Web-Link GLBT Education
In India / South Asia
Part 2 (Part 3) (Part 1)
Shaleen Rakesh, Gay activist working for the Naz Foundation India Trust, summarized the "politics of penetration" in a 2000 article titled "Becoming a man" located at - http://members.tripod.com/gaydelhi/Page145.htm.
Excerpt: "In gay relationships, the politics of 'penetration' is very dominant. For many men, gay or not, they believe their personal images of their masculinity are protected or remain 'intact' if they are the penetrators or the active partners as they're called in the sexual act. It is precisely this role of 'penetration', which allows men, who otherwise might think of themselves as heterosexual to actually have sex with men and still keep these 'masculine' images intact. The issue of marriage and children seems to be very significant in the way society and through the eyes of society, men reflect on their personal images of 'masculinity'. The issue of heterosexuality is very closely connected to 'masculinity' in all cultures. Marriage therefore becomes like a very public statement of an individual's heterosexuality and thus, their masculinity. To actually produce a child, and above all a male child, after marriage is considered the final proof of one's 'masculinity', if there ever was any doubt regarding that issue. This is one of the reasons that many gay men actually end up getting married and produce children. It also gives them a cover to hide under and a legitimacy to carry on with their lives thereafter. For gay men who contract anal or oral STDs, sexual ill health becomes a problematic issue, not just medically but also because it is embarrassing for them to consult a doctor and to describe the details of their case. To admit having been a passive partner in a sexual act, some believe, is to compromise on their self and projected images of 'masculinity'. Gender, we need to realise, is something that adheres to us, regardless of anatomical sex, after an accretion of performances that are linked to stereotypical images. These performances are, in fact, gender. The 'trouble' arises when men see their sex as the cause of innate gender traits. Finally, does any act or performance that contradicts these popular gender images imply anything? Does it mean that men are losing their 'masculinity'? No man can lose what he never really had. Gender is always open, in flux and a performance. After all, a cocksure swagger has always been an act as much as a limp wrist."A similar "politic of penetration" is reported to exist in Bazil bu Ana Souza in "Naz Latina Brazil: Bridging Need and Services" (Naz (UK) Newsletter, Autum, 2000, PDF Download: http://www.naz.org.uk/newsletter/Issue%2010.pdf: "
Naz Latina Brazil: Bridging need and services: "The sexual culture differs from the one in Britain. Attitudes to sexuality play a big part. For example, there is no homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual categorization. The politics of penetration is relevant in Brazil, basically to do with the distinction betwwen the passive and active partner in gay sex. The partner that is active is not really seen as being gay, while the partner who is passive is seen as homosexual, shamefully gay. In practice, however, it is not possible to establish whether someone always takes on one of these roles. People may therefore not be willing to talk openly about their sexual practices..."
Sexuality and Sexual Health in South Asia. June 1995. (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/95/Sexuality%20-%2095.DOC). If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page. Now Part of a larger document titled "Perspectives on males who have sex with males in Bangladesh and India, p. 5-9 (PDF Download: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/perspective%20copy.pdf
Related information in: Sexual
Health Of Males In South Asia Who Have Sex With Other Males: Results of
Situational Assessments in Four Cities in India and Bangladesh. Research
conducted by Naz Foundation International (funded by FHI Asia) Synopsis
by Tim Mackay (2001), JSI UK (funded by DFID India). (Download directly:
If the link is not working, access via Naz
Foundation International Home Page.
constructions of male sexualities in India. June 1995. (Download
directly: - http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/95/Cultural%20Constructions%20-%2095.DOC
N/A) If the link is not working, access via Naz
Foundation International Home Page. Now Part of a larger document
titled "Perspectives on males who have sex with males in Bangladesh and
India, p. 44-47 (PDF Download: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/perspective%20copy.pdf. http://www.nfi.net/downloads/knowledge_centre/NFI%20publications/articles%20and%20essays/1995_Cultural%20Constructions.pdf)
Sexual identities described: "Sexual identities arise within the 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."
Some information related to the history of sexual perceptions in the West is given, including perceptions that inherently devalue those who deviate from the western categorization of people - sexual neo-colonialism: "Since the 19th century the medicalisation of sexuality and sexual behaviour in Western cultures has created a whole new discourse to describe sexual behaviours and evolved new concepts of sexual identities. A person expressing same-sex behaviours became a homosexual. Procreative “heterosexuality” became the normative process. The dichotomised, hierarchical and oppositional structures of what was deemed masculine and feminine framed these new concepts of ‘homosexuality” and heterosexuality”. At the same time the relationship between sexual behaviours arising from procreative acts and sexual behaviours an sing from pleasure/”lust” also framed the debates around what was deemed “normal” or “abnormal” and “perverse”. Here sexologists, both historic and contemporary, have played a key role in reducing the diversity of alternate sexualities, identities and behaviours into what for some was a pseudo-scientific discourse that invisibilises and demonises the rich cultural and social traditions of many differing sexual cultures. A form of sexual neo-colonialism has arisen whereby our countries have been invaded by this Western discourse and our own histories have been discounted. The term homosexual does not have a direct equivalent in Indian community languages. This does not imply that same-sex behaviours do not exist. What it does mean is that these behaviours have different histories, different contexts, different social constructions and are thus framed by different identities..."
Highlights: "Here the act of sexual penetration is a definer of phallic power. The person penetrated is defined as “not man”, while the penetrator remains undefined. The Hindi tens gandu and khusra reflect this. However in some discourse they are often used synonymously with the term homosexual , but they are not the same They construct a person who is “not a man” and “not a woman”, a third gender. The penetrator remains a man. Likewise, the term hijra, a socially constructed role for a group of men with religious and cultural significance, whose primary belief is around the religious sacrifice of their genitalia and who act as women in exaggerated styles, has also been used to describe boys/men who are sexually penetrated. However, hijras are not transvestites, transsexuals, or whatever Western label has been given them... There is a construction around male sexual behaviours which can be defined by the Hindi word maasti. 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 maasti 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 maasti. Sex is between a husband and wife! ...The line between homoaffectionalism in such a homosocial environment and actual homosexual behaviour is a narrow one, and many men cross this line in situations that enable the behaviour to maintain its invisibility. Thus often two boys/men sharing a bed under the same blanket may find it easier to sexually touch each other without consciously acknowledging the fact. This is maasti. A lot of this sex is between relatives; uncles and nephew, cousins, in-laws, where space and time afford it... 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."
The above piece
cited in: "HIV, sexuality and identity in India" by Maya Indira Ganesh,
2003 ( http://www.infochangeindia.org/analysis06.jsp).
