Web-Link GLBT Education
In India / South Asia
Part 3 (Part 2) (Part 1)
Perspectives On Males Who Have Sex With Males In India And Bangladesh. PDF Download: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/perspective%20copy.pdf.
Making Visible the Invisible: Sexuality and Sexual Health in South Asia: a focus on male to male sexual behaviours. PDF Download: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/making%20visible%20.pdf.
Male sexual behaviours and STD/HIV prevention: a training manual for peer educators. PDF Download: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Manuals/PeerManual.pdf.
Setting the context
Sexuality and sexual health in South Asia: 4 (Excerpt)
Issues of concern: male to male sex: 8
The training programme: 11
The working group process: 13
Preparing the workshop: 14
The learning process: 15
Sample participants checklist: 19
Workshop agenda: 21
Day one: Setting the context: 24
Day two: The sexual body: 34
Day three: Sexual health: part one: 52
Day four:Sexual health: part two: 73
Day five: Sharing the knowledge: 96
STD/AIDS prevention terminology: 107
HIV/AIDS knowledge questionnaire: 112
Notes on the questionnaire: 115
Sexually transmitted diseases - a guide: 121
Workshop evaluation form: 125
Eyes Wide Shut: Violence, stigma and social exclusion MSM, HIV and social justice in South Asia. Word Document Download: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/2004/Eyes%20Wide%20Shut.doc. Related PowerPoint Presentation: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/powerpoints/EyesWideShut.ppt. More PowerPoint Presentation.
Excerpts: "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.
"Gender and sexuality does not derive solely from biology, but are framed by social constructions specific to culture, language, religion, and geography. In South Asia for example, visible male-to male sex is structured on gendered frameworks, which govern the sex and performative roles. The public performance of the feminised male is to attract the so called normative masculine male. The former is clearly a gendered sexual identity; the latter is just a man. Neither see themselves as homosexual, or gay, or even as men who have sex with men. The ‘man’ sees himself a having sex with a ‘not man’, who in turn has the gendered sexual identity of either kothi or hijra and not of ‘man’. Conversely these subaltern ‘masculinities’ like kothis and hijras do not perceive themselves as men, but have sex with what they call “real men”. Thus neither see themselves as Men Who Have Sex With Men, or homosexuals, or gay. To complicate matters even further, the term MSM itself has begun to signify an identity category and a ‘target group’, often losing any usefulness it may well have had once. As a consequence, these 'targeted interventions’ focus on groups of identifiable individuals, supposedly small in numbers, usually effeminised, and not as a behaviour. Of course who these feminised ‘MSM’ have sex with remains an invisible question. Through this crack, the vast majority of males, identifying themselves as real men, but having sex with such so-called MSM, slip off the intervention net..."
"Simultaneously lesbian and gay activists, along with many human rights activists, see the world in the largely western terminologies of ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender’ without any thought as to how this translates into local languages, practices, significances, and meanings. One is either this or that. However the many for whom they speak, and who cannot often identify themselves with either this or that, feel alienated by their intellectual activism. Sometimes this alienation leads to actual confrontation. This GLBT (or is it LGBT, or LGBTI) paradigm, where each person must fit into a box of this or that, and where space for the un self-identified, the unlabelled is denied, if not denigrated (remember the struggle to get a concept of bisexual behaviour/identity accepted by lesbians and gay men who often would state that those with bisexual desires were closet gay men or lesbians), Where do hijras, kothis, waria, bakla, kathoey, fa’fa’fini, or even the ‘two-spirit’ people of North America, ‘fit’? What if they do not wish to be labelled as lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, or whatever by others? Why bi-polar categories in the first place? The result is a brand of identity politics, often acrimonious, which invisibilises much of male-to- male sex (as well as female-to-female sex) and denies their actors participation in the fight for their human rights, for their sexual rights.
Across the world and in every continent,
there is an enormous range of same-sex behaviours and lived identities
that cannot be reduced to some simplistic framework of heterosexual/homosexual,
gay/straight, or even man/woman. Understanding sex/gender systems should
be based on what has meaning, significance, and lived experience, not on
what others tell us to whom to be and what we should call ourselves and
identify with. There are ‘men who have sex with men’ because they desire
other men. There are men who have sex with other males because they do
not consider these males to be men. There are males who do not think of
themselves as men, who have sex with real men. There are men who have sex
with men because of fun, discharge, body heat, and so on. There are males
who have sex with males and consider it ‘lesbian sex’. The various possibilities
are endless. However the polemics and discourse of these diversities of
sexual possibilities are dominated by those who are lesbian or gay identified,
but whose real life experience is not the same as the majority of those
males for whom they speak. The rights to sexual autonomy, incorporating
in its fold the rights to penetrate as much as the rights to be penetrated
(or even the right not to have penetrative sex of whatever sort) gets lost
in the identity politics that demands rights for gay men. Those who do
not define as gay are somehow sidelined or forgotten. And there the moot
question again raises its head; does anyone have the right to impose their
philosophy, identity, or politics, on others?..."
MSM, HIV/AIDS and Human Rights in South Asia. PDF Download: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/2004/MSM%20&%20Human%20Rights.pdf. "MSM and Human Rights" PowerPoint presentation: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/powerpoints/MSM%20and%20Human%20Rights.ppt. More PowerPoint Presentation.
Excerpts: "It is increasingly being
recognised by people of good will, that responses to the global HIV/AIDS
pandemic and its local manifestations, cannot be effective unless the human
rights of those infected with and affected by the virus are clearly and
unequivocally addressed. The virus is not only about personal behaviours,
but is also about the social, economic and cultural environment in which
behaviours take place and have meaning. This is particularly true with
regard to sexual behaviours and practices, and none more so than for those
who term “men who have sex with men”, or MSM. Denial, ignorance, illegality,
myths, fears, violence, abuse, exclusion, invisibility, all these feature
in current discourses on MSM issues. At the same time, exclusionist discourses
on sexual identities, orientation, and “sexual minorities” tend to ignore
the simple fact that the majority of MSM are exactly that – “men” with
a specific sexual behaviour without a sexual orientation or identity. Such
understandings will have a significant impact on rights-based approaches
to HIV/AIDS. For what do we mean by the term “men who have sex with men”?
Who are these “men who have sex with men”? For many it has become synonymous
with “homosexuals”, or of “gay” men, while it is often
signified within the context of discussions of “vulnerable groups”, or “target populations”, or “at risk groups”. Further, the use of the term “men” in MSM creates a universal category of MAN, ignoring the local cultural constructions of manhood and masculinity..."
