Director: Jeevanandhan Rajendran
Duration: 00:03:53; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 6.192; Saturation: 0.246; Lightness: 0.372; Volume: 0.078; Cuts per Minute: 5.148; Words per Minute: 146.216
Summary: Action Plus, a network of 14 organisations working on HIV/AIDS in India, conducted a series of People’s Panchayats in 2009, which sought to understand people's battles against Stigma and Homophobia through the voices of survivors and resistors. The Panchayats sought to address the devaluation of livelihoods and life systems of entire communities of people who practice alternate sexualities, and the erosion of rights or dignity.
This series of People’s Panchayats was held in five cities in India. The first one was in Bangalore on January 28, 2009, the second in Hyderabad on February 6, 2009, the third in Chennai on March 21, 2009 and the fourth on April 11, 2009 in Pune. The fifth and final one was held in New Delhi on April 24, 2009.
Each of the Panchayats followed a similar structure. The interactive meetings were structured to have affected members from sexual minority communities share their personal experiences of living with stigma and homophobia. These were the deposers. Then the two-member expert panel shared their thoughts and ideas based on their experience in the field. The audience comprising of the general public, NGOs, media, opinion leaders and religious communities made their queries and comments at the end of the deposition. There was a brief audience interaction following which the jury or the panch gave its ‘verdict’.
Sunil Gupta, a member of the Delhi Panchayat's jury, responds to the depositions heard. Mr. Gupta talks about the importance of coming out stories, and the ways in which they can be both self-empowering and an integral form of queer activism.
people's panchayats on resisting stigma and homophobia
It's fantastic to hear testimonies – I think the whole idea of gay liberation (I've been gay for almost 50 years now) is based on this notion that you tell your story. It's incredibly empowering, it's fantastic to hear the different kinds of people, the different kinds of stories. That there is this huge variety – that there is no single group of sexual minority to be lumped together. We're all very different and have unique stories. I've used this notion of coming out as my personal weapon. I came out at fifteen, I discovered that it's no longer my problem; it becomes the family's problem. I said "I'm really sorry parents, you have a problem, I don't have a problem. I can give you a book list – go off to the library, read some books." I've used that throughout my life – with my employers, with all the people that I know and I've carried this forward to the point that when I was diagnosed with being HIV positive, I used the same strategy. Do not hide it. Hiding it makes you very vulnerable – you can be blackmailed, you can be beaten up because of the secrecy factor.
Having now come back here, what I find is this rather strange situation – lot of discussion like these, activism, but not very much actual, personal coming out. And I feel that if we could take that step to publicly emerge…no one's going to do it for you, you have to do it yourself. And one of the ways in which we are doing it…is through things like the pride march. Last year was much bigger than we had thought it was going to be in Delhi – this year I'm sure will be even bigger and I think the strength of the visible numbers will be very significant. The range of the people there you know is staggering. Because the kind of myths and homophobias and misconceptions people have at the petty, daily life level – all our straight friends have them too. And you cannot have friendship relations and job relations correcting them every minute of the day so you just live with it. They casually say all kinds of things. People keep telling me "why do you keep saying you're gay?" I say because everyday you talk about your children, your husband, your wife reminding me that you're a blooming heterosexual, married person and I don't want to hear about it all the time either. I should talk about my lovers; I should talk about the men that I want to fuck. Why shouldn't I? You do all the time. So I really feel that the personal story is very significant and it's a shame – perhaps this needs to be taken to a more public level – films are being made. I'm feeling very strange because cameras are pointed at me. I'm more used to pointing the cameras at other people. I think we need to take this out to the public at large. I think it's possible, but it's very very slow. Young people – I work with a lot of younger people who are under 25 – they're not going to wait. They want the change and I feel like they want it now. They deserve it now. Why should they wait till they are fifty? We should have it now.
People's Panchayats on Resisting Stigma and Homophobia; Action Plus - a Coalition for Rights, Education and Care in HIV and AIDS. Sunil Gupta, a member of the Delhi Panchayat's jury, responds to the depositions heard. Mr. Gupta talks about the importance of coming out stories, and the ways in which they can be both self-empowering, as well as an integral form of queer activism.