Q. What is the difference in the way marginalizedcommunities
live today and the way they lived a decade ago? How has Naz Foundation
contributed to this alteredperception?
A. The homosexualcommunity in India lived in hiding a decade ago
and it still does. There hasbeen no huge change in social perception regarding
marginalized communities. In September 2001, Naz India filed aPublic Interest
Litigation (PIL) to challenge Section 377 of the Indian PenalCode in the Delhi
High Court. On July 2, 2009, the Delhi High Court pronouncedthat Section 377 of
the Indian Penal Code will exclude consensual sex betweenadults.
of homosexuality has been aprogressive step. It has made society accept the
fact that we can neithercastigate homosexuals, nor ignore them by sweeping
their issues under the carpet.
Q. What remains to be done now?
A. The High Courtjudgement, however, does not talk about gay
rights. Indians have a long way togo in terms of procuring basic human rights
for gay people so that they leadfulfilled lives - they must have the right to
marry, be able to adopt children,have a respectable livelihood and be able to
take care of their families.
As a culture, we
still believe that we are obliged tomarry a member of the opposite sex and give
birth to children to gain respectin society. Even single persons are not
respected, leave alone people of adifferent sexual orientation.
Q. What would you say to a section of people who stillthink
that the sexual behavior of marginalized communities is an abnormalitythat has
to be treated medically?
A. To them, Iwould say that medical, psychological and
psychiatric research has constantlyshown that a section of any community is
gay. The reason why they are gay is amatter of ongoing research.
Again, studies have shown that homosexuals cannot becomeheterosexual and vice-versa. There is sometimes, forced bisexuality in societybecause people refuse to acknowledge homosexuality.
We need to understand
that homosexual behavior has been observed in near about 1,500 species,ranging
from primates to gut worms, and is well-recorded for 500 of species.Being gay
is not an abnormality or illness.
Q. What are the greatest challenges facing you in thework
that you do today? How do you think civil society and the government canreach
out and help you?
A. The greatestchallenges we face today are from the
conservative forces of society. We are inthe Supreme Court now, fighting again
for the decriminalization judgment thatthe High Court passed in 2009. The
hearing is going on now and we expect ajudgment soon. We have to move ahead
from there - a gamut of rights has to bemade available to the homosexual community.
Political will from
the part of the government, lawslegislated for the progress and protection of
the gay community will surelymake things better. Larger coalitions in society
are very important to bringabout a movement to empower them. Action Plus is a
group, which is doing a lotof good in this context. Celebrities like Celina
Jaitley, Koena Mitra and PoojaBedi have been very vocal in their support for
the LGTB (Lesbian, Gay,Transgender and Bisexual) people.
Q. What are the learnings that we must borrow from thewest
in bringing the sexually marginalized into the mainstream and treatingthem at
par with other citizens of the country?
A. We can learn alot from the US where homosexuals today have so
many rights. A lesbian couplerecently fought and won a legal battle against the
government for healthinsurance rights.
As a democracy, we
need to understand that everyone hasequal rights. We must learn to respect
differences - even in sexualorientation. Also, there will be no social change
overnight, and there will bemany years of struggle to contend with. However,
the only way to go is the wayforward.
Q. India has a long way to go to provide healthcare forHIV
patients. How can the lives and futures of HIV positive children besecured?
A. When poorchildren are HIV positive, they get a very raw
deal - they have no access tonutrition, sanitation, and medication. We have to
fight for underlying issuesof right to childhood, issues of poverty, and
The situation is
slightly better for adults. Allgovernment hospitals offer free testing for HIV
and free retroviral drugs. Anyadult can enroll in an Anti-Retroviral (ARV)
clinic. If one's CD 4 level fallsbelow 350, doctors start treating the patient.
Q How are you sensitizing the keepers of the law, thepolice,
to the suffering of HIV positive people?
A. Naz India is working with the police services in New
Delhi.We conduct weekly training workshops for police personnel. The training
aims tobuild awareness of HIV/AIDS and tackles issues of discrimination,
physicalharassment, corruption and Human Rights.
Q. What are the anti-retroviral drugs available fortreatment
of HIV positive children? How do you plan to give HIV positiveadolescents a
livelihood, so that they survive independently and also do notspread the
A. We have thefirst and second line of anti-retroviral drugs
available free of cost from thegovernment through AIIMS. The third line of
drugs, however, is extremelyexpensive and is not available free of cost. Our
children are all on the firstand second line of drugs. The oldest child we have
is an 18-year-old who isbeing trained in computers. He will surely be able to
earn his livelihood aslong as he lives. In the US, HIV positive children have
survived till the ageof 25 years.
AtNaz, we teach
children life skills from the age of eight or nine so that theyknow about their
condition, grow up to accept it and do not spread the virus.
Q. How many full-blown cases of AIDS have you treated
A. There were many full-blown AIDS cases and relateddeaths at Naz during the years when anti-retroviral drugs were not available. All that has come to an end and our HIV positive children are living healthy, happy lives.