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Indian Government Moves to Axe Adoption Rights for Same-Sex Couples

India's Cabinet has decided to bar same-sex couples in the country from adopting children, Live Mint reports:

IndiaThe cabinet took the decision on Wednesday while considering amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, a government official said. However, the draft Bill, which also covers rehabilitation and adoption of children, does not mention disallowing same-sex couples from adopting.

The current law allows unmarried men and women above the age of 30 to adopt. Single LGBT Indians are not specifically barred from adopting, but whether the cabinet decision will change this will become clear whenever the Bill is tabled in Parliament.

The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) guidelines prevent foreigners in same-sex relationships from adopting children in India.

Last year, India's Supreme Court reinstated a colonial-era ban on homosexuality with the Indian government saying last month they have no plans to amend or change the law until it is reviewed again by the high court.  

Female Indian Sprinter Fails 'Gender Test', Disqualified From Commonwealth Games

Dutee Chand

Dutee Chand, representing India, was disqualified last month from the 2014 Commonwealth Games after failing a gender test, reports Bustle. The test showed that 18-year-old Chand’s testosterone levels were above the range considered “normal” for female athletes.

In 2012, Chand became the 100-meter sprint national champion in the under-18 division.

After winning two gold medals for India during the 16th Asian Junior Championship in June, Sports Authority of India (SAI) officials subjected Chand to the test which ultimately ruled her ineligible to represent the country this month in Glasgow.

Chand said that she is "completely shattered" by the result.

In a press release, SAI said:

“Preliminary investigations indicate that the athlete is not fit for participation in a female event due to female hyperandrogenism. The athlete will still be able to compete in the female category in future if she takes proper medical help and lowers her androgen level to the specified range. We reiterate that these test results do not determine her gender. The test simply tells us that she has excess androgen in her body and is therefore not eligible to compete in the female category.”

Hyperandrogenism, a medical condition in which an excessive amount of testosterone is produced by the body, is often the result of polycystic ovary syndrome and cal also manifest as a result of hyperactive adrenal glands or as the result of an intersex condition.

Bustle notes that although setting standards in sport is designed to eliminate “unfair” advantage, Chand is a woman who happens to naturally produce more testosterone than the average woman:

“If we are to believe that the advantages brought on by Chand’s naturally-produced hormones should be reason enough to disqualify her from competing against other women, where does this stop? If a women’s basketball player happens to be six inches taller than an arbitrary range of acceptable heights, should she be sent to play against men? Yes, that basketball player may be an outlier, and yes, Chand’s testosterone levels may make her an outlier, but isn’t that what professional athletes are? Isn’t that what makes watching sports so entertaining in the first place? The world’s greatest athletes aren’t average; they are outliers.

“It’s unfortunate that Chand, whose body chemistry may predispose her to athletic success, will need to take medication to curb her own gifts, and to return her to the 'normal' range. It’s unfortunate that in today’s world we have yet to realize that normal is subjective; that neither women nor men fall neatly into these arbitrarily-defined boxes of acceptable.

Writes Kalpana Sharma in The Hindu:

Our sport authorities need to be educated. Urgently. They need a crash course in understanding human biology, that there is no clear binary between male and female and that there are many conditions in-between.  But clearly, this knowledge, that has now become fairly commonplace, has failed to trickle down to those controlling Indian athletics.  They continue to believe that testing testosterone levels will conclusively establish whether a woman athlete is indeed a woman!

 So even as women athletes are bringing home medals from the Commonwealth Games, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Athletics Federation if India (AFI) will be better remembered for denying, virtually at the last minute, the chance for one of our most promising runners to compete in these games in Glasgow.

Indian Government Has No Plans To Amend Law Criminalizing Gay Sex Until Supreme Court Reviews It For Third Time

6a00d8341c730253ef01a5115c88a1970c-800wiThe Indian government has announced it has no plans to change a colonial-era law reinstated by the country’s Supreme Court in December 2013 that criminalizes gay sex, making it an offence punishable with life in prison. India Today reports: 

The government on Tuesday said it has no plans to amend Section 377 of the IPC, criminalising sex among homosexuals, till the issue is settled by the Supreme Court.

"No. The matter is sub-judiced before the Supreme Court. A decision regarding Section 377 of IPC can be taken only after pronouncement of judgement by the Supreme Court," Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju told Lok Sabha in a written reply.

He was replying to a question on whether the government proposes to amend or repeal Section 377 of the IPC.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision that re-instated section 377, the Indian government asked the court to reconsider its ruling. In January of this year the court refused that request stating it was up to lawmakers to amend the law if they want. While no action has come from legislators in the intervening period, the Indian high court has consented to review its previous ruling thanks to a successful “curative petition” that was led by gay rights activists and organizations:  “[The] 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.”

Wiki Loves Pride Edit-A-Thons Improve LGBT Content On Wikipedia

Wikimedia lgbt

Last month, Wikipedia launched a series of Wiki Loves Pride edit-a-thons to improve LGBT-related content on various Wikimedia projects.

The edit-a-thons aim to increase “the number of people and perspectives contributing to LGBT information on the site, as well as encouraging institutions to add their authority information, research and images to the public domain.”

Edit-a-thons have already taken place in Philadelphia, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Oregon.  Future edit-a-thons are planned for Atlanta and Houston and for Bangalore and Delhi, India.

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


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…

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

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


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.


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