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India's Transgender Hijras Encourage Car 'Pilots' To Buckle Up In Charming PSA - VIDEO

Hijiras

The Seatbelt Crew are a group of transgender Indian “hijras” who recently dressed like flight attendants to encourage drivers at an intersection to wear their safety belts. “Hijras” are treated as religious figures who often bless newborns, weddings and also exchange blessings at city traffic stops for money. In this instance, they filmed their safety message — offering to bless drivers who buckled up — and turned it into a charming viral PSA.

The video was an initiative of VithU, an app that allows you to send multiple alert messages to your social network if you’re ever in danger. YouTube user Ryan Mendonca uploaded the video alongside several one-minute PSAs for the “Ring the Bell” campaign encouraging men to disrupt instances of domestic abuse.

See the video AFTER THE JUMP…

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Gay Rights Are Playing a Major Role in India's National Election for the First Time

BY MANSI CHOKSI / GlobalPost

The Indian Supreme Court's decision to recriminalize gay sex acts has mobilized many in the LGBT community, and leading political parties are taking notice.

PatankarMUMBAI — When the Indian Supreme Court reinstated a 153-year-old ban on gay sex, reversing a lower court’s decision that it was unconstitutional, something stirred in the stillness around equal rights activist Pallav Patankar (pictured, right).

“It occurred to me that all these years we had worked on a narrow path of judicial reform against Section 377,” he said, referring to the part of the Indian Penal Code drafted in 1850 by British lawmakers to outlaw homosexual acts. “But now, we could no longer afford to be apolitical. I had voted as a student, a professional, as someone who defended women’s rights, but I hadn’t asked what would happen if I looked at myself as a political entity through a queer lens.”

In the first Indian election where the rights of sexual minorities are a political issue, two national parties, the ruling Indian National Congress and the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), have included the reading down of Section 377 in their political manifestos.

SinghThe main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is leading the polls, has been silent on Section 377 in its manifesto, but party president Rajnath Singh (pictured, right) has previously described homosexuality as “unnatural” and stated the party’s support for Section 377.

“Gays and lesbians are not criminals, but we are a conservative party that strongly believes in the traditional family structure, and the need to keep our social and moral fabric intact,” said Shaina NC, national executive member and Maharashtra state treasurer of the BJP.

On Tuesday, in a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court allowed the country’s marginalized transgender community to identify as a third gender and directed the government to ensure their equal treatment. It is also the first national election in which transgender people can register to vote under the category of “others.”

“You’ve got to love India,” said Anuja Parikh, member of support group Gaysi Family. “A minority within a ‘minuscule minority’ gets recognized.” Parikh was referring to the Supreme Court judgment that recriminalized homosexuality and called LGBT people “a minuscule fraction of the population.”

In India, politicians tend to cater to vote banks, offering policies and concessions to those sections that they believe have enough numbers to catapult them to 543 parliamentary seats.

“In order for this invisible community to become invincible, we have to show numbers and politicize ourselves,” said Harish Iyer, an equal rights activist who became a member of AAP.

Sitting in the window seat of a local train, as the city tore past, Iyer, 33, talked about how there was no choice for the community but “to dirty its hands” and begin forming political alliances.

His party had excluded its opposition to Section 377 from its manifesto but later feebly added it when the LGBT community raised a stink.

2_india“We need to fight not only for LGBT people but for all those who want to live their lives without the Indian government peeping in their bedrooms,” he said.

Earlier this month, the Humsafar Trust polled 524 queer and queer supporters and found that a majority favored the Congress Party and the AAP — with 45 percent and 41 percent, respectively — parties that have opposed criminalization of gay sex.

But the survey also showed that a 14 percent portion said they would vote for the BJP, the Hindu nationalist party that has opposed gay rights. The poll was accompanied by a qualitative analysis of the queer Indian voter, which mapped the opinions of 37 queer voters in Mumbai.

In a room scattered with political manifestos, voters were asked to write their political views in one line.

What showed up on flipcharts was a wide spectrum: from views like “Queer rights are not important, national interests should decided whom to vote” to “Regressive and bigoted parties will not get my vote.” Almost half of those who attended were undecided; Congress led with 22 percent of the vote and the rest was equally divided between AAP and BJP who each received 16 percent.