"The word “men” can be problematic in that this is also a culturally loaded word. In South Asian cultures, manhood (and adulthood) is defined by specific responsibilities, duties and obligations, and not by biological age. Marriage and the production of children (particularly male children) are cornerstones in this socio-cultural definition of manhood. A second point that I wish to make is that adolescence and youth (whatever that means) does not preclude sexual activity of all kinds, and such activities may well be consensual. Thirdly, those who do not confirm to normative socio-cultural definitions of masculinity are not deemed men by their male sexual partners (and often do not perceive themselves as such) although they are biological males. It was with these concepts in mind that Naz Foundation International began to use terms such as “male-to-male sex” and “males who have sex with males”..."
"48% of the respondents stated that
fellow students or teachers had harassed them in school or college because
they were effeminate. 55 out of the 60 respondents who said that they have
faced harassment by teachers or fellow students also said that their studies
have suffered due to this, and that they could have progressed more if
such harassment had not taken place. Of the 59 respondents who have said
that they did not face harassment in the educational institutions, 40 had
studied up to 4th standard or less, 13 up to secondary level, and 5 up
to higher secondary level. All those who had gone to university reported
sexual harassment in
either school or college. 36% of the respondents reported that they had faced harassment from religious leaders due to their sexuality. Such regular experiences along with the fact that such feminised males live in culture which constantly validates normative masculinity creates internalised pain, shame and trauma along with deep sense of failure as men. This usually leads to self-blame, a lack of hope, and selfdestructive behaviour. 33% of the respondents reported that they have either thought of or tried to commit suicide at some point in their lives..."
"However, this author believes that there is an inherent weakness in this in that the discourse is being taken to mean sexual orientation. While this of course is extremely important, it is inadequate in addressing many of the concerns highlighted above. These are that the human rights and sexual health concerns of the range of gender variant males amongst MSM which reflect stigma, discrimination and social exclusion, and the abuses that arise based on nonconformity to normative masculinity, are not being included. Another concern this author has is that a rights based approach singularly focused on sexual orientation (or even gender variance) and which argues that “sexual minorities” such as lesbians, gay men, transgendered persons and hijras (and other gendered identities) should have the same rights as any other minority as legislated in the different countries in the region and often embedded within their Constitutions, would still be inadequate to address all the human rights concerns of MSM. Such an argument does not address the behavioural choices of those who do not identify as a “sexual minority”..."
"As part of the advocacy work of
Naz Foundation International a Charter for Social Justice for MSM was drafted
at the 3rd NFI Regional MSM Consultation Meeting held in New Delhi, India
in April 2003, which tries to address these concerns and seek action to
be taken by State institutions, donors, and HIV/AIDS agencies. See Annex
2. The time for action is now. Concerted efforts must be made to ensure
that all peoples, and within the context of this paper, all varieties of
MSM have the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” that
is often talked about, but no meaningful action is taken."
Situational Analysis: MSM in South Asia (May 2004). PDF Download: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/2004/MSM%20HIV%20South%20Asia.pdf.
Excerpts: "South Asian populations tend to be very male dominated societies, where social and public spaces are primarily male “owned”. As homosocial and homoaffectionalist societies, sexual boundaries between males can often be easily crossed in appropriate spaces and become sexualised. Further, significant numbers of males perform gendered roles as feminised males and can be accessed by those deemed as “real men”. Experience indicates that male-to--male sexual behaviours do exist in South Asia countries at substantial levels. Most of these male-to-male sexual behaviours do not exist within a socio-sexual context of a heterosexual/ homosexual oppositional binary and as exclusive categories. Rather, there appears to be an inclusive behaviour which involves a substantial level of males operating within a wide variety of categories and/or networks. These involve at times, gendered self-identities, a perceived ‘body heat’ leading to a perceived urgent need for semen discharge, ready and easy accessibility to male sexual partners, and the social contexts of gender segregation, social policing of females, delayed marriage, and concepts of masculinity and femininity. The frameworks of male-to-male sex, often substantially divergent, usually involve males who selfidentify primarily as kothis3 who are generally penetrated, and males who take on the penetrating role in male-to-male sex (known as giryas and panthis4 by kothis). Males who are penetrated are usually perceived by giryas and panthis to be “not-men”, which enables a girya or panthi to maintain his sense of manliness and be seen as a part of the normative male society.
This gendered framework of male-to-male sex is primarily among low-income populations, where poverty, low levels of literacy, and economic disempowerment act as drivers to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Other dynamics include males who access other males for discharge and/or desire to be penetrated, males who desire male to male sex and do not gender themselves and usually indulge in mutual sexual activity - ‘giving and taking’, friends having sex with friends for mutual pleasure, and males in all male institutions. Along side these indigenous forms of labelling, gay-identified males, primarily among English speaking, middle and upper classes also exist with their own networks, mainly in urban areas. These networks of differing MSM contexts may at times overlap, where individuals may shift between different networks, but usually they are mutually exclusive. In other words there are complex dynamics and diffusion in relation to male-to-male sex. The most visible of these networks are those involving kothis because of their highly visible flamboyant behaviour, which is a part of their self-identification. In some cities in South Asia there are also be male massage networks and other normative masculine males working as male-to-male sex workers..."
"What do we mean by the term “males who have sex with male”? Who are these “males who have sex with males”? Does this include males who have only had sex with another males once, twice, three times? Does this include males who just masturbate with other males? For many service providers and agencies the term MSM it has become synonymous with “homosexuals”, of “gay” men, and at the least, of kothi-identified males (however their masculine partners are usually invisible and thus not recognised), while it is often signified within the context of discussions of “vulnerable groups”, or “target groups”, or “at risk groups”. In other words MSM is often taken to mean a specific and exclusive “sexual identity” in opposition to “heterosexuality”, where MSM form an exclusive and bounded group/community. Too often programmatic decisions are taken within this limited view of what is essentially a behavioural term. Male-to-male sex then includes those who do, or do not identify with same-sex sexual desire, often through gendered sex roles, as well as those who do not. It involves biologically adult males, as well as adolescent males. If we only address HIV/AIDS risks for MSM based on identity/sexual orientation, then what happens to those males whose sexual behaviours with other males are outside the purview of such frameworks because they do not see themselves possessing a sexual orientation other than a normative masculinity as men?
