Traditionally, in Indian culture, our ancestors and families veer away from certain topics. Among the issues not talked about openly, that then become surrounded by an air of mystery and curiosity which ultimately leads to many misunderstandings, are sex and gender identity. Fortunately, the situation is not what it used to be, as more parents and carers are now slowly starting to discuss this more openly with their children. We are also maturing in our approach and, having struggled with what information to share with our beneficiaries and how to speak to them freely and openly about these taboo subjects, have undertaken trainings on the subjects.
While we have previously explored the concepts and their meanings, there has been little discussion around gender identity, especially around identifying as LGBTQ+. With over 200 children from vastly different backgrounds this is an area we can no longer ignore.
Snehalaya believes the right to a dignified life, as well as the freedom to make one’s own decisions, are fundamental for living a meaningful life. Homosexuality was decriminalized in the Navtei Singh Johar case in 2018, however, the perception towards the LGBTQ+ community remains negative and those identifying outside the norms face stigma and persecution.
With more children under our care and protection confused about their sexuality, we encouraged 35 staff from our Snehadhar, Snehasparsh, Rehab Center and Family-based Care projects to take part in a two-day training program focused on gender and sexuality delivered by Pune-based Prayas, which has been conducting research and training in sex, gender, sexuality and HIV/AIDS for many years.
The training tackled the subject head on, with role play, discussions and self-examination through presentations on subjects including masturbation, love, exploration and sexual abuse. Emphasis was also placed on the need to respect each individual's dignity, wisdom, and rights and to not label our children.
Our team will now use their learnings to support our children as they develop into teenagers and the adults they want to be free from judgement.