Oct . 1:43 PM IST

* Culture

Aasra, Mumbai
What Aasra needs right now is both visibility and volunteers
Sidin Vadukut
Several of the plastic chairs inside the Aasra office lie vacant at 6pm on a Sunday evening. Johnson Thomas and the two other volunteers could be expected to be crestfallen. But after years of trying to recruit volunteers, they are now used to the disappointing mathematics of Aasra’s weekly orientation sessions for new volunteers.“Six people had called up and said they’d like to come. We are happy at least two people came,” says Thomas, a freelance art and film writer, with an enigmatic half-smile that is his default facial expression. Every Sunday evening, Aasra, a 10-year-old helpline for people with suicidal tendencies, conducts an orientation session for potential volunteers. The sessions take place in front of a well-used blackboard, streaked with several layers of white chalk markings, in the cramped and slightly claustrophobic Aasra office in Koparkhairane, Mumbai.
During the hour-long session, Thomas and other volunteers take potential volunteers through a brief profile of Aasra, the process involved in becoming a volunteer and, as candidly as possible, try to convey a true picture of the work involved.
Aasra is part of an international network of suicide helplines supported by the UK-based charity organization Samaritans—the global network is called Befrienders International. Established in 1953 by Chad Varah, the organization’s prime activity is a telephone helpline that is open to anyone with emotional trouble, especially those that could potentially lead to suicides. Troubled individuals are encouraged to call in and speak to a volunteer who is specially trained to listen and offer support.
In Koparkhairane, Aasra volunteers run the helpline 6 hours a day, seven days a week, between 3pm and 9pm. Volunteers man the line in 3-hour shifts on most days. “Normally, we get around seven or eight calls a day,” says Thomas. But during school examinations and result declaration season—“You could call it ‘peak’ season for want of a term”— Aasra has to handle 70 to 80 calls a day.Schoolchildren are the single largest contingent among Aasra’s callers. The 20 volunteers end up working overtime handling calls from students.
Taking a call is anything but a matter of speaking softly in a soothing voice. “You have to be a friend: non-judgemental, non-intrusive. And never give advice. Most kids already get enough of that from their parents and teachers. They don’t want even the helpline to do that,” explains Thomas. And to make sure that every “listener” sticks to these basic tenets, all volunteers are made to go through a six-month training programme involving classroom sessions, group activities, role-plays and mock telephone calls.When asked to share his experiences with callers, Thomas is hesitant. Confidentiality is central to the Aasra’s—and Samaritans’— scheme of things. Callers are not asked to log their names or addresses and each call is treated as an independent engagement. Callers can come to the Aasra office for a face-to-face, but due to a shortage of volunteers, Thomas says, they try to avoid that as far as possible.
When pressed, he talks about how students, normally children in classes X and XII, call in during exam times. “It is a period of transition for these kids. And they feel scared. They call up saying they haven’t been able to study...or they’ve done badly in the exams.” The children then confess that they are scared of their parents’ reactions. Aasra volunteers first let the children speak their minds and focus on the issue bothering them—often just getting someone to listen to them prevents these children from doing anything drastic. Thomas says about 40% of the children call back for further help. “We don’t keep a database of callers. But we do know the frequent callers.” Calling regularly, though, is not something Aasra encourages. “We want them to become self-reliant over time.”
One of Thomas’ Aasra colleagues, an employee with Central Railways, relates how the volunteer training programme often ends up helping a lot of volunteers cope with their personal issues too. Thomas then reiterates how the rewards are unmatched: “When you do a good job here you save a life. Almost instantly.”
After the meeting ends, and both potential candidates leave, promising to call back, Thomas and his companions pack up after ensuring the phones have been set to auto-forward calls to volunteers’ cellphones: “This way, not everyone has to come down to Koparkhairane to help.”
What Aasra needs right now is both visibility and volunteers. After the meeting, the trio walks me down the road to a teashop. As Thomas sips on chai, he expresses his hope for Aasra: “We are happy with what we do now. But if we grow we can help more people. More children will see our telephone number and more children will call. If they do, we will make sure that there is always someone on the other end of the line.”
If you want to volunteer
Those who wish to be “listeners” have to mandatorily go through a six-month training programme, over weekends only. All volunteers are expected to put in 3-6 hours of work a week, including at least one 3-hour shift on the phone and additional time for team meetings and any outreach programmes. Knowledge of Marathi or Hindi is desirable. You can also help Aasra by assisting it with seminars, outreach programmes and public events. Just turn up for the weekend orientation programme to know what you can do. For details, call Johnson Thomas at
Rs5,000 for this charity can
Pay a month’s telephone and electricity bills
Pay three weeks’ rent for the Aasra office
Help them to conduct 10 batches of school outreach programmes where Aasra volunteers hold seminars and study sessions with schoolchildren
Buy five months of study material and refreshments for an orientation programme batch of 12 volunteers
People like us
B12, Nilamber Complex, HL Commerce College Road, Navrangpura, Ahmedabad
Contact: Call
Lifeline Foundation
17/1A, Alipore Road, Sarat Bose Road, Kolkata, West Bengal
Contact: Call /7432
Childline India Foundation
Nana Chowk Municipal School, 2nd Floor, Frere Bridge, Near Grant Road Station, Mumbai
Contact: ‘’, email or call 022-23881098.
1-8-303/48/21, Kalavathy Nivas, Sindhi Colony, SP Road, Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh
Contact: Call 09166202000
11, Park View Road, RA Puram. Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Contact: Email or call 044-24640050
ICTA-Santigram, Changampuzha Nagar (PO), Kalamassery, Ernakulam Kochi, Kerala
Contact: ‘’ or call 0484-2540530
1, Bhagwan Das Lane, Aradhana Hostel Complex, Basement, New Delhi
Contact: ‘’ or call 011-23389090
The Samaritans, Helpline
Riddhi Siddhi CHS, Next to Lal Baug Police Chowky, Dr B. Ambedkar Road, Parel, Mumbai
Contact: 022-32473267