“Because the LGBT community can no longer expect others to fight on our behalf, given the spate of homophobic comments from political leaders and the Supreme Court ruling, it’s crucial that we come together, lobby, and make our voice heard,” said Parikh, the activist with Gaysi Family.

Part of channeling one clear voice for an entire community was to start a conversation. What did the queer voter want? Reading down Section 377 was top priority, followed by laws supporting marriage equality, anti-discrimination, adoption rights and a gender-neutral sexual assault mechanism.

Soon, the room was opened up for debate, and voters were allowed to attack and defend their political views, especially those who supported the BJP.

IndiaThere was talk of how being Indian came before being gay and that the BJP had proved itself in its states showing better governance, growth and infrastructure.

Some felt the BJP did not defend gay rights publicly only to oppose its rival Congress party.

“At first it confused me to see gay people support a party that believes homosexuality is a crime,” said Patankar, director of the HIV Programs at Humsafar Trust. “One reason is internal homophobia: You don’t like the fact that you’re homosexual and you don’t mind voting for the BJP because you don’t consider queer rights as rights.“

As Patankar spoke in his office at the Humsafar Trust, a young man in a nearby cabin said he hated himself because of his sexual orientation, tears rolling down his face, his gaze fixed into the middle distance.

At the event, after an hour-long debate, the organizers called for a secret ballot, to see if opinions had changed. They found that the section favoring the BJP remained untouched while those who had earlier been undecided sided with the Congress now with 49 percent and AAP with 21 percent.

“We need to talk among ourselves and at some point present these findings to politicians,” Patankar said.

Outside his cabin, near a rainbow flag painted onto a pink wall, a small group had huddled around a computer to discuss how a gay man had been beaten and blackmailed by someone he met on an online dating site. Thumbs anxiously skittered over smartphones to tip off friends who could be possible targets of such hate crimes that had peaked since the Supreme Court ruling.

“The queer struggle is one of the many struggles that fight the inherent discrimination in our social system,” Patankar said.


Wednesday Speed Read: Ohio, India, Cleveland Gay Games, Scott Hines, Louisiana

BY LISA KEEN / Keen News Service

T_blackOHIO STAY NEWS TODAY:

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black is expected to announce today whether he will grant a stay of his April 14 ruling that Ohio’s ban on same-sex couples marrying is unconstitutional. Briefs from both sides of the Henry v. Wymyslo lawsuit were due Tuesday afternoon.

OHIO BALLOT MEASURE CLEARS HURDLE:

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Monday that he has certified as “fair and truthful” a summary of a proposed ballot measure seeking to treat same-sex marriages the same as heterosexual marriages in the state. The certification is just one of several hurdles FreedomOhio, a pro-gay group, must clear to  put a question on the ballot in November. The proposed language states that marriage “shall be a union of two consenting adults not nearer in kin than second cousins…and no religious house of worship or the religious house of worship’s clergy shall be required to perform a marriage. All legally valid marriages shall be treated equally under the law.”

INDIA RECOGNIZES ‘THIRD GENDER’:

IndiaThe Supreme Court of India ruled Tuesday, “It is the right of every human being to choose their gender” and that people of a “third gender” should be given the rights of citizens. The decision in National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India was written and approved by two different justices than the ones who, in December, upheld the country’s laws against same-sex sexual relations. But this latest opinion concluded, “We, therefore, conclude that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity includes any discrimination, exclusion, restriction or preference, which has the effect of nullifying or transposing equality by the law or the equal protection of laws guaranteed under our Constitution, and hence we are inclined to give various directions to safeguard the constitutional rights of the members of the [transgender] community.”

MUSLIM CABBIES BALK AT ADS:

GaygamesSome taxi drivers in Cleveland are asking that they not be assigned to drive airport cabs that are displaying roof-top advertisements for this summer’s Gay Games. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Tuesday that “some” drivers that work with taxi fleets at the airport object to the ads, saying they violate their Muslim religious beliefs. The cab companies are working with the airport and cab stand operator to replace the drivers in that fleet.

