National Workshop, May 15 & 16, 2019, Hotel Royal Plaza, New Delhi
New Delhi, 17 May 2019: It is time to make the LGBTQI community to take lead in developing their own advocacy agenda at the national level and to ensure that various stakeholders including government and UN agencies in India are working to promote equality and a range of rights of LGBTQI people. Recognising this, UNAIDS India, in collaboration with UNDP India and with participation from the National AIDS Control Programme, UNESCO, UNODC, USAID, and Lawyers Collective, hosted a one-and-a-half-day national workshop on May 15 and 16, 2019, in New Delhi. The workshop focused on three aspects:
Status update on what happened after the recent judgments (especially 2018 Sec-377 Johar, and NALSA 2014)
Developing a community-led national advocacy agenda
Establishing a national think tank on LGBTQI issues to promote equality in all spheres of life
Providing the opening remarks Dr. Bilali Camara, UNAIDS India Country Director said “Liberty, equality, and fraternity has meant a lot to the United Nations. It is the struggle to fight for everyone’s rights. And in this fight, fraternity is a critical dimension. Our aim is to mobilise and organise the community so they can together to help each other.”
In the status update session, the speakers, in general, conveyed that despite 2018 Sec-377 and NALSA 2014 situation on the ground has not changed drastically, although there is a perception that there is an increasing understanding of the issues of trans people among the general public. Speaking at the opening plenary Shree Alok Saxena, Joint Secretary National AIDS Control Organisation said “The reason for the spike in crimes against LGBTQI is partly due to a lot of cases now being reported while earlier they were not being reported. When LGBTQI activities were illegal under Section 377, the community could not approach the police for constitutional remedy as they would be considered to be in the wrong. NACO has worked with communities that at one time in history fell onto the other side of the law. NACO has built models that have worked and are being replicated around India.”
In the panel discussion on how the UN agencies and bilateral agencies can support LGBTQI community-led advocacy agenda, representatives from UNAIDS, UNDP, UNESCO, and USAID reaffirmed their commitment to support community’s efforts to advance human rights and equality. Marietou Satin, Deputy Director USAID India remarked “Excluding any section of society is not only a moral evil, but it also impacts a country as a whole. You are denying a large population the participation of being a productive member of society. By including them, you are also investing in your economy. They have a right to contribute. For that, people need access to jobs and safety in the workplace.”
As part of their commitment, UNAIDS and UNDP offered to support the meetings of the proposed LGBTQI policy think tank at least twice a year. The 11 member taskforce provides high level, strategic advice to UNAIDS and UNDP on current, emerging LGBTQI issues, and on policy, programs and services to address those issues.
The 60 community leaders present discussed the need to end discrimination, sensitise political leaders and policymakers, and ensure that the LGBTQI community has access to all services including health, education, employment. The meeting concluded with a small interaction with Justice A P Shah (Retd) who delivered Delhi High Court judgement in 2009 reading down Section 377 IPC, he said: “the job has just begun, we have come a long way but we still have a lot to do”.
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Senior Programme Adviser
Health and Human Rights