"To attempt to reduce this complexity will just lead to a greater invisibility of many divergent contexts of male to male sexual behaviours, expressed in an often bewildering variety and range of personal identities, behaviours, gender identifications and practices, which defy such a simple categorisation. In this context, and from the reality of experience in South Asia, Euro-American understandings and discourses on “gay identities”, heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or even the term “sexual minorities”, will be misleading. Contemporary research on sexualities and genders have clearly shown that the bipolar categories, such as ‘man’ or ‘woman’ or ‘heterosexual’ or ‘homosexual’, are not useful to describe the range of identities, desires and practices" existing in India. The terms "gay" or "homosexual" are too contextualised by a specific history, geography, language, and culture to have any significant usefulness in a different culture from their source. In this we should be talking about sexualities, genders, and at the least, homosexualities and heterosexualites, and about behavioural constructions. Where UNAIDS and others speak of behaviourally homosexual, we can also talk about behaviourally heterosexual in the South Asian context. Whereas some of the male to male sexual acts could perhaps be called ‘homosexual’ (within the context of a local sexuality based upon a feminised gender identification - self-labelled as kothis) in that a sexual sense of self is operating within a framework of gendered sex roles and desires, a significant majority of the male sexual partners of these kothis should be seen within a context of semen discharge rather than desire for another male. It should be recognised that within a gendered construct of male to male sex and desire, there are giryas/panthis who form emotional and sexual relationships with kothis. These giryas/panthis do not see themselves (nor are they perceived as such) as homosexuals, but rather as “real men”, defined by their supposedly exclusive penetrating role that they take in the sexual encounter with a kothi..."
"Sexual behavioural studies in India have classified homosexual as anything from 1% of the sexually active male population to nearly 28% of the ‘occasionally homosexually behavioural males’... According to a report on MSM in developing countries, the prevalence of MSM behaviours in the Indian male population range from 8 to over 50% (Neil McKenna, 1996) • In a study of sexual behaviour among 1600 college students in Chennai, (Hausner D, 2000) it was found that approximately 20% of male students reported having had sex at least once in their lifetime and among these, 35% had their first experience with another male... In Pakistan, AIDS Analysis Asia, reported in July 199616 that: • 20% of men in one rural area have male-to-male sex • 40% of men living in a Karachi squatter settlement had male-to-male sex • 72% of truck drivers in central Karachi had sex with other males, while 76% had sex with female sex workers.."
"It needs to be recognised that the
male being anally penetrated by another male is highly stigmatised, both
by the penetrator, as well as general society, and those who are perceived
to be recipients of penetration are usually treated with contempt. A girya/panthi
or any man/male who is sexually penetrated, orally or anally, will make
extensive efforts to hide his practice and/or desire, both from his friends
as well as from kothis/hijras and others in their sexual networks to avoid
such stigmatisation. It cannot be assumed that gendered sex roles are exclusively
maintained at all times. It further needs to be recognised that a similar
crossing of “gendered” boundaries exists amongst kothis. It is also not
unknown for some kothi-identified males to penetrate other males. But like
the penetrated girya, this behaviour would also be kept secret from other
kothis. Such stigmatisation around feminisation produces a range of human
rights abuses, blackmail, violence, and male-on-male rape by local men,
thugs and local police. Not only does poverty, class and education levels
stigmatise individuals along with the fact of HIV infection, but also the
specific gendered role and identity that some MSM identify with. Thus are
doubly stigmatised because as biological males they are sexually penetrated
– and thus not perceived as men. Their feminisation, their crossing of
the gender roles and barriers accepted as social norms, reinforces the
stigmatisation, leading to exclusion and denial of access to services and
to the social compact. This often results in such males who are living
with HIV/AIDS to be stigmatised by others who are also living with HIV/AIDS
but whose routes of infection are deemed “normal”. On the other hand, the
masculine partners of kothis easily merge into the general normative male
society, their sense of masculinity maintained because they are the penetrators,
not of other men, but of “not-men”..."
MSM and HIV/AIDS in India (2004). PDF Download: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/2004/MSM,%20HIV%20and%20India.pdf. See PowerPoint Presentation "Masculinities, Sexualities and Vulnerabilities: Male-to-male sex and HIV vulnerability in South Asia": http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/powerpoints/MasculinitiesSexual5BC30.ppt. More PowerPoint Presentation.
"As the SAATHI report stated, “There is no nation-wide data on the prevalence of HIV infection among MSM in India. National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) of India says, "On HIV among MSM groups, little reliable data is available. Informal estimates suggest rapid increases may be taking place in this particularly vulnerable community" (NACO, 2000). Only a few studies from Mumbai have reported HIV seroprevalence among MSM. The prevalence of HIV infection among gay-identified men attending STD clinics in Mumbai metro was studied by the National Institute of Virology over a 6-month period in 1992 in collaboration with Bombay Dost (India’s first gay newsletter). HIV prevalence was found to be 20.67%, which was very high given the fact that this studied cohort was of educated middle class and hence had the means and material to be adequately aware of the transmission routes of HIV. It therefore implies that HIV prevalence amongst MSM without a conscious selfidentity of their sexual orientation would be higher (Ashok Row Kavi, 1999)..."
"There is however, socio-cultural evidence and anecdotal reports from across India which suggest that possibly male-to-male sex may well be higher than this for a broad range of reasons, including gender segregation and social policing of women, delayed marriage, difficulty accessing females for sex, over-crowded living conditions, high levels of poverty, unemployment amongst unmarried males, and so on. It would be pragmatic to stay close to the Kinsey estimates even if the data suggests otherwise. Factors like, nonrecognition of same-sex behaviours not being classified as ‘sex’, the declining female-male ratios in the country further distorted by rural-urban migrations, all point to higher male-male sexual transactions in India. The difficulty of developing size estimations is clearly exemplified in the range of commissioned studies conducted by a number of research institutions. To take just one example of bad research, in Uttar Pradesh, a mapping of vulnerable groups in Uttar Pradesh that included MSM was conducted by ORG Centre for Social Research. However, the author was unable to review the methodologies, data collection procedures, study protocols, as well as the questionnaires used..."