Under The Blanket: Bisexualities and AIDS in India. June 1996. (An edited version of this essay appeared in - Bisexualties and AIDS: International Perspectives - edited by Peter Aggleton. Taylor & Francis, 1996.) (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/96/bisexuality%20in%20India-%2096.DOC) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page. Now Part of a larger document titled "Perspectives on males who have sex with males in Bangladesh and India, p. 20-29 (PDF Download: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/perspective%20copy.pdf
Excerpt: "For many men, across all ages, all this emotional and sexual energy, this romantic longing, the affectional needs tend to be channelled between themselves. Intense friendships are formed within homoaffectionalist frameworks which includes extensive male to male touching, holding of hands, body contact, and sleeping together in crowded spaces. This does not imply that all men in India are having sex with each other! India as a homosocial culture, where women are difficult to access either for friendship or for sex, has created social spaces where it is acceptable, if not encouraged, for men to show affection to each other, both publicly and private. The line between homoaffectionalism in such a supportive environment and actual homosexual behaviour is a fine line, and many men cross this line in situations that enable the behaviour to maintain its invisibility. Thus often two boys/men sharing a bed under the same blanket may find it easier to sexually touch each other without consciously acknowledging the fact.
In one situation that I was witness to was in a working class single room home. Parents, four children, one a male in the mid teens, and also an uncle of the children. The male teenager and uncle were sharing a blanket, while the female members of the household were getting on with the house-keeping. It was obvious what the two male were doing under the blanket, a behaviour totally ignored by the women. Discussions with the uncle at a later time indicated that during the night, the two young men would often masturbate together under their shared blanket, and on some occasions, the older would penetrate the younger. "When everyone is asleep". Because the behaviour was invisible, there didn't appear to be any sense of shame or guilt. "What can I do? I get body tension. He gets body tension. We are together? It just happens. We are friends." ...
Despite these intense friendships which produce visible physical affection between males of all ages, which sometimes may well led to sexual acts between friends (and if there is an age difference between the two males, the older one may penetrate the younger), and where such feelings may defined in Western terms by the word "gay", this identity is just not there in the person. Sex with another male is not so much a permanent feature but an additional outlet... This does not imply that loving bonds between men does not exist. Yes it does. Intense emotional and sexual relationships do exist, but these are framed by the cultural necessity of marriage and children. Very few men or women are able to escape this cultural necessity. There are also frameworks for desire for a specific gender, i.e. men specifically desire other men and seek other men for sex (and sometimes love). Such seeking can often only occur in public spaces. There are no "gay" bars, clubs, discos. Indian public spaces are primarily male. The street, the bus stand, the park, the public toilet, the railway or bus station, these are the arenas of contact. Such publicness leads to quick sex, penetrative or otherwise, in the darkness of parks and toilets, behind bushes, in alleyways, on beaches.
Workers in the public arena join in the networks. Whether just for sexual release, money, or actual desire for sex with other men is a difficult question to answer. Taxi-drivers, rickshaw wallahs, malaish 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 maasti.... In Indian urban cultures, male to male sex does not exist in a few selected areas as in Western cities. It is anywhere, in the right conditions, the right time, the right space. Perhaps we could say that Indian "sexualities", are time and spacially based!..."
Culture, Religion and Human Rights: social constructions of male sexual behaviours in South Asia implications for human rights. July 1996. (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/96/Culture,%20Religion%20&%20HR%20-%2096.DOC) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page. Now Part of a larger document titled "Perspectives on males who have sex with males in Bangladesh and India, p. 58-60 (PDF Download: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/perspective%20copy.pdf - http://www.nfi.net/downloads/knowledge_centre/NFI%20publications/articles%20and%20essays/1996_Culture,%20Religion%20&%20HR.pdf
The essay begins with: "There is not enough time to adequately analyse the differing religious and cultural frameworks, particularly those from South Asia, that impact upon an understanding of the concept of human rights. So instead I would like to raise a series of questions."
The great arrogance and ethnocentricity (racism?) of the West is highlighted: "We are familiar to the Dutch response in the context of HIV/AIDS and male to male sex which had been supported by UNAIDS in its previous incarnation of GPA, and also by a host of international donor agencies who had swallowed the assumption that AIDS in Asia is "heterosexual". That while these cultures may have indigenous same sex behaviours, it is minuscule, and therefore there was no need to invest in HIV/AIDS programmes that dealt with male to male sexual behaviours. We were invisible therefore we did not exist. We were told we do not exist because we were not visible. And we could only become visible by claiming lesbian or gay identities, where upon we become victimised as pawns of the West to destablise our own religions, cultures and societies. This raises the whole issue of language and terminology, and whether the terms used have any significance or meaning within the context of differing cultures and religions. For what does human rights mean in these differing contexts? What do the words lesbian, gay, bisexual mean in this differing cultures? Our work with lower income groups in South Asia has indicated that substantial numbers of males who have sex with other males as part of their sexual repertoire, also have sex with females whenever possible. Heterosexual or homosexual identities as Westerners understand them do not exist. Sexual behaviours are based on discharge not upon identity. This does not imply that lesbian and gay identities do not exist in our countries. Of course they do, but the issues of sexual health are much broader than that. For sometimes, the language of identities, and Western constructions of sexuality are inappropriate in delivering culture specific HIV/AIDS sexual health services in terms of male to male sexual behaviours. Within this context of meanings, cultures and religions, Western constructions cannot just be transposed from one culture to another. They are not absolutes in themselves and culture free."
There are great dangers when Western beliefs about that people should be are violated by reality: "Without any contextualisation, language becomes divisive, creating barriers to any effective communication and shared values. Words become power-loaded. Where a religion and/or culture finds itself in opposition to Western concepts because its framework is different, its world view is different, it is often assumed that it is uncivilised, barbaric, dirty. The whole of Asia is caught up in this debate, and a great deal of anti-Western rhetoric has been aired from Malaysia to Iran, from China to Saudi Arabia."
Culture, Sexualities, and Identities men who have sex with men in South Asia. June 1996. (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/96/Culture,%20Sexualities%20&%20Identities%20-%2096.DOC) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page. Now Part of a larger document titled "Perspectives on males who have sex with males in Bangladesh and India, p. 48-57 (PDF Download: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/perspective%20copy.pdf - http://www.nfi.net/downloads/knowledge_centre/NFI%20publications/articles%20and%20essays/1996_Culture,%20Sexualities%20&%20Identities.pdf
Excerpt: "Arun lives with his lover Kamal near a railway station in Bombay. They have lived together as lovers for the last five years. Both work as municipal sweepers. That is how they met. Both have had sex with other men prior to their meeting. They say they want to stay together as lovers. They don't consider themselves as different. They know many men who enjoy sex with other men. They don't play husband and wife roles, thinking it rather silly as both are men. Neither read or speak English. They both left school at 13.