Feelings and Emotions of the other side

Gay and Indian | Coming out | Is it criminal?

Nilanjana Bose / CNN-IBN

TimePublished on Sun, Nov 02, 2008 at 21:05, Updated on Sun, Nov 02,
2008 at 23:29 in Lifestyle section

Vadodara/Korapat (Gujarat): Gita is thinking of ways to break her
lover's marriage. A lesbian, she admits to having always liked girls.
"For me this seemed natural but I realised there was no one else like
me. But I was the way I was. I wrote a love letter to a girl once in
school. When the other girls found out, they started coming to me,"
she says.

Kiran is upset. Her whose girlfriend of six years was locked up in her
house by her father soon after their relationship was discovered, and
is to be married off soon. Kiran hasn't seen her girlfriend for two
years but is now determined to run away with her before the wedding
later this year.

Gita and Kiran are just two examples of the silent sexual revolution
sweeping India, slowly but surely. These are all coming out tales,
some mocked at, others reject, but all told in hushed tones.

In 2006, two tribal women from Orissa – 32-year-old Weteka Palang and
24-year-old Meleka Nilsa - became the poster girls for lesbian
movement in India. Both escaped abusive marriages to be with each
other and today live as woman and wife.

But it wasn't really a fairy-tale wedding. The couple had to run away
from their village and stay away for a year.

They then bought acceptance with a drum of country liquor, a sack of
rice and a bullock - which they gave to the Kandha community. But in
the end, they were accepted as two women in love - a victory few
lesbian women can achieve in India.

Lesbianism is something that is rarely talked about in India when we
talk about queer relationships. Yet it is a reality. But the women
say, in many ways their lives are very different from gay men, and
sometimes extremely difficult.

Living with prejudice comes with the territory for lesbian women. From
being called hijras and being mocked openly. Very few
relationships last because of constant pressure from family and

Yet these women look the world in the eye. Some choosing to change
their sex to make themselves more acceptable, some proudly retaining
their feminine bodies - living with their partners in a queer

NEXT PAGE: Maya Sharma told her son she was a lesbian...

Maya Sharma, author, lesbian and activist, was married for 16 years
and even has a son. When she found marriage too stifling, Maya broke
out. Today, as the architect of Parma, a lesbian support group in
Baroda, she is godmother to the lesbian movement in this part of
Gujarat - and is happily settled with her partner for more than three
years now.

Maya and her son have a quiet understanding about her relationship.

"He supports me. We have this tacit kind of understanding. He was
there when we did the book launch. Parents no more and that makes it
simpler. My family has accepted. And I don't care sufficiently. I
don't say it outright that I am living with a woman just as straight
people don't have to say," she says.