"It needs to be recognised that the
male being anally penetrated by another male is highly stigmatised and
those who are perceived to be recipients of penetration are usually treated
with contempt. A girya/panthi or any man/male who is sexually penetrated,
orally or anally, will make extensive efforts to hide his practice and/or
desire, both from his friends as well as from kothis/hijras and others
in their sexual networks to avoid such stigmatisation. It cannot be assumed
that gendered sex roles are exclusively maintained at all times. It further
needs to be recognised that a similar crossing of “gendered” boundaries
exists amongst kothis. It is also not unknown for some kothi-identified
males to penetrate other males. But like the penetrated girya, this behaviour
would also be kept secret from other kothis. Such stigmatisation around
feminisation produces a range of human rights abuses, blackmail, violence,
and male-on-male rape by local men, thugs and beat constables. Not only
does poverty, class and education level stigmatise individuals along with
the fact of HIV infection, but also the specific gendered role and identity
that some MSM identify with. Thus kothis and hijras are doubly stigmatised
because as biological males they are sexually penetrated – and thus not
perceived as men. Their feminisation, their crossing of the gender roles
and barriers accepted as social norms, reinforces the stigmatisation, leading
to exclusion and denial of access to services and to the social compact..."
MSM, HIV/AIDS and Uttar Pradesh in India (2004). PDF Download: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/2004/MSM,%20HIV%20and%20UP,%20India.pdf.
"It also needs to be recognised that the issue of female sexual health in the context of male-to-male sexual behaviours is also highly pertinent and urgent. Cultural tradition makes marriage socially compulsory. Many MSM, of whatever framework or gender identification, are married or going to be married, even those who self-identified as kothis. In summary, what is clear is that MSM should not be seen as a singular category of men who have sex with men. While there are men in India whose sexual orientation is clearly gay-identified, they are a minority within the category if MSM, and are urban-based and elite with access to English and the web. But among lower middle and low-income classes, the dynamic is primarily based on gendered perceptions of normative men accessing feminised males. Along with this would be male-to-male sex within prison populations and other all male institutions, male massage networks, male friendships, experimental male youth and so on..."
"As discussed above, many MSM, both
feminised and manly, are married, or will get married. Further substantial
numbers of manly MSM also access female sex workers and other females.
It is therefore essential that women’s sexual health needs are taken on
board by any service provider in the field of MSM sexual health and HIV/AIDS
prevention. This will mean that all training programmes should also discuss
risks for women and children, and women’s sexual health services should
also be cognisant of MSM behaviours and patterns. STI and VCTC providers
will also need to be sensitised to this issue. Certainly these primary
recommendations for action are not the only areas that need to be developed.
There are others that perhaps can be seen to be as equally important. Discussions
should be initiated with local experts in the field of MSM sexual health
so that a comprehensive strategy can evolve that is significant, sustainable,
and well supported. It will require a strong political and social will
to achieve this."
Excerpts from: "Perspectives On Males Who Have Sex With Males In India And Bangladesh". (PDF Download: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/perspective%20copy.pdf.) & Making Visible the Invisible: Sexuality and Sexual Health in South Asia: a focus on male to male sexual behaviours.PDF Download: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/making%20visible%20.pdf.
Introduction. Excerpts: "In
the socio-cultural frameworks of South Asia, the issue of male to male
sexual behaviours and their impact upon the reproductive and sexual health
for both males and females has profound implications for any effective
control and management of STDs and HIV infections. But because of cultural,
religious and social reasons, these behaviours are to a great extent invisible,
often difficult to access, and not framed within heterosexual and/or homosexual
dichotomised constructions. Male sexual behaviours in South Asia appear
to be much more polymorphous than the simplified reductionisms of heterosexual/homosexual
identities would indicate, whilst anal sex between males and females and
between males and males is much more common than is assumed... All current
research into constructions of male to male sexual behaviours in South
Asia indicate that they do not fit the patterns of heterosexual/homosexual
behaviours so common in HIV literature. There is no such clear cut dividing
line. Sexual identities of South Asian males do not fit this Western pattern,
and this creates further invisibility of sexual behaviour patterns. Many
males who have anal sex with other males also have vaginal and anal sex
with females. Many males who have sex with males are married.
Early sexual encounters by many males are often with another male. It becomes an urgent necessity to discover the true patterns of male sexual behaviours if any effective approaches to HIV management and control is to be conducted in South Asia..."
Sexual naming. Excerpts: "Western terminology based on personal identities, sexual orientations and sexual desires are based upon medicalisation of behaviours into concepts of conditions, whilst the radical sexual cultures of the 1960s ensured the visibility of lesbian and gay frameworks. This was further refined with concepts of bisexuality, transvestism and transsexuality. All these terms were problematic in the field of actual sexual behaviours, particularly in cultures very different from the Euro-American frameworks... Exploring actual sexual behaviours in a South Asian context (and I suspect in many other areas of Asia itself), all the terms used have shown their limitations to address the real and lived needs of male to male sexual behaviours. This is because whilst the current terminology may recognise that men who have sex with men may not have a homosexual or gay identity, and that the sexual behaviour does not reflect a medical condition called homosexuality, it ignores the fact that large numbers of young boys, adolescents are also involved in such activity. Considerable anecdotal evidence indicates that many boys experience homosexual behaviours at a early age. They are not men. In Asian contexts the word MAN carries certain social signifiers around adulthood defined by marriage and children. Postpubescent boys may be seen as men in one context, whilst in other contexts still seen as boys until they are married with child ren. "Beardless youths" with full genital development would still be seen as boys. In other words, it is not only men who have sex w ith men. Boys of varying ages also have sex with boys and men..."
Sexuality and sexual health in India. Excerpts: "The main route of transmission in South Asia appears to be penetrative sexual behaviour. Whilst WHO estimates are defined within heterosexual/homosexual dichotomies, stating that 70% of all transmission is through heterosexual intercourse, such use of this terminology can be challenged in the context of sexual dynamics and behaviours within South Asia. Within the context of South Asian cultures, the terminological use of heterosexual and homosexual frameworks do not exist in the sense they are understood in the West. The diametric oppositional frameworks of this terminology creates an artificial understanding that has no specific relevance to the actuality of people's lives. Therefore, we cannot realistically say that there is a heterosexual or homosexual transmission. All we can say is that there is sexual transmission within a specific behavioural basis, i.e. vaginal or anal intercourse. What this means is that while sexual behaviours exist across the range of human sexual behavi ours, they cannot be fitted into an identity based structure which the terminology of "heterosexual" and "homosexual" implies. The fluidity of South Asian male's sexual experience, the framework of sexual invisibility, gender segregation, South Asian homosociability, male ownership of public space, South Asian shame cultures, sexual invisibility, community "izzat", compulsory marriage and procreation, the current lack of personal identity-based sexual behaviours, South Asian gender constructions, male and female roles as frameworks of adulthood, and so on have a central impact on actual sexual behaviours that are not clearly defined within the terms "heterosexual" or "homosexual". Similarly actual sexual practices and with which gender they are practised, are not clearly defined either by these terms... For example, in a culture where girls and women are "policed" in terms of their behaviour, particularly sexual, where female virginity is prized, where family and community duty and honour is centrally important, where males own the social spaces, where marriage and procreation is seen as compulsory, where adulthood is defined by these parameters, a culture which is particularly homosocial, where income levels are low, where sexual access to women is therefore marginalised, limited, and sometimes costly, where sexual behaviours are not so much constructed around personal identities but rather around penetrator and penetrated, a culture where non-penetrative sex is not seen as sex but as "masti" - "play", who is the most sexually available object?