Discussions around heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality, "straight" or "gay", appear to form clear cut distinctions in terms of sexual behaviours and identities. The lesbian and gay "movement" has been globalised and in South Asia, localised groups have been established, particularly in India... Many cities in the region have established social networks of lesbians and of gay men with specific sexual "cruising" sites. And yet the debate is more often than not in English, with Western terminology and understandings. Western terms are bandied about without clarity and understanding, and without reference to local cultures or vernacular languages. So who is a homosexual? Who is lesbian or gay? Or as they say in India, who is a gay? The un-thought assumption is often that same-gender sexual behaviours must mean the person is a homosexual, while male to female behaviour must mean that the person is a heterosexual. And in this construct, procreative "heterosexuality" is seen as normative. However such constructs have very little contemporary or historical validity in South Asia (and even so in the West). This reductionist ideology is a recent invention from the 19th century which consequently acted to reduce the rich diversity of alternate sexualities. Closer analysis indicates a confusion between sexual behaviours, genders, identity formation, and cross-cultural validity. Within such confusion there may also elements of neo-colonialism, racism, and Western imperialism...
Contemporary South Asian languages do not have specific expressions for homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality as nouns or as adjectives in the contexts that they are understood in the West. What exists are terms that express differing forms of sexual behaviours that are genderised, but these terms are often abusive and male dominated referring to specific acts of penetration. Sexual behaviours are within constructions of what is deemed appropriate penetrative or penetrated behaviour for men and women. In these constructions, who does the penetrating in a sexual act becomes important for male self-definition. To be penetrated as stated earlier is to be a "not-man", a "woman"...
There is also simultaneously another construction around male sexual behaviours which can be loosely defined by the Hindi term, maasti. It means mischief, and is often used in the context of sexual play between young men and boys. More often than not it does not involve penetration, and involves invisiblised sexual play between friends. This maasti arises at moments of sexual tensions, as a "body tension", when sexual discharge becomes urgent, when sexual arousal arises during play or body contact, when opportunities are created for sexual contact, in the dark, under the blanket, in shared beds. Such opportunities are very frequent, where shared households have shared beds. There is a social acceptance of males sharing beds, of male to male affectionalism, both public and private. This means that significant levels of male to male sexual behaviour occurs within family environments and networks, between male relatives and friends. But this is not real sex! This is maasti, easily invisibilised and denied."
Through a window darkly: Males selling sex in other males in India and Bangladesh. January 1997. (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/97/MSW%20-%2097.DOC) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page. Now Part of a larger document titled "Perspectives on males who have sex with males in Bangladesh and India, p. 30-43 (PDF Download: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/perspective%20copy.pdf
Excerpts: "HIV/AIDS has generated many new terms in the arena of developing programmes for the promotion of sexual health services and products. Terms such as "men who have sex with men", and "male commercial sex workers" have been heavily promoted, and where the labels, homosexual, bisexual and heterosexual, continue to be used to define personal sexual identities. More often than not these terms are meaningless in differing cultures, and perhaps, we should be looking at sexual practices and locate them within indigenous cultural terminologies and identities... Sufficient anecdotal evidence exists also to indicate that many males within India and Bangladesh begin sexual activity at ages of 10 and younger. Can the term "men" encompass their activities and needs? ..."
"For us to use the western constructions of sexuality and of AIDS is to loose sight of local realities and languages, local sensibilities and constructions. Use of them create frameworks which are nothing to do with the realities of people lives, how they see the world and themselves, and how they "fit" into their worlds and survive. This essay is about males who sell sex to other males in India and Bangladesh. In this context, the term "sell sex" is used loosely, for while the exchange may well in cash, it can also be a meal, or shelter or clothing. It can also be opportunistic and situational. And who is to say that some of us do not submit to the discharge of others for the sake of love and affection as the exchange?"
"This essay arises from the conversations the author has held over the last four years with hundreds of males who have sex with other males, whether for cash or gifts, or because of "sexual tension" and "discharge", or because of same gender desire. These conversations have been held in Dhaka, Calcutta, New Delhi, Mumbai (10), Chennai (11), and a variety of towns and villages. There have also been a range of Naz-sponsored consultation meetings, workshops, focus groups, and seminars. Their sexual histories, explicitly told, were part of discussions reflecting their lives, their hopes and aspirations, their needs, spoken quietly in parks, bus stands, hotel rooms, lake-sides, in rickshaws and tea shops, in taxis and on the street. Gaining trust and confidence through self-disclosure and friendship, the people I talked with were primarily from lower-income groups - "the working classes", "the labour classes", pavement dwellers, - speaking in their own languages. They were hotel boys, shoe-shine boys, rickshaw drivers, taxi drivers, tea boys, kothis, panthis, construction site workers, gay-identified men, truck drivers, "male sex workers"."
"The stories reported below are just a few to engage in what I could term the essence of SOME frameworks of "sex work" in India and Bangladesh. Four stories are from India, two from Bangladesh. I have restricted the frameworks somewhat. "Boys" sell sex in a wide variety of locations, situations and life conditions, from the 7 year old boy at a railway station earning his food and shelter for the night to the room service "boy in a hotel who can supplement his meagre salary. From a boy working in a tea shop who must give his body to the tea shop owner to keep his job to the "boy" in a park who defines himself as a kothi and sells sex to keep his family free from hunger. From the rickshaw boy who can get a nice new shirt or a few rupees more once in a while to the full-time "worker" who totally relies on the income earned through sex."
Does homosexuality exist in the South Asian communities in the UK? February, 1997. (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/articles/homosexuality_in_UK.doc N/A) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page.
The article begins with: "Of course it does. But how, and in what form? What does this term homosexual mean? In what context is it used? The words homosexuality and heterosexuality are recent inventions produced out of the scientific endeavours of the 19th century to classify and codify all human behaviours. From that period of medicalisation to the current frameworks of sexuality and identity has been the history of a "kind" of homosexuality and the growth of lesbian and gay identities. But what "kind" of homosexuality? The Western construct created a specific "homosexual" identity that is primarily focused on exclusive sexual encounters between same-gendered companionate partners, and from this evolved the current framework of what we in the UK understand by the terms lesbian and gay. Are these constructions valid in the South Asian communities, whether here in the UK or back in our countries of origin? Only to some extent..."
The Indian versus Western concepts: "In our countries of origin, sexuality is defined as much by the act of penetration as by local identities based upon who is being penetrated. For example, the male doing the penetrating is still defined as male, a "real man". Whilst the male being penetrated is defined as "less than a man" or "like a woman". Identities such as khusra, gandhu, kothi, exist as local terms and understanding. Their approximate meaning is a male who is like a female because he gets anally penetrated. Yet the vast majority of these males will also be married with children! What matters is family, marriage and children. Historically homosexual behaviours have always existed in South Asia and there is a vast amount of evidence to support this, from ancient Hindu temple statues and carvings, Mughal texts and paintings, cultural practices and other documents. Here, sexual identities and same-sex desire ie within status differentiated, age-structured and gender-variant homosexual patterns, not some monolithic, unilinear model of the Western understanding of homosexuality."
