Page 1 of 2MSM? What does MSM mean?
- Men who have sex with men.
- Some but not all MSM would identify as ‘Gay’.
- A way of describing a group based on behaviour rather than identity.
- But often these terms are used interchangeably.
Historical context of the Gay Rights Movement
The Emergence of the HIV virus
Both grassroots mobilization and further stigmatisation of MSM.
In the early years of the global HIV epidemic…
HIV was seen as a ‘gay disease’ resulting from perceived sexual promiscuity in the gay community.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced that HIV posed no threat to women or heterosexual men.
Many religious conservatives believed that HIV was a punishment sent by God to punish MSM for their ‘immoral’ behaviour.
HIV was Called…
Even by Medical Authorities and Scientists!!
- Gay Plague
- Gay Cancer
- Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (Grid)
- Gay Compromise Syndrome
Scientific knowledge grows and changes
Medical researchers discover that a virus causes HIV.
HIV infection emerges in other ‘High risk’ groups like IV drug users and female sex workers, but also in perceived ‘low risk’ groups across society
But Stigma, Fear, and Discrimination towards MSM remains!
The Historical Context into which HIV emerged in the 1980s
- The 20th century saw the world wake up and begin to recognize the rights of gay men and women globally.
- Same sex behaviour had once been criminalized in most countries.
- But as the 20th century progressed, homosexuality has been steadily decriminalized across the world – from Greece, UK, Israel, Chad, etc.
In 1969, the police illegally raided the Stonewall Inn, a well-known gay establishment in New York City… Sparking protests that marked the beginning of the fight for Gay Rights in America.
Community Mobilization: Fighting Stigma and Providing Support
The modern gay rights movement sparked in the 1960s and 1970s provided fertile ground for mobilization around HIV in the 1980s
Organizations were founded in order to fight the stigma around HIV and provide support and care to HIV+ people
- Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City.
- San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
- ACT UP! Which began as a small local group grew into a global HIV/AIDS activist network.
Same sex behaviour still remains illegal in many countries and regions with accelerating rates of HIV infections
- Much of North and East Africa.
- The Middle East
- And India!
Criminalization of MSM in India
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code prohibits, “Carnal intercourse against the course of nature with any man, woman, or animal”.
Which can be interpreted freely to make even oral and anal sex between heterosexual couples illegal. But has primarily been used to legitimize the harassment of gay men and women.
The Impact of the Criminalization of Same Sex Behavior on the lives of MSM in India
It is commonly believed that Section 377 is no longer enforced and that de facto decriminalization has already occurred.
However, there are reports that this law has been used to legitimize both police harassment of MSM and the harassment of HIV prevention workers and others doing outreach work in gay communities
(Source: International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Coalition)
Lucknow 4 – Will they be our stonewall?
In 2001, police raided the offices of two NGOs doing HIV work with MSM in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh and arrested 4 workers.
The 4 workers were charged with a number of criminal offenses including those under Section 377 and were reportedly beaten, denied food, and forced to drink sewage water while in police custody, according to their lawyer.
Senior Superintendent of Police, a Mr. B. B. Bakshi, publicly stated that he would like to “Eradicate homosexuality which is against Indian culture.”