The denial of histories of gender constructions, sexualities and sexual behaviours by various discourses of both Western and South Asian origin have had a central impact in understanding the conceptualisation of gender identities and sexuality in South Asia . No Indian research institution has dealt with this denial. Instead they have only perpetuated the invisibility of these histories. Further, the current construction of sexuality arising from Western discourses is often ahistoric and the only sexuality that is seen as relevant is that of penetrative heterosexuality. Perversely, any other form is categorised as deviant and Western. This reduces the rich histories of sexualities to an oppositional dichotomy between concepts of heterosexuality and homosexuality which are a consequence of certain Western historical frameworks and understandings of sexuality..."
Observations on male to male sexual
behaviours in India and Bangladesh. Excerpts: "Anecdotal evidence is
also available indicating a considerable amount of sexual activity between
male domestic servants, as well as between male domestic servants and their
male patrons, including adolescents. In one family, the 30 year old male
cook was penetrating the 13 year old male house boy who was also soliciting
sex from outsiders, while the 20 year old son of the household admitted
being sexually penetrated by his father's driver when he was 11, the sexually
activity continuing for several years. Who seduced whom appeared to be
a debatable point.
There are several male to male sexual behaviour frameworks that are interlinked and inter-penetrate each other: ... Other sexual networks exist in all male groups, such as: student hostels and boarding schools, police hostels. military barracks, work environments including service industries, such as hotels, tea stalls, restaurants, prisons, orphanages, rail and bus terminus (i.e. porters, etc.) and amongst street children In discussing sexual behaviours with one young man of 17 years, a student and English speaking, he told of small groups of male students hiring blue films regularly, and then having group masturbation. If there were only two of them then they would possibly have mutual oral sex or anal sex. He also stated that he has had sex with older men, including anal sex whom he has met at restaurants, tea stalls, or just walking on the streets. Likewise, the male housekeeping and room service boys, all stated that they had been approached by other males inside and outside the hotel. Because of financial issues, many of them have responded to these sexual approaches. Many of the people we have talked with originate from villages. Anecdotal stories from them consistently mentioned male to male sexual activity in their village environments. There is considerable anecdotal evidence of significant sexual abuse and use of male street children of varying ages for sex, as well as significant levels of male rape. Further, we have found young boys of 8 upwards involved in such sex work... Many of the males who have sex with other males also desire sex with a female. However, in exploring this sense of this desire it was difficult to state whether this was based on sexual desire for vaginal sex or because such a desire was a social expectation and a way of naming sexual desire. Out of one network of twenty men who have sex with males we discussed this with, it appeared that only one specifically mentioned that they wanted vaginal sex, whilst all stated that sex with other males was expedient because females could not easily be accessed. When asked about female prostitutes, there appeared to be issues around shame(!), cleanliness, pollution, and cost. Going to female prostitutes appeared to be a more visible behaviour than having sex with other boys and men! ... As the vast majority of males were married or will get married, there was no significant evidence that marriage actually substa ntially decreased the levels of male to male sexual activity. Several men that I discussed this with stated that when they got married they said they would stop, but they received little sexual satisfaction from their wives. Partly this was because they couldn't ask their wives to perform certain sexual acts. And partly because sexual opportunities with their wives was not always available because of social conditions such as appropriate accommodation, joint families, and so on..."
Sexual health workshops in Bangladesh and India for males who have sex with males. Excerpts: "Preliminary research conducted by The Naz Foundation amongst males who have sex with males have found a range of issues that are not easily visible or even acceptable for socio-cultural reasons. These include amongst others
a. male rape"The terms gay/homosexual have very little significance for the vast majority of males who have sex with males, and only seem to have some meaning to those with access to English, and who are primarily middle/upper classes, a small minority in India. Even in their context, marriage becomes a primary focus of identity. Some of those under thirty may well identify with this terminology, but after this age, marriage as a family commitment becomes the primary identity. There may well be those who carry both identi ties and situate them within specific social contexts, i.e. a "park"/social network identity and a home/business identity. For the those from the lower-middle/lower income/labour classes, different, more gendered, frameworks exist. Thus the terms, kothi and danga exist as identities of those males who are sexually penetrated and behave in "feminised" ways. These males stated that they never penetrate other males, nor have sex amongst themselves. This is considered shameful. Their ejaculation is usually produced through the act of anal penetration by their partner, or through self-masturbation. However, whilst this is what is usually stated, private one-on-one discussions indicate that some kothis do have sex with each other and do anally penetrate as well... At the same time, those males who sexually penetrate (and never are penetrated, so it is believed) are called panthis/giriyas, "masculine" males, males who are "real men". And "real men" never touch their male sexual partner"s genitalia. Yet, again, some of these "real men", in private situations, have also revealed that at times they enjoy being sexually penetrated and have asked for this. In such occasions they will select a "double-decker" as a sexual partner. However, their public "park" identity is secured through only being seen to be going with kothis. Then there are the jiggery dosts, close male friends of approximately equal age, who may also have sex with each other, sometimes involving mutual penetration. Or double deckers, those whose sexual acts include both penetrator and penetrated, and whose sense of sexual desire may the closest to what would be understood by the term "gay". There are of course a significant number of males who have sex with other males who do not have any of these identities. Two males sharing a bed in a shared room, finding themselves sexually "hot" who will then go onto having sex, where, as one stated "I dreamt I was having sex", or another "a 'jinn' made me do it". Males living away from their wives, young males not married. Truck drivers, tea shop "boys", restaurant "boys", taxi drivers, rickshaw drivers, business men, hotel-"boys", students living in hostels, military personnel, well the lists can go on..."
b. adolescent males as sexual objects of older males
c. high levels of anal sex between males and between males and females
d. very early experiences of sexual activity and sexual abuse amongst males
e. inter-family male to male sex, with sexual partners including brothers, uncles, nephews, cousins, male-in-laws, etc.
f. sexual encounters with servants
g. male to male sex without identity constructions of homosexual/bisexual
h. identity structures around marriage, penetration, age, family, religion, caste and class
i. feminised identities primarily of males who are penetrated
j. Hijras as a socially constructed identity of biological males who are "feminised" through social/sexual interactions in prepubescence
k. sexual desire of many males based on discharge and activity not on gender of partner
l. some male to male sexual behaviours based on females being seen as disease vectors
m. gender segregation and limited sexual access to females within a socio-cultural framework of homosociability and homoaffectionalism increasing options for male to male sex ..."