Answer to the question:
"In answering the question asked at the beginning, it is in the affirmative,
but then we must speak of homosexualities and identities, of sexual behaviour
as distinct from a sense of self. We have to be clear by what we mean by
the terms we use, in what context in seeking answers."
Comments on MSM, visibility and sexual health, 1997. (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/97/Comments%20on%20MSM%20-%2097.DOC N/A) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page. Similar information is now availabel in the larger document "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.
Excerpt: "Anecdotal and direct research by Naz Foundation and its partner agencies in a number of South Asian countries, as well as newspaper reports and magazine articles and surveys, and work done by a number of gay identified groups/organisations in India, indicate significant levels of males who have sex with males in both urban and rural areas, as well as the existence of substantial levels of male commercial sex workers in urban areas. With this are the high levels of sexual activity, and multiple sexual partners by these males, significant levels of sexual access to females by many of these males including their wives, low levels of condom use and safer sex practices, with the concomitant high risks for HIV and STD transmission from these males to their sexual partners. Further many young males (both pre-adolescent and adolescent) are also involved in these activities. These behaviours are exacerbated by gender segregation, economic and age and gender power differentials, adult male ownership of social spaces, low levels of knowledge of STDs/HIV, and adult male sexual privileges."
Males who have sex with males in India and Bangladesh. November 1997. (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/97/MSM%20in%20India-Bangla-97.doc N/A) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page. A related document "Observations of Men Who Have Sex With Men in India and Bangladesh" is now available as part of a larger document "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.
Excerpt: "It is often asked “how many MSM are there in Bangladesh? or India?”, usually by Western donors, consultants, and representatives of many AIDS NGOs. The question seems to be reasonable and make sense, but it actually represents a misconception of the context of male sexual behaviours in the region. In this context we should really be talking about male to male sexual behaviours rather than men who have sex with men (MSM). Further, the way the question is phrased generates a conception of MSM as an exclusive group, an identity rather than a behaviour. But, even more contentiously, the question itself cannot be answered with any adequate response or accuracy. In summary what we can say about male to male behaviours in Bangladesh and India is that...
The risks of categorisation, 1998. (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/98/risks%20of%20categorisation%20-%2098.doc N/A) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page.
Excerpt: "In the context of Asia, Africa and South America, the use of the heterosexual/homosexual oppositional binary to define the epidemic and the spread of STDs/HIV/AIDS created immense problems in developing appropriate STD/HIV prevention strategies. This language has been used to construct epidemiological and behavioural studies, education and awareness programmes, condom promotion, prevention and intervention strategies and so on. It was realised that the terms gay men or homosexual men, may not be appropriate in non Western cultures (not that they were appropriate in Western cultures either for many men!). So we had the term bisexual. But this was also shown to be an inadequate description, since the term bisexual implied some sort of bisexual identity. So then we had behaviourally homosexual.
All these terms were problematic in the field of actual sexual behaviours, particularly in cultures very different from the Euro-American frameworks. A new phrase arose: men who have sex with men. This was an attempt to recognise that identity based sexualities were insufficient to address the needs of large numbers of men who had no specific sexual identity, or did not identify with a stigmatised sexuality. In other words there were significant numbers of men who have sex with men, who did not identity with the labels, gay, homosexual or bisexual, or even understand them - they would be meaningless - white noise. Now this is the contemporary phrase that is being used, and already its inadequacies are becoming glaringly visible.
What is this term "men", particularly in non-Western cultures? In what context is it used. The word "man" would have different signifiers and meanings in different cultures which are not related to age. Adulthood is defined differently in different cultures. Malehood is defined differently. And many adolescents and male youths, as well as pre-pubescent males, are also sexually active and are at risk from STDs/HIV brought about their sexual behaviours which also involve sex with other males. So another term: males who have sex with males.
But hidden within these descriptions lies certain presumptions around sexual desire, object choice, freedom to select the gender of the sex object, identities based on penetrator/penetrated, and so on. They do not adequately or appropriately address the issues of local sexualities, identities and social constructions of actual sexual desires and behaviours..."
There are no heterosexuals in India..... there are only married men and men who will get married. April 1998. (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/98/no%20heteros%20-%2098.DOC) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page. By 2005, this document became unavailable but a copy may be obtainable by contacting NFI.
Excerpts: "At the 4th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific that was held between 25th - 29th October, 1997 in Manila, Philippines, I had been asked to present a paper on males who have sex with males in South Asia. As part of the ensuing debate I had jokingly made a comment that "there were no heterosexuals in India (South Asia). There was a pregnant pause and then I went on to say ".... there are only married men and men who will get married!" A few of the Indian delegates became rather agitated, believing that my statement reflecting on perhaps ..."the virility of Indian men" or that I was "impugning Indian men" or even that "I was casting aspirations on Indian men". There seemed to be a whiff of "homophobia" about these responses."
"Thus the statement "there are no heterosexuals in India ..." was an explicit way of saying that for the vast numbers of Indians and others from the South Asian (if not for all of Asia), constructions of the self do not follow Western ideologies, and are different. It was saying that the word "heterosexual" has arisen from a different culture, different histories, different religion. It was a short-hand way of stating that direct transposition of terms from one culture to another without clarifying meaning and content can cause more confusion and in the context of HIV/AIDS, cause more damage than progress in halting the epidemic. What is the Hindi translation of the word heterosexual? Or the Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, and so on. Do these "equivalents" share the same meaning and context as the word heterosexual appears to do?"
"South Asian identities are not based upon which gender you have sex with. They are based upon socialisation frameworks and expectations, social, cultural and religious expectations arising from community and family structures, beliefs, traditions, religion and customs. South Asian societies construct a social identity not based upon the individuality (which in the West evolved into individual identities of personhood, adulthood, male and femalehood and thus into so-called heterosexuals and homosexuals - and perhaps bisexuals) but upon intra-family relationships, marriage and children. Full personhood is not achieved until marriage and children are produced. Adulthood was defined by this. In South Asia, marriage and children are central to self-definition."
"Certainly in the social constructions of sexual behaviours in South Asia, we have found that for the majority of male to male sexual encounters, there is no significant patterning of sexual identities, except perhaps for those who define themselves through the act of anal penetration. What terms of identities that do exist for those who do the penetrating arise from the penetrated themselves... So what is heterosexuality in India? What does homosexuality mean in India? What relevance do these terms have to the lived expressions of those experience male to male sexual behaviours? Very little according to the evidence. "
Thoughts 98. (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/98/Thoughts-98.DOC) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page. By 2005, this document became unavailable but a copy may be obtainable by contacting NFI.
