Beyond a Binary: Gender in the work of Alliance India

Shaleen Rakesh’s essay, Beyond a Binary, sheds light on Alliance India’s work with marginalized communities who are the most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS in India. Community members include widows whose husbands have died of AIDS, children living with HIV, women who inject drugs, men who have sex with men (MSM), transgenders and hijras. The connection between these seemingly diverse communities is illuminated in this essay through a focus on the construction of gender, and the role that gender plays in people’s vulnerability to HIV.

Here is an excerpt from the essay:

Gender illuminates, sometimes in the most unexpected ways, the complexity, delicacy and constant contradictions of human interactions. Gender is something that adheres to us, regardless of anatomical sex. The ‘trouble’ arises when we see biological sex as the cause of innate gender traits rather than a construct informed by conditioning, culture, family, age, self-esteem and the space you occupy (to name a few). Gender is not just about women and girls. This essay attempts to configure the surface of the vast landscape of gender which involves men and boys as much as women and girls; connects the dots between gender identities and sexuality; explores its relationship to HIV vulnerabilities; and what interventions can do (and undo) to address an individual’s experience and public expression of gender.

You can read the entire essay here.

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