Under the blanket: Bisexualities and AIDS in India. Link to Excerpt.
Through a window darkly. Link to Excerpt.
Cultural constructions of male sexualities in India. Link to Excerpt.
Culture, sexualities, and identities.Link to Excerpt.
Culture, religion and human rights. Link to Excerpt.
Developing a sexual health response to the needs of males who have sex with males in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Excerpts: "During the Ist Development Visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh, two networks of males who have sex with other males were identified and initial recruitment of individuals from these networks to participate in the Project was conducted. Key informants from the two networks were used in this process, These informants formed the Project Steering Group. During this visit, several interviews amongst males who have sex with males were conducted and an HIV/AIDS awareness workshop was conducted... What was interesting was that there was clear evidence that the higher the education/income group the participant came from the later the male to male sexual activity started. This could be that those from high income groups tended to grow up with much more personal privacy (having their own bedrooms for example), whilst those from lower income groups tended to share bedrooms with other male relatives. A further point that needs to be made is the high level of risky sexual behaviours indicated by participants personal sexual histories and anecdotal reports by them about other males... There were clear and significant differences between what participants verbally reported of their own sexual activities and those reported in the anonymous questionnaires. What people said they did in the open forum and what people actually did reported in the questionnaire and private meetings were very different. The questionnaires reported a higher rate of sexual activity and multiple partners than the verbal reports... Their sexual information was primarily obtained from family, friends, peers, at "cruising" sites, sexual partners, cultural myths (i.e. masturbation weakens the body). Similarly knowledge about sexually transmitted diseases was obtained through such frameworks. One participant reported that a friend of his had stated that his sexually transmitted infection was the result of a neighbour's curse... A major issue within the workshop was the question who was "gay" who was a homosexual? Whilst the terms homosex or gaysex were used by participants, for the majority, their personal identities reflected primarily sociocultural issues rather than sexual identities. There were only 2 participants who clearly identified themselves as gay men. Yet all the participants indicated that their primary sexual desire was for other males. Further in many cases the sense of sexual identity reflected whether the person penetrated or was penetrated. For the majority of participants, identity reflected marital status, positions in a family structure and relationships within t he kin/social group... "
"Who is engaged in male to male sexually activity? Participants were asked to list those engaged in male to male sexual activity from their own personal experiences. The following resulted.
"Further, during this time, I had
received 900 letters from South Asian men in South Asia, primarily India.
These letters would often involve a "pouring out of the heart". The sense
of loneliness, isolation and frustration for so many was astounding and
very painful. Such research is not dispassionate. The researcher and that
being researched was not separated by some clinical and scientific attitude.
The old reductionist methodology cannot work in such an environment. Research
was done through a befriending process. Criticism may be levelled in that
I may be accused of being biased, of placing my own value judgements upon
the data, drawing conclusions based upon my own emotions. I would like
to point out to such critics that there is no such thing as value-free
research, particularly when such research explores sexual behaviour and
the person. How questions are structured, what words a person uses, what
body language is being effected, what is the 'psychic' relationship between
the interviewer and the interviewee, what is the power-relationship between
the two, even what clothes are worn by the interviewer, what social class,
what religious affiliation, what caste, and so on, can construct a dialogue
between interviewer and interviewee which contaminates information. My
role was to create a place and a space where people are enabled to talk
about themselves in a free and personal way, without any form of judgement
being passed upon them.
Then to sort out what they had said and try to find correlations with what others had also said. In that I believe my arguments above have been justified. To summarise, my conclusions have been drawn from 5 years work with: 1200 men who have sex with men These contacts have involved: 900 personal letters - 2240 phone calls - 800 personal meetings. All the men were of South Asian origin. The majority were either from the UK, specifically London, or from India. Others were either living in Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka or were living in the United States and Canada. In the majority of cases, the men approached myself via SHAKTI or The Naz Project, and in this sense they were self-selected respondents. Thus any data cannot in itself be extrapolated, but they do give indications on constructions of sexuality, sexual behaviour and identities."
"A significant number of respondents in both South Asia and in the West spoke of the large numbers of men that would use other boys and men for oral and/or anal penetration. But they would only act as the penetrator. The sexual act was very quick, and was seen as a "discharge", an "energy to get rid of". The attitude was very much "what is available now", not "I desire to have sex with you because you are a man". This was more apparent in South Asia, and the rationale for this could well be the gender segregation, the more easier sexual accessibility of boys/men than girls/women, the lack of a homosexual construction for the penetrator (thus maintaining a sense of malehood), the nature of the sexual pick-up scene in the frequent parks, toilets, stations, etc. Much more sociological work needs to be done in developing the thesis of sexual discharge as a mechanism for South Asian men, rather than an identity structure."
The Politics of Penetration: Link to Related Information.
Emerging Gay Identities in South Asia: implications for HIV/AIDS and sexual health. Excerpts: "Many of you are involved in the struggle for human rights, developing supportive networks for men who have sex with men, evolving an identity that may be called "gay". To challenge the social frameworks of compulsory marriage and procreation, to build on the right to choose not to be married. To challenge the levels of denial and invisibility that exist. But what is this identity? We often use the term "gay" when working through the issues associated with it. What does "gay" mean? In an Indian context? In a South Asian context? This is one of the challenges for this Conference to explore. Can the word "gay" as it is understood in the West be used in an Indian context? Do we need to develop different frameworks, different labels, different ideas. Our histories are different, our socio-cultural frameworks are different, our sense of self is different. The second major issue of the Conference is the impact of HIV/AIDS upon our lives. Since homosexual behaviour is not recognised as part of the HIV epidemic in South Asia, "homosexual" men who are affected by HIV/AIDS are also not recognised..."