Excerpts: Recently I received a copy of the Indian National AIDS Control Programme booklet on "simplified STI & RTI treatment guidelines" for syndromic analysis. Unpleasant looking photographs of a range of STD symptoms and flow charts to indicate investigation and treatment. Nicely produced in English aimed at NGOs and clinics. working in the field of STI prevention and reproductive health. I showed this booklet to a number of HIV/AIDS NGOs, international agencies, as well as individuals working in the field, and asked the simple question - "What is missing from this document?" Not one answered appropriately. And what was missing? There was absolutely nothing referring to anal sex. Not one word. Nothing on rectal discharges, piles, warts, lesions. Nothing. Anal sex does not exist in India. Not that the surrounding countries in the South Asia region are any better. Nothing exists there either."
"This is not an insignificant problem either. In Dhaka, the local msm project has estimated some 5-10,000 male sex workers, with an average client range of 3-5 per day. The numbers of other khotis has been estimated at over 100,000. All urban centres have such male to male sex networks. Anal sex is a significant behaviour pattern not only between males, but also between males and females. And yet - silence."
"Male to male sex is prosecuted under a range of laws, including section 377 which speaks of "carnal intercourse". How to address the issues of client support, education and prevention, when we are dealing with illegal behaviours. What about blackmail? Harassment or violence committed against khotis? Who can they go to for support? How will human rights issues be addressed? Is distributing of condoms amongst males who have sex with males a legal activity? Will outreach workers and peer educators be harassed by police, by local thugs, by giriyas/panthis? What can be done about this? There are so many issues that need to be explored and addressed if effective prevention work amongst males who have sex with males is too be addressed. Work that needs to be done in its own right."
Behaviour and Identity: Men who have sex with men in India and HIV/AIDS. October 1999. (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/99/Behaviour%20and%20Identity%20-%2099.DOC) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page. Related information is located in the larger document "Male sexual behaviours and STD/HIV prevention: a training manual for peer educators." PDF Download: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Manuals/PeerManual.pdf.
The male-male sexuality situation in India is described: "There is growing evidence that indicate significant levels of male to male sexual activity, high levels of multiple sexual partners, significant levels of sexual access to females by many of these males including their wives, low levels of condom use and safer sex practices, with all the concomitant risks for HIV and STI transmission from these males to their sexual partners. These behaviours are exacerbated by gender segregation, economic, age and gender power differentials, adult male ownership of social spaces, low levels of knowledge of STIs/HIV, a homosocial culture, and adult male sexual privileges... Male sexual identities in South Asia do not fit the 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. The majority of males who have sex with males are married. Early sexual encounters by many males are often with another male. But a major consequence of a heterosexual/homosexual labelling of the AIDS epidemic has meant that if there is any discussion on sexual transmission, males who have sex with males become subsumed within a category of “gay” or homosexual”. This further marginalised and invisibilises the behaviour. Of course there are gay-identified males in South Asia. But they are overwhelmingly outnumbered by non-gay identified males who have sex with males, who may have differing identities, or who may just engage in male to male sex as semen discharge."
Types of homosexualtites
in India with related names: "Frameworks of male to male sex reflect
indigenous identities, often based around gender identification and penetration.
Thus we have: kothi: a self-identified feminised male whc acknowledges
male to male desire but within a framework of gender roles. - panthi:
a label given to "real" men by the kothis - these men take the "active"
role in penetration. Panthis may actively seek kothis for sex, or may be
approached by kothis if they are in the same space as kothis for
other reasons, i.e. parks, etc. - do-paratha: a label given
by kothis for males who penetrate and are penetrated. - masti:
this label is used to define males who have sex with males as part
of semen discharge and immediacy, rather than for specific desires for
sex with another male. - gay-identified men - primarily urban,
middle-class English speaking. These frameworks indicate complex and diverse
cultural specific patterns of male to male sexual encounters. Very often
male to male behaviours do not arise from "sexual orientation" but
from different constructions of desire and behaviour. Concepts around heterosexuality
and homosexuality arise from Western traditions and social contructions
of sexuality. In South Asian cultures, these traditions revove around family,
marriage and children rather than the self. And in cultures that segerate
by gender, cultures that are particularly homosocial and homoaffectionalist,
living conditions of overcrowding and shared beds, male to male sex is
a common phenomenon arising from "body heat", "body tension", immediacy,
availability and opportunity."
Kothis, gays and (other) MSM. October 2000. (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/00/Kothis,%20gays%20&%20other%20MSM%20-%2000.DOC - http://www.nfi.net/downloads/knowledge_centre/NFI%20publications/articles%20and%20essays/2000_Kothis,%20gays%20&%20other%20MSM.pdf) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page.
"In the July 2000 edition of Trikone (Vol. 15, No.3) [http://www.trikone.org/magazine/], an article by Owais Khan was published: A Rose By Any Other Name...? Gay vs MSM." A response to this article is available at: http://www.nfi.net/html/pukaar-4.html .
"In the context of
AIDS, developing effective and sustainable prevention initiatives, one
should not impose your own personal concepts of what people should call
themselves, or what identity they should have. You start with where people
are at, not where you think they should be, helping to create safe spaces
where they can explore their sense of self as an empowerment process of
change towards less risky behaviours. South Asia has an incredible diversity
of identities, desires, and frameworks of expression. It can truly be called
a queer space. Hijras, transvestities, transgendered, gay-identified men,
kothis/dangas, panthis/giriyas, double-deckers/do-parathas/dubli, men/males
who have sex with other men/males, in all its variety of terminologies,
behavioural choices, desires and constructions. Are we truly saying that
we should reduce this diversity into the singular construction of a gay
identity, a term that does not readily translate into the multiplicity
of languages and dialects that reflect the diversity of South Asia itself?
And are we also saying that control of AIDS in South Asia does not matter,
that people who do not identify with a gay sensibility do not matter? Behaviour
and identity are not always congruent as any good social anthropologist
should know. Of course the emergent gay movement in South Asia is extremely
important for those who do identify as gay, and also for those who are
exploring their own emergent sexual sense of self and gayness and are looking
for a positive affirming identity that makes sense to them. Then to say
gay is appropriate and right. But at the same time to denigrate or deny
other frameworks of identities and choices is not. Let us stop seeing a
debate that pits those who work for gay rights and those who work in preventing
HIV/AIDS among men who have sex with men against each other. Let us work
together whatever our own frameworks and priorities, and recognise that
in a region of over one billion people there is space for everyone to work
out their destinies."
Thoughts 2000. (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/00/thoughts%20-%2000.doc N/A) (Now availabel as PDF Download (Pukaar, 28, pp. 3-4): http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Pukaar/2000/January2000.pdf - http://www.nfi.net/downloads/knowledge_centre/NFI%20publications/articles%20and%20essays/2000_thoughts.pdf) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page.
Excerpts: "I find myself increasing frustrated that gay/homosexuality frameworks (which do have a place in India) can cloud the actuality and reality of what is being expressed in parks, toilets, bus and railway stations, hotels, guest house, dark alleys and private homes. The reality is.... that we are all trying to save lives, the lives of children, of young men and women, of husbands and wives, of the future.... and unless we incorporate what is essentially an indigenous construction of masculinities, sexualities, genders and behaviours, we will fail.... we face the abyss of a whole generation lost. We need to recognise that in South Asia, India included, it is not sexuality, sexual identity or sexual orientation that is the significant factor in male to male sexual behaviours. Or that men who have sex with men (whatever that means) is not an exclusive group devoid of sexual interaction wih males outside this framework. It is gender identification that constructs the majority of male to male sexual encounters. It is koti and panthi frameworks that shape the gender performance that constructs the sex act. Whether this performance is by kotis, female sex workers, male sex workers, or what is often seen as "real men"."
"Maasti is a hindi term and in the India context, is sometimes used to describe a range of play between males. "Doing maasti" has also taken on a context of sexual play between males based on "body heat" and semen discharge. There doesn't appear to be an equivalent term in Bangla. Are there any in other South Asian languages? In the range of discussions with Bandhu members and volunteers during training sessions and group discussions where we explored terms for identities and sexual behaviours as a means of developing programmes and understanding frameworks, maasti as a descriptive term was raised. In a Bangla context we talked of maasti "boys", accessing males who have sex with males outside of an identity framework. Doing maasti sex with other males because of heat, erection, discharge, fun, play. Within a month of these discussions, Bandhu members were talking to each other of maasti boys they knew, and of maasti sex. The word had become internalised within BSWS, becoming a part of the linguistic framework to describe aspects of male to male sex. A similar expression but this time Bangla, was the phrase dhon bandhu which literally penis friend, although the term dhon is a slang and more vivid term that the more polite word lingam (check this). The term describes friends who have discharge sex with each other. This phrase, a invention within the discussions has also become a part of the Bandhu linguistic framework. These developments are interested, and is part of developing an understanding of sexual behaviours frameworks. Creating terms and language to express frameworks and understand contexts. As George Orwell says in his book, 1984, “The human mind cannot think a thought unless the words to express the thought exist”"
Human Rights and Sexual Citizenship. Men who have sex with men: A South Asian Perspective. Presented at the AIDS Impact Conference, Brighton, UK, July 2001. (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/01/HR%20&%20Sexual%20Citizenship,%2001.DOC - http://www.nfi.net/downloads/knowledge_centre/NFI%20publications/articles%20and%20essays/2001_HR%20&%20Sexual%20Citizenship.pdf) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page.
Excerpt: "Much contemporary discussion of human rights, sexual citizenship and HIV/AIDS is conducted in English within a Eurocentric framework that defines the individual as paramount, and that sees risk as an individuated concern. This debate has usually been led by activists from the field of lesbian and gay rights and those who work with singularly marginalised groups and networks, primarily female sex workers and injecting drug users.
Working with men who have sex with men in South Asia the question may well be one of how relevant these arguments are in a sociocultural context were frameworks of male to male sex which not neatly divided into a heterosexual/homosexual binary and oppositional dynamic. Here notions of community, religion and social reciprocity are very different than commonly found in Europe. This article will not be able to give an answer to this question a this point. I am not even sure that I have an answer..."
Between the covers. July 2001. Review of the book Vice Versa: bisexuality and the eroticism of everyday life - by Marjorie Garber (Hamish Hamilton Ltd, 1995). (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/01/Vice%20Versa%20-%2001.doc) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page.
Excerpt: "Too often, lesbians and gay men have claimed that those who call themselves bisexuals are really closeted lesbians or gay men, who try to claim "heterosexual" privileges while enjoying the "fruits" of the lesbian and gay struggle. Or that calling oneself bisexual was really "chic". At the same time, whenever a historical person is discovered to have same sex encounters, this person is claimed as a lesbian or gay person, even if it is known that they were married, or had sexual encounters with the 'opposite sex'. Even though such categories, lesbian, gay homosexual, heterosexual, are all recent inventions and constructions. This invisibilising of behavioural choices by both "heterosexuals" and by lesbians and gay men is indicative of the power of labelling and numbers, and the disempowering of sexual choice and desire.
If we look at all the data on sexual behaviour in South Asia, (I can only talk of men who have sex with men, since that is the area of my knowledge) a very significant majority of such men claim to enjoy sex with their wives/other women, while the vast majority unmarried MSM state that they will get married (some 95% interviewed). And when we analysis the level of sexual encounters between married MSM and their wives, even those who are kothi identified, we find higher than expected actual acts, indicative of some pleasurable outcome. What are we to make of this?..."
Males Who Have Sex with Males (MSM) and HIV/AIDS in India: The Hidden Epidemic.
By Gregory Pappas, Omar Khan, Jason Taylor Wright, Shivananda Khan,
Lalitha Kumaramangalam, and Joseph O’Neill, 2001. Download: http://www.nfi.net/downloads/knowledge_centre/NFI%20publications/articles%20and%20essays/2001_MSM_HIV%20In%20India.pdf
The politics of biology: a personal viewpoint. September 2001. (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/01/politics%20of%20biology-01.doc - http://www.nfi.net/downloads/knowledge_centre/NFI%20publications/articles%20and%20essays/2001_politicsof%20biology.pdf) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page.
Excerpts: "Is there such a thing as biological determinism in terms of sexuality? Is there such a thing as a "gay gene" or "gay brain". This search for a singular causation appears to ignore the enormous work that has been done in regard to the social constructions of gender, of masculinity, of femininity, of malehood and femalehood. It appears to deny much anthropological evidence. Do we say the ancient Greeks in their pederastic attachments also possessed a "gay gene"? Or that Herdt's Sambia also possessed a gay gene in their enculturation of oral sex, both receiver and giver, as a means for masculinisation? Or the 'manly' partners of hijras, kothis, and zenannas of South Asia?"
"Such an approach generates homophobia. Where untoward desires creep in to our self-awareness, we can but deny them forcefully since we are not 'that'. but 'this'. We have to scourge out the opposite. Such inner torment becomes the lashings of monkdom of the past, hidden away in their cells, bleeding in their suffering to cast out the sins of torment and evil. A singular concept of masculinity becomes deified. Anything less than this imaginary position of an idealised "heterosexuality" or "homosexuality" permanently frozen in the icy grip of reductionism becomes an inner torment, whether you are gay-identified who finds himself desiring a woman, or heterosexually-identified, who finds desire or acts with other men, but then forced to scourge these out with inner (and sometimes outer) violence, and fear. For surely it is obvious that if sexual orientation (whatever that means) is biologically determined, this would make it impossible for so-called bisexual behaviours and desires to exist. After all, where do erections come from? From where does sexual desire arise? In some ways then self-masturbation would be impossible. Desire would have to be for the "opposite sex" or "same sex" and can only be acted out through their intercession. Self-masturbating is a same-sex behaviour."
