State Consultation on MSM and Transgender in Science City, Kolkata

The State Consultation for MSM and Transgender on the theme of “Celebrating gains, confronting crises, forging future” was inaugurated on 18 March 2010 by Mahesh Nathan from West Bengal State AIDS Prevention and Control Society (WBSAP&CS) in Science City, Kolkata, West Bengal. This consultation was organized by MANAS Bangla with support from Volunteer Services Overseas (VSO) India and WBSAP&CS during 18-19 March 2010. Read more

“The consultation, the first of its kind in West Bengal, had brought together communities of marginalised sexual orientations and gender identities, from across the state of West Bengal” informed Pranai Sekhar Pradhan, President MANAS Bangla. “It has brought together over 300 transgender and males who have sex with males (MSM) from over 12 districts of West Bengal and other important stakeholders including policy makers from government and donor bodies from across the country” said Agniva Lahiri from MANAS Bangla.

“It takes two hands to clap. As much as the MSM and transgender community was coming forward it was also the government that was very supportive of network approach” said Mahesh Nathan from WBSAP&CS. “There are other issues apart from HIV where MANAS Bangla has a role to play. Empowerment, skill building issues, in terms of vocational rehabilitation, etc will lead to sustainability. MANAS Bangla, as a network of 13 member organisations, is on the forefront of change and should set the agenda” added Mahesh.

The consultation opened the dialogue on issues concerning marginalised male to male sexualities and transgender and hijra communities with academicians, students, other development practitioners, activists and human rights advocates from intersecting rights based movements.

This consultation helped build capacities of MSM and transgender communities and community led groups by way of organising various issue-based workshops and discussion forums. This meeting is also the first such interface between MSM and transgender communities and policymakers, government agencies and other stakeholders.

“We do need targeted interventions (TIs), condoms, STI clinics, and other services, but there are other structural issues that we just cannot avoid – education, health, employment, social security, and others. If MANAS Bangla also addresses structural issues, that will also ensure sustainable community development” said Pawan Dhall, Country Director (Programme and Development), SAATHII.

There were focussed sessions in this two days consultation on issues like human rights challenges facing MSM and transgender, right to choose: sex reassignment surgery, post-Delhi High Court Judgement on section 377: scenario in West Bengal, emerging identities around male to male sexualities and reaching out, treatment gaps and adherence, mental health issues of MSM and transgender, sexual rights vs HIV/AIDS organising: Dilemmas for community mobilization, among others.

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