"This Conference is bringing these
two issues together. Exploring emerging identities, and developing contexts
for HIV and STD prevention as well as support and care for those affected
by HIV/AIDS amongst gay-identified men and men who have sex with men. A
difficult challenge, but one that is central to the development of our
lives. In India for the majority of men who have sex with men, personal
identity is not seen as the main the issue. Behaviours are constructed
within cultural frameworks of compulsory marriage and procreation, in terms
of homosociability, lack of privacy, extended and joint family networks
and so on. What we then have is a range of sexualities, a range of homosexualities
and homosexual behaviours, a range of identities that very often are very
differently constructed than in the West.
For effective development of HIV/STDs prevention strategies, all these issues need to be discussed. Made visible... All the delegates here, as with any other man who has sex with men, whether "gay"-identified or not, are caught in a peculiar trap. At one level, the existence of men who have sex with men is denied, made invisible, and therefore nonexistent. Yet in both qualitative and quantitative research, the numbers of men who have sex with men in India is immense, perhaps at a minimum, some 40% of sexually active men, not necessarily exclusively, perhaps intermittently, but at some periods of their sexually active lives. At another level, based on Western media hype, men who have sex with men are victimised as the main vector for HIV and AIDS. Yet WHO/NACO statements have indicated that there is no homosexual transmission of HIV in India. We are caught in the trap that to discuss the issues is to make visible the stigmatisation. While not to discuss the issue may make individuals feel safe from victimisation, but put them more at risk in terms of HIV/AIDS..."
"While as men who have sex with men, doubly marginalised because of desire and risk, "gay" networks, groups and organisations have been targeted for vilification, violence and harassment because they represent the visible. But underneath this visibility is this immense invisibility of men who have sex with men. Your visibility has been courageous, for often you have so much to lose. You have shown strength to be here, to accept the challenge... But also, both governmental and non-governmental agencies have been caught in the trap of denial and invisibility which has led to totally inadequate response from themselves. "Homosexual behaviours? Doesn't exist. Not a part of Indian culture." What nonsense is this. Men who have sex with men, and a broad range of institutions in the country, have mutually supported each other in such denials. This is dangerous. Dangerous for each of our lives. Dangerous, because if we don't have the knowledge, the correct information, the personal desire - which can only arise from an affirming self - how can we possible make positive choices about our personal sexual health and that of our sexual partners. Inadequacy is a mild term. Bleak, frightening, genocidal these would be better and more appropriate. What information that is available is often irrelevant or superficial, misleading, ignorant, if not downright untruthful. It certainly does not address the needs of men who have sex with men, whatever the identity..."
"Your lives are already lived in fear. Victimisation and harassment from the police. Fear of exposure. Fear of what the family will say. Fear of what others will do. You have all read the relatively recent newspaper coverage of this particular event. The risks were enough so that the venue for the Conference was not disclosed. Many of you live with constant harassment at college, at the workplace, on the street, in the home. Threatened communities and individuals always build barricades against the threats and are driven into greater invisibility. This makes it supremely difficult for empowerment and self-awareness. It makes it more difficult for developing positive choices about sexualities, sexual behaviours and sexual health. It is this invisibility and denial that enables HIV and its consequences, AIDS, to become a growing issue of major concern for us all - an issue of life and death..."
Social Constructions of Male Sexual Behaviours in India. Excerpts: "Sexual identities arise within context of the psycho-social and historical dynamics that are mediated by culture and language. Differing cultures will have different meanings. The terms heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual identities as they are understood, arise from Eurocentric perceptions, values and meanings... The only way to deal then with issues around sexual behaviours is to invisiblise them. This is achieved by not having any public discussion about sex, sexual behaviours and sexualities. Since they are invisible they do not exist. While traditions expressive of sexual diversity are seen as dirty, deviant and perverted and men who participate as the penetrated are seen as demasculinised, as partial women. Sexual behaviours cannot be brought into the public domain. To do so is to bring shame and dishonour to the family and/or community. Sexual behaviour then takes the place of sexuality. Women's sexual behaviour becomes controlled and marginalised, if not denied. Male sexual behaviour becomes selfabsorbed, and is reduced to one of discharge rather than based upon a desire for the other person. There is a social construction around male sexual behaviours which can be defined by the Hindi word masti. It means mischief, and is often used in the context of sexual play between young men and boys. More often than not this does not involve penetration. This masti arises at moments of sexual tension, as "body tension", when sexual discharge becomes urgent, when sexual arousal arises during play or body contact, when opportunities are created for sexual contact, often under the blanket. Such opportunities are very frequent. Shared households in crammed conditions produce shared beds. There is social acceptance of males sharing beds, of male to male aftectionalism, both public and private. This often means that a significant amount of sexual behaviour occurs in family environments, between uncles and nephews, cousins, friends, and even at times brothers. This is not seen as real sex. It is masti. Sex is between a husband and wife! In this construction sexual behaviours are not an expression of a personal identity. Rather it is one of opportunity, accessibility, context, and an urgent desire for sexual discharge. What we have are behaviours but not identities. Sexualities instead of sexuality. Homosexualities instead of homosexuality..."
"Apart from the possibilities of sexual encounters with relatives and friends in the home and under the blankets, sexual encounters occur primarily in public spaces. There are no "gay" bars, clubs, discos. The street, the bus stand, the park, the public toilet, the railway or bus station. Contacts are made, and quick sex available, penetrative or otherwise. Workers in service and domestic arenas are a part of these sexual networks. Whether just for sexual release, money, or actual desire for sex with other men, is perhaps a difficult question to answer. Taxi-drivers, rickshaw wallahs, malish wallahs, room service boys and housekeeping men in hotels, waiters at restaurants, shop assistants. The framework is ubiquitous. The glance, the second glance, the smile, the appropriate questions, sometimes "for a few rupees more", sometimes just masti. It is anywhere, in the right conditions, the right time, the right space. In the middle and upper classes, domestic servants can also make sexual availability easier, based upon power as much as desire and discharge. Sex between the young male sons and the young (and sometimes not so young) male servants is not as rare as people think it is. Such behaviours are not just an urban phenomena. Sex between males also occur in village environments. In the fields, in the dark. In the home under shared blankets. For the majority of Indian males, sexuality is not singularly constructed and contextualised within personal identities. Rather sexual behaviours based upon discharge and availability predominate. High levels of male to male sex exist because of the homosociability and homoaffectionalism of Indian society and the restricted sexual access to women. Urban cultures and the growing middle class is beginning to develop social constructions of identities based upon specific sexual desires. These relate very much to economic and social spaces that enable access to privacy, access to Western literature and language, access to individuality. Whether these emerging identities imitate Western constructions, only future history will tell."
