Resisting Stigma and Homophobia: Pramada Menon's Expert Deposition, Delhi Panchayat
Director: Jeevanandhan Rajendran
Duration: 00:04:17; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 9.306; Saturation: 0.171; Lightness: 0.420; Volume: 0.092; Cuts per Minute: 0.233; Words per Minute: 178.610
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’.
Pramada Menon, the director of CREA, explores some of the reasons why we, as a society, are intolerant of difference. She goes on to talk about some of the obstacles that the deposers had outlined, asking that individuals take on the challenge of transforming the current social landscape into one that is far more accepting of difference.
people's panchayats on resisting stigma and homophobia
If you look at what all the deposers have been talking about – it's a very simple thing which a lot of us actually take for granted – which is we just want to be accepted for who we are. And why is that so complex? Because as people are talking and as I see the kind of work that has been going on for so long, I'm always amazed that a simple thing like saying "we are who we are, can you just let us get on with our lives and accord us dignity and respect", seems to be such a big thing that we seem to be asking of society. And every deposer who has spoken has spoken about the violence that they've either faced at home or outside. It's almost as though being different is problematic. And all of us know that being different in this country is so obviously propagated for different reasons. Every institution promotes a certain kind of discrimination. When it comes to sexuality, somehow the discrimination is so high. The values that are attached to being heterosexual seem to be so large that anybody else who does not fit within that framework is really not counted. And what are we talking about? A set of people who are like each one of you here. And very often the question is "so, what have you contributed to society?" as though being a sexual minority ends up making you some kind of a strange leper that cannot be included and has to constantly prove that we are one of you, we are as good as you. And I just listened to every single person speak and it's simple things like getting on to a bus and having someone say "are you a man or a woman?" or a simple thing like wanting to have my name, the name that I want to have – up on my doorway. Is that so tough? Is that something that somebody has to struggle all her life – just to get that?
So I really feel that one of the things that we need to look at is that how is the stigma that each one of us is propagating and what are we happy and how are we happy doing this? Because it's very clear that there are these institutions that are keeping it going. And I can see a lot of people saying "ok we heard all these stories, but what is the big thing?" It's people being unable to share their lives, it's people having to hide – all their lives from everything that they hold dear, it's being unable to talk about every little thing that happens to you, being unable to talk about your relationships and somewhere I also feel that what has also happened in the process is that the stigma and discrimination is so high that we almost take it within ourselves and say that all we are asking is that our parents understand us and that we can understand that it is going to be difficult. Why is it difficult to understand that somebody has a different orientation from you? Why is that so complicated? We seem to be able to take in a lot of other changes that are going on in the world in our complete stride. We don't seem to have a problem with that. But somehow when it comes to orientation and someone says "I'm a woman but I love another woman" – that seems to set the whole world on fire and everyone falls apart. So I really feel that we need to start thinking of what is it that we need to do is what all deponents said that let us not talk about it in these lovely, haloed places called conference halls where we talk of these issues and we all feel moved and we go out an say, yes that was a very moving thing and then get on with our lives. I think the issue is that all of us know that there is stigma and discrimination, all of us see it everyday because there are no visual images available in this country, which validates existence for so many people in the country. Can we do some amount of change around that? Because it's as Ashok said – it's education, it's awareness and it's saying that it's alright whoever you are a part – and it's not acceptance. It's admitting that a person is a whole human being and needs to be a part of all our lives.
People's Panchayats on Resisting Stigma and Homophobia; Action Plus - a Coalition for Rights, Education and Care in HIV and AIDS. Pramada Menon, the director of CREA, explores some of the reasons for which we, as a society, are intolerant of difference. She goes on to talk about some of the obstacles that the deposers had outlined, asking that individuals take on the challenge of transforming the current social landscape into one that is far more accepting of difference.