South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

The LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgenders, queer) community in the country is about to approach the state human rights commission to set up guidelines about reporting issues related to them. This has come about in the wake of a newspaper in a small town in the state writing a story that equated their lifestyle to sex trade.
In the week following the said article being published, gay right activists from all over the state had assembled in the town for a dialogue with the editor of the newspaper. The meeting was arranged in the local police headquarters. However, after making the activists wait for a considerable time, the editor slipped out saying he had some urgent work outside the city. Numerous letters to the newspaper and the owners of the media group were answered by means of a follow up article, which also did not help the cause.
“It is difficult for most gay people to ‘come out’. With such discriminatory articles, not only would they be discouraged from revealing themselves but the society would never have a positive opinion of our community,” said Sonal Giani, advocacy officer of Mumbai-based NGO Humsafar Trust, one of the first organizations to promote gay rights in the country. She was among the activists waiting in the police commissioner’s office for a meeting that never happened. The activists also staged a sit-in protest later.

The said editor has done this on an earlier occasion in another city where he worked as a reporter for the same publication. “Back then, too, we had issued him a notice and he had to issue an apology for the things he had written. This is a clear case of yellow journalism wherein the article cited so-called ‘gay hotspots’ of the city as reasons of cultural deterioration,” said Anand Chandrani, project director of city-based NGO Sarathi trust.
He said he believed such revelations had several harmful effects. “With the places being revealed, the article clearly flouts our right to privacy. Also, kids in their teens who may be going through confusion would end up at these places where they may face much more dangerous situations,” he said.
“It would also undo a lot of work that NGOs have been doing in these areas to reduce HIV-AIDS prevalence. Several of these advocacy programmes funded by governmental organizations like Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society go waste,” added Pallav Patankar, director, HIV programmes of Humsafar Trust.
Referring to the follow up article of the newspaper, he said it was on similar lines and made the community feel cheated when all they wanted was to be heard out. “We are misunderstood people and not violent, anti-social elements. We are going to make this case heard by the state’s human rights commission to get a just treatment by newspapers in future,” he said.

Source: The Times of India, 22/08/2013: