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The LGBTQ+ acronym stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and others. In India LGBTQ+ community also include a specific social group, part religious cult, and part caste: the Hijras. They are culturally defined either as "neither men nor women" or as men who become women by adopting women's dress and behavior. Section 377 of the India Penal code that criminalized all sexual acts "against the order of nature" i.e. engaging in oral sex or anal sex along with other homosexual activities were against the law, ripping homosexual people off of their basic human rights. Thus, the Indian Supreme Court ruled a portion of Section 377 unconstitutional on 6th September 2018.
But the question is, "was India always against homosexuality"? Has the concept of homosexuality being unnatural existed forever? No, in Indian history and Hinduism homosexuality has never been an offense, in fact in several instances it has been depicted how people embraced their identity, be it sexual identity or gender identity. Section 377 was brought to India by the British in 1862, while India was colonized. Even after the Independence, it was only in 2018 that the Supreme Court ruled it as irrational and illogical.
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Homosexuality in Ancient India
When Supreme Court decriminalized homosexuality in India, there was an uproar about it being a western ideology and liberalism. But in reality, homosexuality has existed since the time of the Vedas. The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association (GALVA) researched and discovered that it was around 3102 B.C. (during the Vedic Age) that homosexuality or non-normative sexual identity was recognized as "Tritiya Prakriti", or the third nature. Ancient India not only made mentions of homosexuality but accepted it as well.
Hinduism is the most vastly followed religion in India. Hinduism does not explicitly mention homosexuality however it does contain a homosexual theme and characters in its text. There have been various instances in our scriptures and texts that have introduced us to LGBT+ characters such as the androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati Ardhanariswara meaning "the half-female lord". One of the most popular and ancient texts on sexuality, eroticism, and emotional fulfillment of life, "Kamasutra" has a complete chapter dedicated to homosexuality and homosexual sex. Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities.
Numerous Hindu sculptures and temples have statues depicting homosexual activities. Facebook
Our Mughals were Queer
Mughals are often seen under the light of cruelty, rigid ethics, nobility, and polygamy. Simultaneously, Mughals are also the ones credited for the emergence of Sufism, abolished jizya tax, love beyond religion, classes, and gender.
In the Baburnama written in memoirs of our very first Mughal ruler Muhammad Babur, several instances documented Babur's infatuation and affection towards a teenage boy named Baburi. We also have multiple Persian couplets as evidence of Babur's affection for Baburi. Mughals engaged in homosexuality and pederasty, and they believed that later was a form of "pure love".
But as time passed homosexuality was suppressed more and more though people practiced it in secret if revealed they were punished. According to the Fatwa-e-Alamgiri Sharia-based text of the Mughal Empire, there is a common set of punishments for homosexuality, which could include 50 lashes for a slave, 100 for a free infidel, or death by stoning for a Muslim.
British Raj and Independence of India
In 1862, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalized homosexual sex came into force. Even after Independence in 1947, the section remained a part of the Indian Constitution. There were protests all over the country to give people of the LGBT+ community basic human rights but it was not until 2018 that The Supreme Court of India ruled the portion of Section 377 has unconstitutional and struck it off. One judge said the landmark decision would "pave the way for a better future.". With Section 377 gone are LGBT+ people allowed to fall in love freely? No, people are still afraid to love because of the stigma in our society when it comes to homosexuality; they are seen as lesser humans.
ALSO READ: Significant Support for Rights for LGBTQ+
Although the Supreme Court has decriminalized homosexual activities, same-sex marriage remains illegal in the country. Homophobia is still prevalent in India, and homosexual children would rather commit suicide than come out to society with their true identity, that's how harsh of a world we live in. Lacking support from family, society, or police, many gay rape victims do not report the crimes. In 1977, writer and Indian mathematician Shakuntla Devi published "The World of Homosexuals". It was the first study in the Indian context; the book contains interviews with homosexual men set in the years of Emergency. She wrote, "rather than pretending that homosexuals don't exist it is time we face the facts squarely in the eye and find room for homosexual people." We've had small victories in our fight against homophobia and getting LGBT+ community the rights they deserve as humans, but we still have a long and exhausting fight ahead of us.
