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The India HIV/AIDS Alliance in partnership with SASO, implements the Chanura Kol project in Manipur. This project is funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation and serves to expand interventions to decrease HIV transmission and reduce drug relapse among female injection drug users (FIDUs). This slideshow features photos taken in Manipur with FIDUs that the Chanura Kol project works with.

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Government of India reaffirms support for decriminalizing homosexuality in UN report

A draft of the 2nd Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of India at the UN has been released. This review, which takes places once every four years, is conducted by the Human Rights Council and assesses the human rights records of each of the UN member states.

In the draft report, the Government of India included a very positive paragraph under the ‘Recent Development/Issues’ section. The paragraph, which relates to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), is as follows:

Homosexuals
27. Homosexual intercourse was a criminal offence until 2009 under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The law was struck down by the 2009 Supreme Court decision in Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi as a violation of fundamental rights in the case of consensual adults but not for minors. 

During the review, which concluded on 24th May 2012, the Government of India stated that it supports the Delhi High Court judgment on Section 377 of the IPC and, though it cannot determine the judicial outcome, it is hopeful that the Supreme Court of India takes a sympathetic view on the matter in its pending decision.

The complete draft report can be accessed here.

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The author of this post, Yadavendra Singh, is Senior Programme Officer: Capacity Building for Alliance India’s Pehchan Programme.  

With support from the Global Fund, Pehchan builds the capacity of 200 community-based organisations (CBOs) for men who have sex with men (MSM), transgenders and hijras in 17 states in India to be more effective partners in the government’s HIV prevention programme. By supporting the development of strong CBOs, Pehchan will address some of the capacity gaps that have often prevented CBOs from receiving government funding for much-needed HIV programming. Named Pehchan which in Hindi means ‘identity’, ‘recognition’ or ‘acknowledgement,’ this programme is implemented by India HIV/AIDS Alliance in consortium with Humsafar Trust, SAATHII, Sangama, and SIAAP and will reach 453,750 MSM, transgenders and hijras by 2015. It is the Global Fund’s largest single-country grant to date focused on the HIV response for vulnerable sexual minorities.

US State Department’s latest Human Rights Report details the status of LGBT rights around the world

“As Secretary, I have worked with my superb team on advancing human rights in a 21st century landscape, focusing on new frontiers even as we stand up against age-old abuses.  Where women have been and continue to be marginalized, we’re helping them become full partners in their governments and economies.  Where LGBT people are mistreated and discriminated against, we’re working to bring them into full participation in their societies.  We’re expanding access to technology and defending internet freedom because people deserve the same rights online as off.  And we know that in the 21st century human rights are not only a question of civil and political liberties, it’s about the fundamental question of whether people everywhere have the chance to make the most of their God-given potential”.

– Secretary Hillary Clinton on the Release of the 2011 Human Rights Report

The US State Department has just released its 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices which documents the status of human rights in countries around the world. The report, as stated by the US Department, serves to inform U.S. government policymaking and serve as a reference for other governments, international institutions, non-governmental organizations, scholars, interested citizens, and journalists. The report also contains a section on Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in India.

Assistant Secretary Posner wrote the following in the introduction to the report:
In many countries there was an uptick in discrimination against members of racial and ethnic minorities; people with disabilities; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) people, all of whom were frequent targets of abuse, discrimination, and violence.  In some countries medical personnel were harassed, intimidated, and arrested.  …

This year’s reports highlight the treatment of marginalized people, including LGBT people and people with disabilities.  Too many countries still criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, and LGBT people face discrimination and violence in many more countries.  …

As President Obama has said, societies change from within.  Civil society organizations lead that change by engaging citizens in conversations about how people want to be governed.  These organizations spotlight human rights abuses, fight discrimination, and monitor whether authorities are upholding the rule of law.  They speak out against the exclusion, persecution, or hatred of vulnerable minorities, and document where their societies fall short.  By holding up a mirror to society, they ask their governments and their citizens to do better and to be better.  In all of these ways, civil society groups are the lifeblood of free and open societies, and they are most vital in countries where democratic traditions and institutions are just beginning to take root.

Shedding Light on Abuse: Alliance India study shows that almost 50% of women who inject drugs in Manipur report harassment and abuse from community members

Female injecting drug users with family support are usually provided detoxification therapy at home while those with no family support seek therapy at Chanura Kol’s short stay home. With the Addict’s Prayer in the background, a short stay home resident (pictured above) says her morning prayers.
Photographer: Prashant Panjiar

“The findings of this study are essential to understanding the lack of a support system in the lives of women who inject drugs, which significantly increases their isolation and vulnerability to seeking sex work as a means of earning a livelihood and their risk of relapsing into drug use.”

A study conducted by Alliance India sheds light on the extent of the social discrimination and isolation experienced by women who inject drugs in Manipur. The findings of this study are essential to understanding the lack of a support system in the lives of women who inject drugs, which significantly increases their isolation and vulnerability to seeking sex work as a means of earning a livelihood and their risk of relapsing into drug use.

Alliance India’s study found that almost 50% of women who inject drugs reported having experienced harassment, teasing and abuse by community members. 33% of women interviewed said that they had been excluded from community events because of their drug use. In addition to this, 20% of women reported being arrested by police officials, and 3% amongst this group recounted being asked for sexual favours to avoid arrest.