INCUMBENT LOSS IN CALIFORNIA:

MailerRancho Mirage City Council incumbent Scott Hines lost his bid for re-election April 8. Hines won only 17 percent of the nearly 12,000 votes cast. An openly gay candidate serving his first term on the council, Hines was the target of a hostile mailer during the campaign. Someone distributed to voters a postcard with a photo of Hines, the word “Fags,” and a message to “Send Hines Packing Back to Palm Springs, where he belongs.” But the Desert Sun newspaper suggested other factors in Hines’ loss may have been his youth (“in a city where retirees predominate”) and “questions about conflicts of interest.”

LOUISIANA CLINGS TO PAST:

The Louisiana House rejected a bill Tuesday that sought to remove from the state code a law prohibiting sexual relations between people of the same sex. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state sodomy laws in 2003, with its ruling in Lawrence v. Texas. Louisiana can’t enforce its sodomy ban against consensual adults in private, but the House voted 27 to 67 to keep the on the “books.” According to the Times-Picayune, a group called the Louisiana Family Forum sent a letter to legislators saying the “anti-sodomy statute is consistent with the values of Louisiana residents who consider this behavior to be dangerous, unhealthy and immoral."

© copyright 2014 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.


India's Supreme Court Recognizes Trans People as Third Gender

India's Supreme Court has recognized transgender people as a third gender in an historic ruling, the BBC reports. Said the court: "Transgenders are also citizens of India" and they must be "provided equal opportunity to grow. The spirit of the Constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender."

India"It is the right of every human being to choose their gender," it said in granting rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female. It ordered the government to provide transgender people with quotas in jobs and education in line with other minorities, as well as key amenities....

The judges asked the government to treat them in line with other minorities officially categorised as "socially and economically backward", to enable them to get quotas in jobs and education.

"We are quite thrilled by the judgement," Anita Shenoy, lawyer for the petitioner National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa), told the BBC. "The court order gives legal sanctity to the third gender. The judges said the government must make sure that they have access to medical care and other facilities like separate wards in hospitals and separate toilets," she said.

Approximately two million people are said to be transgender, or hijira, in India.

Homosexuality is still criminalized in India after a stunning Supreme Court ruling last year. The court earlier this month offered hope that it would reconsider that ruling after a campaign by activists.


Indian Supreme Court to Reconsider Verdict Criminalizing Gay Sex

India's Supreme Court says it will reconsider its verdict criminalizing homosexuality after a campaign by activists, The Hindu reports:

IndiaA bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam, before whom the matter was mentioned by senior lawyers appearing for different parties, said that it will go through the documents and consider their plea.

Curative petition is the last judicial resort available for redressal of grievances in court and it is normally considered by judges in-chamber without granting opportunity to parties to argue the case.

The petitioners, including NGO Naz Foundation which has been spearheading the legal battle on behalf of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community, contended that there was an error in the judgement delivered on December 11 last year as it was based on old law.

 


Homophobia Costs India $31 Billion Annually: VIDEO

Lee Badgett

Homophobia costs India $31 billion annually. Thus is the finding of the World Bank after a preliminary study that attempted to measure the economic cost of excluding sexual minorities.

IndiaIn short, acts of homophobic social exclusion - violence, job loss, discrimination, etc. - lead to individual-level shortcomings in education and earnings, which then translate into economy-level impacts such as higher healthcare and social program costs, and lower economic output.

Depending on which estimate one goes with on the homosexual population of India - a task made difficult by underreporting combined with Indian ideas of sexuality that don't necessarily line up neatly with the Western LGBT quartet - the economic cost of homophobia is between $1.9 billion and $30.8 billion annually, or .01% to 1.7% loss to the GDP. A GDP reduction of that amount would be considered a recession, according to the study's author, University of Massachusetts economist Lee Badgett.

The findings aren't conclusive and the study acknowledges that more research needs to be done. Areas of particular attention going forward will be investing in data on LGBT exclusion, a focus on poverty, research infrastructure, and replicating the study in other countries.

You can see a video of the presentation, which clocks in at a hefty 2 hours, AFTER THE JUMP...

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