MSM, HIV and social justice in South Asia
MARCH 2007 • Issue 3
Shivananda Khan, founder and chief executive of the India-based AIDS organization Naz Foundation International (NFI), wrote this essay in 2004 along with NFI legal consultant Aditya Bondyopadhyay and human rights activist Dr. Carol Jenkins. The authors discuss how the frequent violence, including rape, against men who appear to be feminine puts them at increased risk for HIV. The essay refers to men who are “feminized,” meaning they are seen as feminine by other people and not considered real men. It also refers to people who consider themselves to be of a third gender, neither women nor men.
Torture and sexual assault by police personnel of Nyappanahalli police station
(report from a hijra in Bangalore, India. 19/6/04)
Metis attacked by police coming out of a nightclub in Kathmandu
(report from Blue Diamond Society, Kathmandu, Nepal, 15/5/04)
Outreach workers of local MSM sexual health project, and international NGO staff arrested for ‘promoting homosexuality’
(report from 8/7/01, Lucknow, India)
Kothi field staff sexually assaulted by police
(report from Bandhu Social Welfare Society, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 15/8/03)
(Note, metis and kothis are local terms used by feminised males who have sex with males in Nepal, and Bangladesh/India respectively for themselves. In Pakistan the term used is zenana.)
It can go on. People abused, violated, arrested, threatened, blackmailed, beaten because they happen to be hijras, kothis, or effeminate gay men. The very state agencies that are meant to protect citizens, actively support, or even directly involve themselves in targeting males who have sex with males, particularly those who are feminised.
More than just the fact of male to male sex, a central real issue is the abuse, sexual assault and violence. Males with feminised demeanour or gendered identities are considered “not men” and are perceived to be penetrated by “real men.” Such penetration is considered to degrade the masculine status of such males and therefore give “real men” the right to target and abuse them.
87% of respondents in a study conducted in Bangladesh stated that they have been subjected to sexual assault or rape because they were effeminate. The situation is not much different in other countries of South Asia.
Such violence and terror has a dramatic impact on any focused HIV/AIDS sexual health intervention that works with male-to-male sex, not to speak of the devastating effect it has in creating an atmosphere where such males are incapacitated from taking effective measures to protect themselves from the infection…”
Download the complete essay at http://www.nfi.net/essays.htm