Others like 42-year-old Shaina Rahmatullah proudly wear their lesbian
label on their sleeve. Shaina says she has never wanted to be
monogamous and has had more than 25 relationships in four decades. A
practicing Muslim - she was told the Koran forbids same sex love - but
Shaina has over the years, thought of a fitting answer.

"This is natural too. Love is not a crime," she says.

Many women come to Parma to be among their own - from small towns and
villages across Gujarat. None of their parents took it very well when
they admitted to being attracted to their own sex.

But this support group offers comfort and solace. Like any
heterosexual, they too have been through love and loss. For some the
journey has been made more confusing by the sex they were born into.

A transgender man, was born Ketaki and grew up wearing frocks and
skirts. But she hated being addressed and identified as a girl. Today
she calls herself Ajay, a man trapped in a woman's body, attracted to

"I was very confused and then decided to get an operation done. I
didn't have the hormones of a woman. Never felt like a woman. I have
always used the masculine form when I have talked about myself," he

In 2003, Ajay had married a woman at a temple. Soon after, the couple
had a baby, Preeti, using in-vitro fertilisation. But in July, Ajay's
partner - who suffered from severe depression - killed herself. Now
Preeti, their daughter, is being raised by a lesbian support group.

Today, Ajay is in the process of getting a sex reassignment surgery
and becoming a man complete with male sex organs, determined to be a
good father to little Preeti.

"I would tell God, you should have made me a man, why did you make me
a woman? But I know I am doing the right thing. Life is difficult but
I want to make some thing of my life," says Ajay.

Vikram, too, was born Shalu Chauhan, and changed his name after he had
his breasts removed. He says he knew from his school days, that he was
attracted to women

"I met this girl in class V who I liked. I would wish she would just
sit with me. I would play with her, follow her around, made greeting
cards for her but never proposed to her," he says.

At 24, Vikram is like any other young man, complaining how women are
difficult to please. Now that he looks like a man - it's become easier
to get women's attention. Today, he says, he is almost ashamed to have
been born a woman.

"I have always liked girls. It never bothered me. What bothered me was
my body. Very few girls are understanding. They will not want their
boyfriend to be a woman. They want their boyfriend to be a man. In
these things, India is still backward," he says.

From loving women, to wanting to be a man, to get acceptance for this
love - it's a complex world for these women. Yet, they all say this is
far more liberating than being forced into behaving a heterosexual
where they feel neither longing nor love for the opposite sex.

Being accepted for who they are is still a long way off. But the
journey has begun.

Same sex marriages in jeopardy

The agony and anxiety that these couples must be facing due to the inconsistency of the law, must be truly excrutiating.

Liberal California shuts door on same sex marriages

Shalaka Paradkar in Los Angeles
A proposed ban on same-sex marriage in
California -- widely seen as the most momentous of the 153 ballot
measures at stake across the United States on November 4 -- has been
passed, with 52 per cent of the voters saying 'yes' and 48 per cent
saying 'no'.
For the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community which fought
long and hard for the right to get married, the vote has come as a
heartbreaking defeat.

Rashmi Choksey, president of Satrang, the South Asian queer
organisation based in Southern California, says, "It's been a
bitter-sweet election. On one hand, a liberal Democrat was elected
with overwhelming support and on the other, California, which is known
for its liberal views and ideals, has let its queer people down.
Satrang members who got married and those who hope to get married in
the future are quite sad at this turn of events."

Sapana Doshi, 34, who got married just two weeks ago to her partner
Tracy Osborne, 38, is on her way to her honeymoon in the Caribbean. .

Speaking to, she said, "It doesn't mean that our effort
against Prop 8 (the initiative to ban same sex marriages) was a
complete failure. We spread so much awareness. It has forever changed
the way people think about same sex couples. For example, our family
has been transformed. And so many families in California agree that we
are denied our fundamental right. The verdict is a sad setback but not
a defeat."

Sapana, who got married in an Indian ceremony attended by 150 people
at the Sonoma County park in California, said, "We are each other's
soul-mates. For a long time we wanted to get married but were denied
our fundamental right. We were in fact planning to go to Canada
[Images] to get married. But when the state supreme court approved
same sex marriages, it gave us hope. It made a big difference in our
lives. So we moved fast to ensure we can get married soon."

