'207 against 377' campaign

More than 100 community stakeholders and activists met in New Delhi on 6th February 2014 for a national consultation on Section 377 and for the launch of a new advocacy campaign, '207 against 377' initiated by Pehchan— a 5 year programme (funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria) that works in 17 states of India in close collaboration with India's National AIDS Control Programme to strengthen and build the capacity of community-based organizations to advance and focus on HIV prevention in vulnerable sexual minorities like men who have sex with men, transgenders and hijras.

The '207 against 377' campaign brings together the 207 organizations implementing the Pehchan programme on a common platform to undertake advocacy at national, state and district levels to protest against the 11th December 2013 Supreme Court judgment upholding constitutional validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code thereby recriminalizing same-sex sexual behaviour.

The judgment refers to sexual minorities as 'miniscule minority' whose human rights are 'so-called'. It is feared that the judgment will make individuals from sexual and gender minority communities more vulnerable to persecution, prosecution and violence.

Speaking at the event, Ashok Row Kavi, a leading gay rights activist, said that, “The Supreme Court judgment has been a huge setback for the community, but we are determined. Under this campaign we will reach out to community members and stakeholders at all levels and together push for change. It is time we all realise that LGBT rights are fundamental human rights.’’

According to James Robertson, Executive Director of India HIV/AIDS Alliance, “The fight against Section 377 will be a long fight. It cannot be fought single-handedly. The ‘207 against 377’campaign brings together committed organisations and leaders to support a common goal. Collective passion and determination will make all the difference.”

Held at the office of India HIV/AIDS Alliance, the consultation saw community leaders and members share their experiences and thoughts on the LGBT movement in the country and deliberate actively on the way forward.

Pawan Dhall, a gay rights activist and staff member of Pehchan partner SAATHII, said, ‘’The Supreme Court in its judgment has cited the lack of numbers on the community. To take our legal battle forward, we need to document that we are not, in fact, a miniscule minority.’’

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, transgender activist said, “Sexual minorities are full citizens of this country. Due to their sexual and gender identities, they are denied opportunities to earn a living, to study, and to access health services. The judgment multiplies the stigma and discrimination manifold. ‘207 against 377’ is our call for change in our country.”

The national consultation was followed by the launch of Pehchan Training Curriculum: ‘MSM, Transgender and Hijra Community Systems Strengthening’. This innovative curriculum has been developed by community and subject experts as one of the first comprehensive community systems strengthening curricula focused on vulnerable sexual minorities.

Citizen News Service -  CNS
February 2014