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'AIDS Awareness must Among CSWs, Addicts'

‘AIDS Awareness must Among CSWs, Addicts’
Pune: Journalist and gay rights activist Ashok Row Kavi on Saturday said efforts to create HIV/AIDS awareness will not work unless female sex workers, drug abusers who inject themselves and transgenders are taken on board.

“While studies establish that MSMs (men who have sex with men) and transgenders are among the three groups that are most vulnerable, any AIDS awareness programme will not reach out to them, considering the fact that the system continues to criminalise them,” he said. Kavi elaborated that the other two groups were female sex workers and drug addicts who use injections.

He was speaking at the People’s Panchayat on “Resisting stigma and homophobia” organised on Saturday by Actionplus, a coalition of 13 non-governmental organisations. The event sought to highlight issues surrounding homosexuality and its lack of acceptance within the existing social order.

In keeping with the ‘Panchayat’ system of debate and discussion, a panel of five members listened as homosexual persons came forward and narrated their experience. The panellists were writer Shymala Vanarase, theatre persons Makarand Sathe and Ashwini Giri, economics professor and writer Rohini Sahni and photojournalist Sandesh Bhandare. Also present was a team of experts, namely Kavi and researcher Kirti Ranade.

The first speaker, a lecturer, narrated his journey in three stages: “They are the natural awakening to one’s desires; the time when one realises that what is natural to oneself is not accepted by society, which is followed by the whole process of hiding one’s true feelings. In the second phase, I have spent hours crying alone, not knowing who and how to tell. And finally comes the eventual acceptance of one’s identity, and having no problem with the world knowing about it.” He also told the audience about the time when he pretended to like a girl, just to keep up the ‘Mask’ of being like other boys.

The other speakers included two transvestites (people who dress like the opposite sex), a man who underwent a sex change operation and a gay man. They touched upon their struggles with their families, their subsequent ostracisation and eventually finding friends in various support groups, as well as the need to initiate a dialogue on the subject of homosexuality.

Researcher Kirti Ranade revealed some findings of her two-year study on the subject of ‘Growing up gay in a heterogeneous world’. Outlining the fact that homophobia was a ‘Systemic, structural belief system’, she said that over 50 per cent of the doctors she had met with tried to ‘Treat’ homosexuals when they were referred to them with a view to ‘Converting’ them.

“This ‘Reparative’ treatment is based on the assumption that homosexuality is unnatural/a sickness/the result of early sexual abuse,” she said.

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Source: Times of India

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