Name of the activity: Ditch the Hate

Country/NMO: India (MSAI)

Program: Sexuality & Gender Identity

 

Contact information: [email protected]

Type of the activity: Campaign

 

General description:

With the end-goal of sensitising the masses about the LGBT+ community and advocating for positive change regarding the same in mind, this activity, on account of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia (May 17th 2018) was launched by MSAI-India. We posted content everyday to generate awareness and advocate for acceptance. This acceptance is the only was to break down the legal, healthcare and other barriers the community faces. Everyday, we posted an infographic with text to support it as well as a brochure with terms relating to the community so that a person who wasn’t aware about the community can relate to their situation by the end of the campaign. The campaign ended with a call for collective action for the community and to work with allies to further the community’s standing in society.

Focus area:

LGBTIQ+ issues

Problem statement:

An individual’s sexuality and gender identity is their personal choice. There is endless diversity in the world of sexuality and gender identity. For years now, society has been divided in its acceptance of this diversity. Misconceptions run wild, rights are violated and a large community is marginalized.
This campaign needed to be undertaken for multiple reasons, a few are listed below:
1. There is no clear statistic available on the number of gay and lesbian individuals living in India. This is due to the taboo associated with being in a non-heterosexual relationship. It is not that homosexual relations do not exist in India. They do. However, these couples are forced to hide in the shadows while their rights are trampled upon and their voices taken away.
2. When it comes to transgender rights, India seems to have progressive laws but they are only seemingly progressive. What lurks beneath is a sea of ignorance and lack of follow-up that has resulted in instances of brutal violence going largely unaddressed by the legal system. The last available statistic says there are 4.9 lakh transgender people in India but this doesn’t account for the many more who haven’t come out into society. So clearly, the trans community isn’t as small as we perceive it to be.
3. The ignorance with respect to the intersex community is extremely rampant. A simple Google search for the number of intersex people born in India presents results such as ‘number of Hijras (Actually a group of trans people living in South Asia)’ or derogatory words such as ‘hermaphrodite’. It is clear that society isn’t even aware of what it means to be intersex and this ignorance itself reflects the gross infringement of human rights that occurs in intersex community, on a daily basis. Health care providers are a huge part of this human rights violation too.
4. We’d like to believe otherwise but even the health care system falls prey to this social prejudice. Members of the LGBT community often face negative attitudes from health care providers, thus making it harder for them to access health care.
5. Members of the community often resort to sex work, thus falling into overlapping vulnerabilities that put them at greater risk for being infected with HIV. There are very few national HIV control programmes that identify LGBT+ people as a distinct population and serve their specific needs as a group. The lack of non-heteronormative sex education has resulted in a lot of misconceptions in the community itself about proper sex practices and has thus led to greater instances of STIs, pregnancies, unsafe abortions and abuse amongst them.
6. The legal system has its own set of barriers for the community. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalizes non-penis-in-vagina sex. Despite also outlawing certain consensual sexual acts among heterosexual adults, this law has greater consequences for the LGBTQ+ community. Used as a tool to harass these individuals, it threatens their access to services like health care and seriously violates their human rights. It represents a regressive step-back for our country. With the Rights of Transgender Persons’ Bill, the government legally recognises their gender but does not give them right to be free from discrimination, right to marry and have a family or even right to proper sexual and reproductive health services.

In such trying times, standing together and simply saying ‘I’m with you’ can make the largest difference. This May 17th 2018, which marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia (IDAHOTB) SCORA India is working towards the global theme for IDAHOTB 2018 – ALLIANCES for SOLIDARITY.

Target groups and beneficiaries:

Target group:
1. Medical Students
2. Youth
3. Healthcare Providers
4. Social Agents and NGOs

Beneficiaries:
1. General Population as Sexuality is a core aspect of everyone’s identity
2. LGBT+ Individuals
3. Anyone else who is discriminated against based on gender identity, sexual orientation or sexual behaviour

Objectives and indicators of success:

Major goal: To sensitise the masses about the LGBTQ+ community to ensure that anyone who does not conform to the heteronormative and binary nature of sexuality and gender identity can live free from any form of discrimination.
Objectives:
1. To encourage people to stand in solidarity with the community via an online campaign on Facebook.
Indicator of success: visibility of the campaign on Facebook in India
2. To engage medical students across India in the discussion on LGBT+ rights by use of infographics and brochures
Indicator of success: any sharing of the infographics from the official MSAI-India Facebook page where they will originallly posted onto anyone else’s private pages or public forums.
3. To dispel myths and clarify concepts regarding sexuality and gender identity through a glossary of terms related to this topic ‘The Sexuality and Gender Identity Umbrella’s and through infographics like that of the Genderbread man
Indicator of success: Clarifying doubts of readers related to SGI and the SGI umbrella
4. To bring to light the regressive laws related to the community such as Section 377 and the Rights of Transgender Persons bill 2016
Indicator of success: to spark the flame for advocacy for this community in relevant stakeholders
5. To break down the health disparities that the community faces and discuss the implications of all of the above with respect to the quality of health care that is accessible to the community.
Indicator of success: to have even 1 medical student’s outlook on an LGBT+ patient change such that even one member of the community experiences truly accessible health care.

Methodology:

To achieve the aforementioned objectives, we planned to create infographics and brochures that would be posted on the official MSAI-India Facebook page over a course of one week. The infographics were created by the Activity Coordinators based on research and prior knowledge about the situation of the community in our country. A basic analysis of the issues that they struggle with revealed that there was ignorance of the community that bred fear and discrimination. To address these, on the first 2 days of the campaign, we planned to educate the masses about the intricacies of SGI. A glossary of terms related to the community was also created based on similar glossaries created by LGBTQ+ awareness websites on the internet. On Day 4, we addressed how the fear and ignorance can lead to nasty manifestations of discrimination. Tolerance clearly isn’t enough, acceptance is required too. By Day 5, we shifted our focus to advocacy and addressed via infographics and supporting text, how legal and health care barriers negatively impact the community. In keeping with the theme for this year’s IDAHOTB, Alliances for Solidarity, we urged those following the campaign that all progressive struggles (whether that for gender equity or that against racial discrimination) were all interconnected and collective action is the need of the hour. The requirement to strengthen alliances was noted.

Plans for evaluation:

To evaluate this online campaign, apart from keeping track of the number of likes, shares and comments on the posts, we also planned to meet at least 4 out of 5 goals mentioned earlier.

Another method of evaluation was to observe the responses of people to the campaign. Negative responses were rarely noted, not because people have been destigmatised, but because people do not want to politically incorrect on social media. Even if this realisation isn’t a win, it works in our favour as it means that at least the campaign managed to inform someone that discrimination is wrong.

Furthermore, we received queries as to the difference between gender identity and gender expression and much more that showed us that the activity was clearly well perceived by the readers who followed it for a week.

Final method of evaluation based on the likes, shares and comments was to check for follow-up on the part of the reader every day for the next post. This showed that the readers were invested in the campaign and returned to know more.