We believe in ensuring our beneficiaries are aware of their rights and regularly discuss their issues in open and practical ways. One format is ‘Gulabi Melawa’ held exclusively for our MSM and LGBT communities during World Aids Week.
The rights of the men having sex with men (MSM) community in India is a complicated one. While the hijra (transgenders born male) community has been recognized by the law and government bodies as a third gender since 2014, Section 377 of the Indian penal code still makes homosexual sex punishable by law. Fortunately, the law is rarely upheld and there is a strong movement to repeal it however MSM are still discriminated against and often live double lives, with many married and afraid to reveal their true sexuality.
Snehalaya receives support from the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) to provide free sexual health and education to MSM which has helped in reaching this hidden community. However, we also believe it is necessary that they should work together to take the initiative to identify and solve the issues affecting them and encourage society to accept them.
Each Saturday we provide a safe space for them to meet and discuss any issues as well as bring experts into advise and mentor them. Our ‘Gulabi Melawa’ in December is a day-long annual event which brings prominent figures from our district to offer their own advice and insights and inspire them to create their own movement for change. This year’s event included the Secretary of Legal Aid of Ahmednagar District Court, Hon. M.H. Sheikh, who encouraged the group to continue to attend their regularly meetings to keep abreast of their legal rights in the fight for society acceptance. Medical officer, Dr Suresh Gholap, focused on HIV/AIDS prevalence and prevention but also encouraged them to take the initiative to take ownership of their issues by forming their own community-based organization. Our Assistant Director, Pravin Mutyal, spoke on district integrated counselling and testing centers (ICTC) for people living with HIV/AIDS and public-private partnerships (PPP) models to tackle the issues. Our own transgender (TG) trustee of the Board gave an introductory speech and assurances of Snehalaya’s ongoing help and support and plans to establish a state level LGBT federation were also discussed.