Bisexual young people are more likely to smoke than their straight counterparts, say, researchers.
Published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the study followed 7,843 youths and young adults over three years, finding that those who came out as bisexual were twice as likely as consistently-heterosexual participants to start smoking.
Coming out as lesbian, gay, or another non-heterosexual identity, or having a consistent LG+ identity, was not associated with being more likely to smoke.
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“Bisexual young people may face unique forms of discrimination and stigma that increase their risk for smoking or other substance use behaviors,” said study author Andrew Stokes from the Boston University in the US.
“For example, they may experience stigma from heterosexual individuals as well as from within the LGB+ community. There’s also prior research that shows that bisexual populations have worse mental health outcomes than LG+ populations,” Stokes added.
“The findings point to a need for public health interventions specifically designed to address the unique needs, experiences, and stressors associated with coming out and identifying as bisexual.”
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For the study, the researchers used data from the first four waves of the nationwide Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study, which surveyed the same 14-29-year-olds three times between 2013 and 2018.
By the third wave, 14 percent of the respondents had smoked at some point, and six percent were current smokers.
Want to read more in Hindi? Checkout: इस दिवाली वोकल फॉर लोकल पर दिया जाएगा ज़्यादा ध्यान
The researchers found that the same sexual identity patterns held true both for having smoked at any point in the study period and for being a current smoker.
Compared to a consistent heterosexual identity, coming out as bisexual was associated with being more than twice as likely to smoke, they found.
Participants with LG+ identities in the first wave who shifted to a bisexual identity, or vice versa, were twice as likely to smoke.
On the other hand, participants with a consistent LG+ identity throughout the three waves of the study and participants who started out identifying as heterosexual and came out as LG+ were not more likely to smoke.
“The study is unique because it asks youth about their sexual orientation and gender identity. Most national surveys do not,” the stud authors wrote. (IANS)
WASHINGTON, April 03, 2017: Hundreds of men in the Russian republic of Chechnya have been rounded up and detained recently on suspicion of being homosexual, and at least three have died while in custody, according to a prominent Russian newspaper.
Novaya Gazeta, which reported the crackdown Saturday, said it was aware of other sources who say the death toll may be far higher. The gay men who have disappeared from the streets of Grozny, the Chechen capital, and other towns and cities are said to have ranged in age from 16 to 50.
Novaya Gazeta, a Moscow-based publication known for independent investigative reporting and its willingness to confront Russian officialdom, said it learned of the action against gay men in Chechnya from the Interior Ministry in the Caucasus republic, local activists and law enforcement sources.
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The men were detained “in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation, on suspicion of such,” Novaya Gazeta reported. It said none of the detainees had openly disclosed their sexual orientation — a move the paper equated with asking for a death sentence in the largely Muslim North Caucasus region.
The account also quoted locals as saying Chechens who used gay contact groups on social messaging networks have been abandoning them and closing their accounts. It further quoted sources in Chechnya’s special services as describing the police sweep as “a preventative clear-out” aimed at discouraging public gay rights rallies.
Chechen leader: no gay men here
There was no immediate comment on the report from authorities in Moscow, which has granted its Muslim-majority Caucasus republics freedom to enforce traditional Muslim values.
However, a spokesman for Chechnya’s authoritarian leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, denied the Novaya Gazeta report in a statement to the Russian news agency Interfax that claimed no one in the republic is homosexual.
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“You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” Alvi Karimov said.
“If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them,” Karimov added, “since their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”
Novaya Gazeta has a history of confrontation with the Chechen government and the republic’s Kremlin handlers.
Reporter’ s death
In 2006, Gazeta reporter and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya wrote a series of reports critical of Russia, Kadyrov and Moscow’s role in the second Chechen war.