However, Like Sapana, some 18,000 same sex couples who tied the knot
during a four-month window of opportunity opened by the court ruling
now face uncertainty about their legal status as a married couple.

Rashmi Choksey explains, "The fact that Prop 8 was passed with such a
small margin shows that we've made some strides into illuminating the
homophobia and discrimination we face. However, there's much more work
to be done, especially addressing the scare tactics and misinformation
that the religious right has used to its advantage. Basically, those
who got married will be in some sort of limbo, no one knows how it
will play out. I have a feeling there will be several lawsuits filed
for one thing or another, the biggest already being filed by the
American Civil Liberties Union."

The ACLU and other opponents of the ban have filed a challenge with
the state supreme court arguing that California's ballot cannot be
used to undermine one group's access to rights enjoyed by other

The amendment, which passed with 52 percent of the vote, overrides the
original court ruling by defining marriage as the union of one man and
one woman. Thirty states have now adopted such measures, but the
California vote marks the first time a state took away the right after
it had been legalised.

In a landmark judgment on May 16, the California supreme court had
struck down the state's ban on same sex marriage.

Rakesh Modi, chariman of Trikone, a support group for LGBT people of
South Asian descent, said he has not lost hope. "I am very
disappointed with the unfavourable verdict on Prop 8, but I am not
disheartened. This just means that there is more work to be done, even
in the seemingly liberal state of California, to educate people. I
still have faith that Californians are broad-minded enough to accept
same sex marriage. We lost Prop 8 because of the scary tactics of our
opposition in spreading lies."

According to the 2000 census, total number of same sex couples in
California is 92,138. According to analysis of data from the 2000 US
census, there are over 13,000 Asian and Pacific Islanders in same
couples in California, more than in any other state.

According to Satrang's comprehensive survey in 2005 in collaboration
with the largest SA community based partner organisation, the South
Asian Network, over 3,869 of them are South Asians. The California
Center for Population Research says there were four per cent Asian
Indian same sex couples and 0.2 per cent Pakistani same sex couples in

The number of South Asians has grown in the eight years since the
census. Moreover, the data doesn't include those who were counted
under 'unmarried partner household' category or single gays, lesbians,
bi and trans South Asians.

Gay marriage bans were also passed on Tuesday in Arizona and Florida
[Images], with 57 percent and 62 percent support, respectively, while
Arkansas voters approved a measure aimed at gays that bars unmarried
couples from serving as adoptive or foster parents.

Massachusetts and Connecticut are now the only American states to
allow same sex marriage.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Suicide effects everyone.Article 377,decriminalisation and suicide

Decriminalising Gay Sex in India

By Craig Young - 31st October 2008
Is India finally about to decriminalise male homosexuality?

Under its colonial era Section 377 of the Penal Code, sexual
acts 'against the order of nature' are still theoretically illegal in
India. However, New Delhi government doesn't usually prosecute adults
engaging in private consensual homosexual acts. Unfortunately, this
de facto descriminalisation doesn't mean that homophobic harassment
and blackmail of gay men and women are therefore rare.

Some estimate that over fifty lesbian couples have committed suicide
over the last five years. These young women have done so because of
disapproval from their parents and / or society.

To counter the above, the campaign to decriminalize homosexuality has
strengthened. As in New Zealand in the mid-eighties when our turn
came, LGBT rights campaigners have concentrated their efforts on
education and lobbying related human rights and health issues,
especially information and public policy needed to combatthe spread
of HIV/AIDS in the subcontinent. These include organisations like the
Naz Foundation (India), National AIDS Control Organisation, Law
Commission of India, National Human Rights Commission and The
Planning Commission of India.

India must embrace decriminalisation of male homosexuality, as well
as an end to discrimination against Indian LGBTs, according to these
NGO and governmental organisations, especially the Naz Foundation. As
with New Zealand's AIDS Foundation, the Naz Foundation is a
particularly supportive group.

The Naz Foundation is a New Delhi NGO, which operates as a registered
charitable trust and has worked on HIV/AIDS and sexual health related
issues since 1994. Anjali Gopalan founded this organisation to fight
HIV/AIDS and support efforts for decriminalisation of male
homosexuality in India. Anjali began his HIV/AIDS activism in the
United States. After she returned to India during the early nineties,
she was frustrated at the neglect that surrounded HIV/AIDS in the
subcontinent. She founded Naz India to support marginalised Indian
sexual and gender minorities as well.