"But what of the supposed scientific discoveries of LeVay, Hammer, et al? This is a return to 19th century biology, where 'criminals' and 'deviants' can be recognised by certain stigmata, or 19th century social science that deemed Bengalis as "effeminate" and Punjabis as "manly", or that African women are sexually vociferous while European women were sexually timid by the fact of their genetic inheritance. It is another version of the belief that women who were hairy, or wore trousers, or had short hair, were masculinised and therefore lesbians, while men who like the arts, were gentle, had long hair, were feminine and therefore homosexuals. Homosexuality as femininity, heterosexuals as masculinity. A close reading of their methodologies and conclusions, show quite clearly bad science, inadequate conclusions, a prior assumptions that are inadequate if not downright wrong, hypothesis masquerading as theories. Desires given biological form. Thus we inherently have the desire to eat, where our choice of food is biological determined? We (perhaps) all have the desire for sexual pleasure, but the manifestation of what we do is biologically determined? This is not a science of freedom, but (as Fromm would say) an escape from freedom. It is a science of seeking forgiveness...."I am so sorry, I can't help myself". Thus a man is this and only this, while a woman is that, and only that. Where traits and desires are "masculinised" or "feminised", and treated as absolutes. The fault is as much bad science as bad language. "
"We have to move out of this hall or mirrors and express our true humanity and humanness, and value that inner spirit of joy and liberation that so many mystics and truth-seekers express. It is not freedom from ourselves that such liberation brings, but a refreshing and clear perspective that these labels and boxes are ultimately demeaning. Having (and enjoying) same-sex sexual encounters, forming same-same partnerships, falling in love (and falling out of love) with same-sex partners, does not make you a homosexual, a gay or lesbian, or whatever we like to call these experiences. Similarly having so-called opposite sex sexual encounters, forming opposite-sex partnerships, falling in love (and falling out of love) with opposite-sex partners, does not make you a heterosexual, or straight, or whatever. The current language of sexuality is a prison, a dead zone, the language of zombies, who cry away from the freedom of the human spirit to be in a process of continuing becoming. To call yourself gay or straight, homosexual or heterosexual, and fixate your choices within these prisons is to deny becoming."
"As far as I can determine, shifting from singular and binary thinking to a language of multiplicity, of perversity, of polymorphousness, begins to light up our darkness. Sexuality becomes sexualities, heterosexuality becomes heterosexualities, homosexuality becomes homosexualities. Maybe, more than this, we should move away from this language of singularity, the blackholes of true awareness of self, desire and action, into a realisation that it is science, society, religion and family can only form our destiny if we give them permission to. So whatever label you identify with, whatever gender role you play and act out, whatever your sexual desires may be, it is an issue of truly mutual consensus that can lead you to freedom to be. Be who you are... do not be what others (and often what you, yourself, generate by this constant process of interaction mediated by fear) condemn you to be. There is no need for an apologetic science, nor for an apologetic self."
Male to male sexual behaviours in south Asia: challenges and assumptions. By Shivananda Khan (2001). Presentation at FHI/NACO Conference: (Download directly: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/01/MMS%20presnt.%202001.doc) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page.
Excerpt: "The MSM Context In South Asia: For many men involved in male to male sex, MSM behaviours are NOT based on sexual identities, but on semen discharge. There are three main frameworks of MSM: Kothi framework: male to male desire based on female gender roles and identification. - Discharge framework: male to male behaviours based on opportunity and "body heat"; many of these males will access kothis for sex, or even each other. Kothis call such men panthis. Such males do not see themselves as homosexuals, or even their behaviour as homosexual, since they take the "manly" role in male to male sex. - Gay framework: male to male desire based on male roles - used by English speaking middle-class, usually seek other gay-identified men for partners. - The majority framework is that of kothi/panthi behaviours."
Human Rights study in Bangladesh on MSM: Extract from a report: Study funded by UNDP India and conducted by NFI consultant, Aditya Bondyopadhyay and Bandhu Social Welfare Society, 2002. (Download directly at: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/02/Human%20Rights%20Study%20on%20MSM.doc - http://www.nfi.net/downloads/knowledge_centre/NFI%20publications/articles%20and%20essays/2002_Human%20Rights%20Study%20on%20MSM%20%20.pdf) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page.
Masculinities, sexualities and HIV/AIDS. By Shivananda Khan, 2002. (Download directly at: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/02/Masculinities,%20Sexualities.doc - http://www.nfi.net/downloads/knowledge_centre/NFI%20publications/articles%20and%20essays/2002_Masculinities,%20Sexualities.pdf)
Excerpt: "“Men make a difference” - a catchy slogan promoted by UNAIDS over the last couple of years. The intention here was to acknowledge that that it was men’s attitudes, gender power, masculine constructs, sexual practices and decisions, and control that required being addressed if effective and sustainable HIV/AIDS prevention programmes were to be developed. It was a recognition that focus on women only was an inadequate response often leading to failure.
In NFI’s work in South Asia, the question of social and cultural definitions were of great significance. The term “MAN” was problematic in this context, and the only way we could move forward was to understand constructions of masculinity and sexuality in the plural. It meant moving away from essentialist and biological determinism of masculinity and sexuality into a framework that sees a range of differing masculinities and sexualities. How else to understand a self-identified kothi’s sense of self, behaviour, and choices, where in one social setting they demonstrated a gendered performative role to attract “manly” partners” but which also had a psychological sense of meaningfulness and significance, but in another they performed as husbands and fathers. At the same time, these “manly” partners did not appear to have a sexual identity, but a gender identity, that of “manly man” who defined the self-identified kothis as “not-men”, and who also had wives and/or sexually accessed other women as well. And along with this was the existence of both kothi-identified males and “manly” man who performed as both penetrator and penetrated..."
What’s in a name? By Shivananda Khan, 2002. (Download directly at: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/02/What's%20in%20a%20name.doc - http://www.nfi.net/downloads/knowledge_centre/NFI%20publications/articles%20and%20essays/2002_What%27s%20in%20a%20name%20.pdf) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page.
Excerpt: "In response to an NFI posting (September 2002) which appeared in lgbt-India, a critique was made in regard to the statement: “MSM sexual health projects” that was used. The respondent felt that the use of the acronym MSM in this context led to a sense of MSM being an identity term, when it is not. There is a growing use of the term MSM as an identity label across South Asia, particularly where self-help sexual health projects have emerged.
In a highly gendered sexual environment, male-to-male sex is usually perceived as one of gendered roles acted out by kothis/hijras as the penetrated and feminised partner, and where the penetrating partner (the panthi/giriya) sees himself as a normative man. Thus the panthi perceives himself as having sex, not with another man, but with a “not-man”, and his sense of masculinity is maintained
In local and regional languages, positive terms that signify men desiring men, men loving men, men having sex with men, may not be available. While the term gay (and even homosexual) have been widely disseminated, their association with Western frameworks of sexuality and the English language may preclude their general use in meaningful ways. So for many men who have sex with men, based on desire and as a potential orientation, there does not appear to be a term readily available without taking on the feminised label of kothi/zenana. . MSM appears to be fitting the bill in this regard. Thus the original critique may have some validity..."