In her last interview, Politkovskaya described Chechen leader Kadyrov to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty as a “coward armed to the teeth and surrounded by security guards.”
She said she hoped to see Kadyrov “someday sitting in the dock, in a trial that meets the strictest legal standards,” facing justice for atrocities allegedly committed by his forces during the Moscow-backed war against separatists in Chechnya.
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Politkovskaya’s interview with RFE/RL took place October 5, 2006. Two days later, she was shot dead at point-blank range as she entered an elevator in her Moscow apartment building. Her colleagues blamed the assassination on Kadyrov.
The fateful interview that week coincided with then-Prime Minister Kadyrov’s 30th birthday, a milestone that meant he could seek the republic’s presidency, which he did a few months later.
Five men were eventually convicted of killing Politkovskaya. (VOA)
New Delhi: The National Award-winning actor Manoj Bajpayee believes that the majority has begun to accept the LGBT community and it’s the ‘minority’ who need to change their outlook towards homosexuals.
The country’s colonial-era provision of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, that criminalises homosexuality, continues to dread the homosexual community.
The National Award-winning actor, who is known for his power-packed, character-driven roles, is earning accolades for portraying the late Aligarh Muslim University academician Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras in Hansal Mehta’s “Aligarh”. Siras was suspended from his job as a professor because of his sexual orientation. He was found dead in his apartment in Aligarh in 2010.
“I am treating this as the biggest truth and I am ready to believe that today homosexuals are much more accepted in society. It is just that this minority who is aggressive, violent and loud that we have to keep on making these films to change their mind, to make them think and to keep the debate going,” Manoj told reporters in a candid tete-a-tete here.
Dressed in a casual white shirt and light blue denim, Manoj’s eyes lit up while he expressed the view that society, unfortunately, tends to take this “minority” as the “majority” when it comes to rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgenders.
“I always believe in the thing that there is a minority in our society, which is very loud in their voices, who get this liberty from god knows where to invade into anybody’s privacy,” he asserted.
Manoj’s character in the film is a reserved mind, who loves Marathi literature, Lata Mangeshkar’s songs and whisky.
“He also has a very deep understanding of the word love and where he is talking about uncontrollable urge, which is very natural. This is what happens to me… I am heterosexual. It happens to me when I find a girl very attractive. When you love somebody, you love somebody completely…” the actor eloquently explained what love means to both Siras and him.
“You can fall in love with anything… With a certain kind of bird or a butterfly… Love has a broader meaning,” he added.
In 1998, Manoj captivated the imagination of Indian cinegoers as the underworld don Bhiku Matre in “Satya”. A year later, he stunned audiences as the honest police inspector Samar Pratap Singh in “Shool” and went on to do several memorable films before gaining mass acclaim as Sardar Khan in “Gangs of Wasseypur”.
Having done so much in films and theatre, the 46-year-old actor said he isn’t getting any younger. And he has shown it in his role of Siras, a sexagenarian.
“With age and experience, you only learn a lot about human beings. It is that and the craft… All of them together, along with research, which made me understand the minutest details of Siras. Understanding his soul, his state of mind, was very difficult and extremely important for me,” Manoj said.
However, he said that the techniques used by actors to get into the roles may not be understood easily by outsiders.
“The technique that we use is purely from actor to actor, but it is very difficult for an outsider to understand as to what we do, and what kind of workshop we conduct for ourselves,” he added.
Calling his role in “Aligarh” a “very challenging” task, Manoj said he had a “lot of responsibility towards the community and towards a life which was so pure and spiritual and dealing with a man who fought a very reluctant battle”.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court referred to a constitution bench the curative petition seeking a relook at its earlier verdict upholding the validity of Section 377. Manoj says he is “very hopeful” that the bench will come out with a “constructive decision”.
“Aligarh”, which also stars actor Rajkummar Rao, released on Friday. (Ankit Sinha, IANS)