Naz India focuses on prevention and treatment. It emphasises the
prevalence of HIV, as well as human rights and civil liberties issues
that arerelated to sexuality and sexual health. It also works
alongside human rights groups and agencies such as India's Lawyers
Collective, Human Right Law Network, Amnesty International,
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. It has
addressed cases of such cases and often runs workshops forNew Delhi
Police. It also sensitises others to sexuality and gender-
relatedissues of discrimination, physical harassment, corruption and
human rights.

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (an 'Anti-sodomy Law')
criminalises same sex sexual behavior irrespective of the age and
consent of the people involved, posing one of the most significant
challenges in effective HIV/AIDS projects within Indian gay and
transgendered communities. The litigation has been going on since
December 2002, when Naz filed Public Interest Litigation, with the
intention of challenging Section 377 in Delhi's High Court.

Unfortunately, the Delhi High Court refused to consider their
petition against Section 377. They argued that the Naz Foundation had
no locus standi in the matter. Since nobody has been prosecutedfor
the last twenty yearsunder Section 377, the Delhi High Courtmay not
strike out the offending moribund in the absence of a petitioner with
standing. However, there may be another High Court ruling on this
section or evenIndia's Supreme Court, under the heading of "Public
Interest Litigation (PIL).

Naz Foundation won its appeal in the Supreme Court against the High
Court decision to dismiss the petition on technicalities. The Supreme
Court decided that Naz Foundation did have relevant standing to
contest a PIL in this case and sent the case back to the Delhi High
Court to further review the case, which it did fromOctober 2006 to
May 2008.

In the interim period, there was strong support for decriminalisation
from a Delhi-based coalition of LGBT, women's and human rights
activists, 'Voices Against 377'. Voices has supported the demand
to 'read down' section 377 and exclude adult consensual sex from any
further criminal prosecution. Furthermore, the movement for change
has strong and influential backing from India's cultural elite. In
September 2006, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and acclaimed writer
Vikram Seth united with other prominent Indians in public life and
demanded the abolition of Section 377 in an open letter. This
document demands that 'In the name of humanity and of our
Constitution, this cruel and discriminatory law should be struck

In May 2008, the Delhi High Court finally heard the case. However,
there is division within the governing federal Congress Party Cabinet
over the issue. The Ministry of Home Affairs has adopted a
contradictory position to that of India's federal Ministry of Health
when it comes to enforcement of Section 377 with respect to gay male

At present, Section 377 continues to exist. Some homophobes use it to
threaten and blackmail closeted lesbians and gay men. It has been
abused in the past to harass people involved in safe sex work, such
as condom distribution amongst Indian gay men. Police have also used
itwheninvestigating complaints lodged by parents of the parties

For instance, an Uttar Pradesh lesbian couple that eloped with one
another were arrested and handed back to their parents, despite the
fact that both women were over the age of consent. The police used
Section 377as the legal basis for their arrest.

The debate continues to be waged. Arvind Narrain and Gautam Bhan have
recently produced an impressive collection of academic articles and
personal stories entitled Because I have a Voice: Queer Politics in
India, which documents current Indian LGBT political concerns.

Since May 2008, events have continued apace. On June 29th, 2008,
Delhi held its first ever gay pride march. Bangalore and Calcutta
held similar events. On June 30, 2008, Indian Labour Minister Oscar
Fernandes stated that he supported decriminalisation of consensual
gay sex. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also seems supportive.

On July 4, 2008, at the Delhi High Court supported the right of
Indian LGBT activists to hold a gay rally. Finally, on July 23, 2008,
Bombay High Court Judge Bilal Nazki also argued that Section 377
should be reviewed. And that is where the matter has to be left.

However, I imagine that pro-reform activists are heartened by the
lack of organised public opposition to their reform initiatives,
although apparently, it seems to still be an issue of contention
within India's federal Cabinet, with Prime Minister Singh asking the
feuding Ministers of Health and Home Affairs to sort the issue out
once and for all, recently.

Strongly Recommended:

Arvind Narain and Bhan(ed) Because I Have a Voice: Queer Politics in
India. New Delhi: Yoda Press: 2006

Open Letter on Section 377:

Naz Foundation: