Sensitising Tamil media on rights of LGBT community

While the English media went gaga over the recent reading down of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code by the Delhi High Court, the response of its Tamil counterpart has remained largely muted.

To sensitise them on LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders) rights, the Sahodari Foundation, an NGO, plans to organise a workshop next month on the issue.

Talking to the author,  Sahodari founder Kalki said the workshop will be held in the first week of August in Chennai. A similar event is slated to be organised in Coimbatore to cover the southern Tamil Nadu media.

Kalki pointed out that the State government had created a separate welfare board and allotted a significant amount in the recent budget for transgenders. “Granted that the Tamil media were more open to discussing transgender issues, but why is it that they shy away from flagging issues of other sexual minorities?” she wondered.

Kalki claimed that language media has various misconceptions on LGBT rights, which led to inaccurate reporting.

For instance, the term “orinaserkai” is used commonly in Tamil media for gays, lesbians and bisexuals. But it refers only to the sexual aspect. Instead, phrases like ‘oru paal eerpu kondavarkal’, ‘than paal vizhaivu kondavarkal’ (people who are attracted to their own gender) etc can be used to give them a sense of dignity.

“We are also trying to coin nKALKIew Tamil terms to properly define our community,” she disclosed.

“While the English media has supported us, the Tamil media usually focuses only on the sexual aspect, ignoring their commitment to each other,” she rued.

“The prevailing concept is about an abnormal sexual orientation, however being a gay or lesbian is something much more than that. Though the English media has supported us, Tamil media usually talks about the sexual aspect, focussing only on the intercourse between members of the same gender and ignoring their commitment to each other,” she said adding that there are many committed relationships among LGBT community which are stronger than those seen in heterosexual couples.

“Through the workshop, we hope to sensitise the Tamil press (newspapers and magazines), television channels, radio and web media. Around 35 representatives of various Tamil media would be invited. We have also decided to distribute handbills. These will contain WHO’s removal of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1992, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (1973) which clearly states that homosexuality is not an illness and also much more details to create anawareness of what the LGBT community is all about. A similar event will be soon organised in Coimbatore in order to cover the southern media of Tamil Nadu,” she said.

Prominent personalities from academics and judiciary, human rights activists, film personalities, writers, and student representatives besides parents, siblings and neighbours of the LGBT people will participate in the workshop, she informed.