Exporting Identity. By Sonia K. Katyal, Associate Professor of Law, Fordham Law School. Essay reprinted by permission of Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, Inc. from Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, Vol. 14, Number 1, pp. 97-176. (Download directly at: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/02/Exporting%20Identity.doc - http://www.nfi.net/downloads/knowledge_centre/NFI%20publications/articles%20and%20essays/2002_Exporting%20Identity.pdf) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page.
Excerpt: "There is no doubt that a gay revolution is sweeping the globe. Today, the term "gay" has been borrowed into Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, and other languages, signifying its increasingly perceived universality. Gay and lesbian organizations now exist in virtually every continent and in many major urban centers throughout the world. A growing number of legislators and judges have taken up the cause of gay civil rights, and have actively supported protections based on sexual orientation in a host of areas, such as adoption, employment, domestic partnership, and immigration. Yet, at the same time, there has never been a better time to study the potential limitations and challenges faced by a global gay rights movement, particularly in countries where governments have mounted serious challenges to its development...
Indeed, across the non-Western world, the emergence of gay-identified communities has ushered in painful debates about the intersection between sexual identity, culture, and human rights. Nevertheless, the complicated social meanings that attach to same-sex sexual activity, as opposed to gay or lesbian identity, are often ignored by many Western-based activists, who regularly equate identity and conduct in their efforts to assist movements for lesbian and gay equality abroad. Yet these questions have undeniable legal consequences, particularly for the minoritizing discourse that animates the global gay civil rights movement. Traditionally, the law presumes that one's sexual orientation - heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual - is a fixed identity defined by the gender of one's chosen sexual partner. However, contrary to this view, some cultures view homosexuality as an activity, not an identity; others view it as a necessary phase in a quest for full-fledged adulthood; and still others equate it with transgenderism. Although there is certainly an appreciable emergence of self-identified "gay" or "lesbian" individuals throughout the world, many Western activists and scholars often fail to recognize that arguments for legal protection on the basis of sexual orientation often collide with, rather than incorporate, these preexisting social meanings of same-sex sexual activity. In other words, the presumed equation between sexual conduct, sexual orientation, and sexual identity, so prevalent in Western legal thought, tends to swiftly unravel when viewed in a cross-cultural framework..."
Islam and same-sex relationships. By Jeremy Seabrook, 2002. (Download directly at: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/02/ISLAM%20AND%20SAME-SEX.doc) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page.
Excerpt: "Same-sex relationships do not regard religious, cultural or legal taboos and prohibitions. They exist in all societies, at all times. The tolerance extended to such relationships varies, but the most stringent constraints of the law and the most permissive of societies probably have less influence than is generally believed upon actually existing humanity and its needs. Much depends on public perception and declaration. Whether or not Western versions of identity politics represent the most truly liberating conditions for the realisation of alternative sexualities is, despite the celebration of diversity, nevertheless questionable. The categories of Lesbian and gay/bisexual/straight often strike people from other cultures as odd, even incomprehensible. They will point to the fluidity and absence of definition in same-sex relationships in other cultures, which accommodate different behaviours, rather than identities...
Generally, however, in Muslim, Hindu and other cultures, how people behave is detached from labels given by others to that behaviour. Individuals express their feelings of attraction, affection or desire according to the context. The western obsession with a self-consciousness that cannot forbear to reflect upon what it is doing and why, and how it should name and present itself to the world, is an alien sensibility to many other cultures. That this represents the fullest liberation of human beings animates the contemporary consciousness of superiority of the West, and it is, in many ways, simply a reformulation of earlier ideologies of dominance. It is unthinkable that the paradigm which has evolved in the richest and most powerful societies in the world should not be exported - even to places where it strikes with great violence against other ways of being, other methods of dealing with the complexities of the most delicate human relationships and bonding. It is absolutely characteristic that this should be the object of messianic zeal, no less intense than other beliefs which the West has sought to wish upon the world, many of which they now repudiate with a zeal similar to that which they once pursued in imposing them – one has only to think of the racism which characterised their missions of conquest, and which the rulers of the West now disavow so noisily...
If Islam embodies a ‘pre-modern’ consciousness, this also leaves large areas of human interaction in penumbra, where people act, behave, have sexual and emotional relationships, love one another, without perceiving anything in this which involves definitions of identity. In this context, friendships and attachments, sexual and emotional relationships exist, free of scrutiny, self-consciousness or self-reproach. Only when named ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’, do they become problematic. A more subtle and reflective evaluation of other cultures would recognise, not only their failings, but also the inadequacies of the dominant culture, which the people of the West inhabit. But no inadequacies are admitted in the individualistic, competitive and reductively primitive society, which exports itself globally with such exuberant and intolerant self-confidence."
MSM and HIV/AIDS: A South Asian Experience. A PowerPoint Presentation to UNAIDS Working Group on MSM. (Download directly at: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/02/UNAIDS%20present.ppt) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page.
Excerpt: "MALE-TO-MALE SEX: 20% of men in one rural area have male-to-male sex. - 25% of men in a Karachi prison had male-to-male sex. - 40% of men living in a Karachi squatter settlement had male-to-male sex. - A survey amongst truck drivers from central Karachi reported: 76% visited female commercial sex workers 72% has sex with other males. (From AIDS Analysis Asia, July 1996)"
Developing Community Based Sexual Health Agencies to Promote Safer Sex Practices Among MSM: a replicable model of sexual health promotion. PowerPoint Presentation. (Download directly at: http://www.nfi.net/NFI%20Publications/Essays/02/NFI%20-%20A%20model%20of%20MSM%20intervention.ppt) If the link is not working, access via Naz Foundation International Home Page.
The invisible man – an invisible epidemic: Masculinities, (homo)sexualities, vulnerabilities, and HIV risk in South Asia. By Shivananda Khan, 2004. Download: http://www.nfi.net/downloads/knowledge_centre/NFI%20publications/articles%20and%20essays/2004_The%20invisible%20man.pdf
Male intergenerational sexual relations in contemporary South Asia: India, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan (and Pakistan).
By Shivananda Khan, Presented at the 33rd Annual Meeting, International
Academy of Sex Research, Vancouver, Canada, 2007. Download: http://www.nfi.net/downloads/knowledge_centre/NFI%20publications/articles%20and%20essays/2002_Human%20Rights%20Study%20on%20MSM%20%20.pdf - See also: http://www.nfi.net/downloads/knowledge_centre/NFI%20publications/presentations/2007_male%20intergenerational%20sex%20in%20South%20Asia_slide%20presentation.pdf
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