Stigma and discrimination by family members was also quite common with 32% of women reporting that their families isolated them and did not involve them in daily family matters because of their drug use, while 33% reported that their relatives did not allow them to mingle with their own family members.

This study, which can be downloaded here, emphasizes the need to educate and counsel family members to support their female relatives who inject drugs. This is a key element in the holistic range of services offered by Chanura Kol to help prevent injecting female drug users in Manipur from relapsing.

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Funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Chanura Kol was initiated in 2010 and serves to expand interventions to reduce relapse among female injecting drug users. Based on a holistic and sustainable approach, Chanura Kol aims to address the root causes of vulnerability and the primary causes of relapse post-detoxification for women who inject drugs in India’s Northeastern state of Manipur, many of whom are also sex workers. Chanura Kol provides these women with long-term shelter, creates opportunities for income generation outside of sex work, and helps them rebuild family relationships.

An Interview with Prasada Rao, Alliance India trustee and the new UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Asia-Pacific

Recently The Tribune newspaper in Chandigarh, India, interviewed J.V.R. Prasada Rao, the newly appointed UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Asia-Pacific, a former Director General of India’s National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), and a current Trustee of the India HIV/AIDS Alliance. He reflects broadly on the successes and challenges of the AIDS response in India, across the region and in the world, in particular noting the critical role that India has played providing generic drugs to Africa to treat HIV and the urgent need to keep the costs of these medicines low. He continues his strong advocacy for effective interventions for key populations such as men who have sex with men, transgenders, sex workers and people who use drugs, and acknowledges the difficulties that the legal environment creates for our efforts to stem the epidemic in these groups.

You can read the article here.

Fighting Transphobia and Homophobia: Pehchan team and supporters respond to cases of violence against the MSM, transgender and hijra community

International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia is celebrated on May 17th every year to commemorate the removal of homosexuality from the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases, which took place on this day in 1990. However, the rampant discrimination against the LGBT community that existed before this decision is still prevalent throughout the world.

In India, MSM, transgender and hijra (MTH) community members suffer from homophobia and transphobia frequently, yet many of them suffer silently. In order to address this issue of stigma that often takes the form of violence, Pehchan’s team members have implemented a crisis response system that takes relevant action within 24 hours of new cases being reported. Team members also provide trauma and violence-specific counseling, organize peer support meetings and provide community members who have experienced violence with referral linkages to the legal support system.

Events that took place late last year in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh (AP) illustrate the prevalence of institutionalized transphobia and the speed required to combat these occurrences by Alliance team members. Geetu (name changed), a transgender from Ongole, AP, and her partner were arrested without a warrant. They were booked under Indian Penal Code, Section 377, legislation that criminalized consensual same sex relationships, but which was read down by the Delhi High Court in 2009.

In custody of the arresting police officers, Geetu was imprisoned and physically assaulted. Panic, incited by rumors that police officials were looking to arrest other community members, spread quickly amongst the MSM, transgender and hijra community in Ongole and, soon, across the nation.

Ram Babu, Pehchan’s Advocacy Officer based at our regional office, responded rapidly to Geetu’s case. He met with Pratap Kumar, a lawyer with whom Pehchan’s community based organization staff had already established a relationship in preparation for moments like these. Pratap defended Geetu on a pro-bono basis and won her case, which led to her acquittal.

To reduce the chances of similar instances occurring in the future, a sensitization meeting was later held for police officers regarding the Delhi High Court’s verdict regarding IPC 377 and the implications it had for the health and human rights of the MSM, transgender and hijra community.

This case highlights the importance that organisations like Alliance India must place on building the capacity of their staff, partners and networks to take prompt action against the ongoing cases of transphobia and homophobia that plague sexual minority groups.

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With support from the Global Fund, Pehchan builds the capacity of 200 community-based organisations (CBOs) for men who have sex with men (MSM), transgenders and hijras in 17 states in India to be more effective partners in the government’s HIV prevention programme. By supporting the development of strong CBOs, Pehchan will address some of the capacity gaps that have often prevented CBOs from receiving government funding for much-needed HIV programming. Named Pehchan which in Hindi means ‘identity’, ‘recognition’ or ‘acknowledgement,’ this programme is implemented by India HIV/AIDS Alliance in consortium with Humsafar Trust, SAATHII, Sangama, and SIAAP and will reach 453,750 MSM, transgenders and hijras by 2015. It is the Global Fund’s largest single-country grant to date focused on the HIV response for vulnerable sexual minorities.

Andhra Pradesh increases condom use to improve HIV prevention outcomes

Over the last four years, the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh (AP) has seen a 100% rise in the use of condoms, making it the fourth highest consumer of condoms among Indian states.

This noteworthy upward trend in condom use has led to a reduction in new HIV infections amongst Andhra Pradesh’s high-risk populations. The Andhra Pradesh State AIDS Control Society (APSACS), which works closely with Alliance India’s Pehchan and Avahan teams located in AP, is responsible for distributing condoms in the state, both for free and for sale through subsidized social marketing efforts.

A representative from APSACS was quoted as saying, “The situation is such that we have to plan a month in advance for the supply (of condoms) to avoid a shortage.” This is in sharp contrast to the situation four years ago when condom use was so low that APSACS officials stated that lakhs of condoms, having expired, had to be disposed of. You can read the entire story here.