The Silent Killer: AIDS and the Muslim World. Excerpts: "In this response, I am not talking about HIV transmission through transfusions of infected blood, nor mother to child, nor through intravenous drugs use (although this last modality is relatively high in the urban areas of some Muslim countries). I want to discuss the main route of transmission, that is sexual, both male to female, male to male, female to male and female to female. People of The Book are caught between systems of proscribed sexual behaviours and the reality of actual sexual behaviours and personal practices. Faced with this reality, from the viewpoint of the Qur'an, the Shar'ia, the Hadith, (and from the Torah as well as the Christian Bible), with the various injunctions about slander and witnessing, how can a Muslim country publicly admit to the existence of such behaviours within the Umma (community)? To make public such existence is to deny the term Muslim. The country cannot call itself Muslim or Islamic in that sense. The Shar'ia is very explicit; all sexual acts outside of marriage are illegal, punishable by whipping or death. Hence the importance of the witnesses to such sexual acts and the laws around slander. In other words, for an illegal sexual act to exist under the law it must be Witnessed by a number of males or females (the number is relative to the gender of the witnesses), and where the required number of witnesses do not exist then slander becomes a possibility. And such forms of slander carry their own punishments. The crux to this is the requirement of a public act. The principle of Shame. What exists behind closed doors, unwitnessed, in a sense does not exist. To publicly talk about sex and sexual behaviours in a Islamic setting is to break this bond with the Umma, to make visible and create fitna and hence destroy the very Islamic setting you wish to protect. Most definitely a "catch 22" situation..."
"Yes, the Qur'an asks its adherents to practice certain behaviours: the five daily prayers, the Friday prayers at the Mosque, the fasts, the Haj, dress codes, certain codes of sexual behaviours, compulsory marriage, reading of the Qur'an in the language of the Prophet, relationships between men and between men and women, imagery, and so on. And to a greater or lesser extent across the world, Muslims everywhere adhere to these codes publicly. In that sense a Muslim culture exists. But this is its public expression. This is its public face... For example, much of Western literature about HIV is about safer sex, about homosexuality, and a host of related issues. All these are contrary to the Qur'an and to the Shar'ia. If a country defines itself as Islamic, it cannot allow such discussions to be aired in public. To do so is to destroy its Islamic credentials. The phrase homosexuality implies an identity, a personal framework, a state of being. To admit homosexuality exists in an Islamic community as a condition, as a state of being, is to also conflict with the Qur'an and the Shar'ia. Such an public admission is to create conditions of personal choice, non-marriage and uncontrolled sexual behaviours. Fitna the horror of all Muslim communities. This is all against the Islamic perceptions of society and community and what all the Islamic codes and laws are meant to prevent..."
"With the high visibility of the tensions between the rich and the poor, between Islam and the West, between two opposing concepts of the individual versus the community, the conflict between the State organs and the "Umma", ensures that nothing effective can be done about HIV transmission by the State, and often by private non-governmental agencies, in fear that they will be deemed unIslamic, blasphemous, or labelled Khafir, an infidel. Often in Islamic states, the public denouncements of sexual behaviours has been used as a political tool. For example, the frequent deaths in Iran by public execution of so many people labelled as homosexuals, are nothing to do with their sexuality or even their behaviours. The Shar'ia is about behaviour. You cannot be executed for homosexuality only homosexual behaviour. AND you must have witnesses to the act or there must be a confession. These people were executed for political reasons. Lesbian and Gay organisations in the West who shout about homophobia have little understanding of the issues..."
"It is not a matter of "sexual lifestyle" or "sexual preference" or "free-sex", or "homosexuality", or whatever label is conjured up from the West and used by Dr. Anees. As he points out, these don't make any sense in Muslim cultures/countries/communities. But he doesn't take it any further. These terms do not make any sense to these countries/communities, NOT because they are Muslim, but because they have different cultural histories and constructions and languages than the Western countries. The same situation would exist in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Cambodia, China. The terms refer to concepts of individuality not community. Sexual behaviour in Muslim countries exist for a wide variety of reasons which have nothing to do with preference or homosexuality. Delayed marriage, no access to women, male social spaces, and so on, are just as much constructions of sexual behaviours as desire, choice and sexuality. The whole issue of HIV prevention is to make visible the invisible. How will this be achieved in the case of the "Muslim World", without the Muslim need for purging. The two are just incompatible. This can be defined as the central challenge for the "Muslim world". How a Muslim society can deal with HIV prevention without losing its Muslim nature. No amount of thought police or religious police on the streets will control all sexual behaviours. All it would do is to drive the behaviours even further underground(as evidence from Iran would indicate). For only when there is acknowledgement of the reality of people's lives, of their own behaviours, the personal against community, without the obligatory punishment, can any effective work be done around HIV prevention..."
"This response has not given any
answers. Perhaps there are none. It is a constant challenge for The Naz
Foundation. I don't know of any answers that can effectively address the
issues of Islam and private sexual practice, even though the agency I represent,
works primarily with Muslims and Hindus in terms of HIV prevention, sexual
health and supporting people living with HIV/AIDS. Perhaps what we need
is to go back to our roots and our histories with honesty, unafraid of
what we will discover. We need I believe, to go back to the roots of Islam,
to its beginnings. Not as a culture in terms of "stamping out this Western
corruption" as has once been said to me, but rather looking at the phrase
Muslim culture. This should lead to an exploration of sexual histories
in Muslim countries, its wide encompassing of many different cultural and
sexual practices, its many interpretations. Islam at its best has a breadth
and wisdom that is compassionate,
tolerant and accepting of many values. It seems to have become mean-spirited, small-minded and violent. Perhaps what is needed is a reformation, not a break with the past but a reaffirmation of the spirit of Islam. We need to acknowledge that Allah is the only Judge of human behaviour and nature. That is why Allah is acknowledged as the All Merciful, the All Compassionate! We need to deal with the "untruths" within what is said to be Islam by so many practitioners. "Untruths" that have been given sanctity by history. We need to look again at the relationship between Religion and State, between God and the individual. We need........ I don't know what we need. All I know is that I have many friends who do call themselves Muslims, who have died from AIDS, or who are HIV infected. I don't (and won't) deny them the right to call themselves as Muslims. That is between Allah and themselves."
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