When India’s Supreme Court struck down Section 377 in September 2018, effectively decriminalising same sex relationships, there were huge celebrations amongst the country’s LGBTQ community and its allies. But while that legal victory was an indication of shifting attitudes, it was only a step on the journey towards ensuring full human rights for India’s LGBTQ community.
An essential component of ensuring full rights and acceptance for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans, queer) persons is the creation of an enabling social environment – and that means changing minds and attitudes across India. Media can play an important part in bringing about these changes and that’s why Love Matters India devised and implemented Conqueer – an initiative bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders with the aim of increasing rights-based and non-stigmatising representation of the LGBTQ community in India’s media.
Informing and advocating for SRHR
Love Matters India was launched by RNW Media in 2011 and has grown to become an established SRHR (sexual and reproductive health and rights) player. Available in both Hindi and English, its website and social media channels engages millions of young people in conversations around love, sex, and relationships. Since 2016, Love Matters India and Love Matters Africa have been implementing the Rights, evidence, action – amplifying youth voices (REA) programme. Funded by AmplifyChange, this programme works to ensure that SRHR of young people including the LGBT community. Together with Dutch partner organisation CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, Love Matters aims to inform young people of their SRHR and advocate for the fulfilment of those rights.
Engaging with and influencing local media is an essential part of the REA programme. In 2018, Love Matters India launched it’s #Press4Change initiative, aimed at connecting with India’s media practitioners at different levels to improve representation of the LGBTQ community. The initiative has offered trainings to grassroots and student journalists and this year Love Matters India conceptualised the Conqueer event which was organised in partnership with the Keshav Suri Foundation.
What’s the problem?
The Conqueer event was divided into three phases. First separate groups identified issues negatively affecting the LGBT community around the five themes of Law and Policy, Education, Employment, Media & Entertainment and Health and presented their findings to journalists together with strategies to address problematic issues and attitudes. Next steps were then identified, including the development of a charter statement to be shared with all stakeholders including media, political leaders, civil society organisations, judiciary and donors and the development of an advocacy plan to engage effectively with these stakeholders.
The final phase of the event featured two panel discussions with experts to identify gaps, the scope of the work needed and the way forward. Key takeaways from these panel discussions included the need to sensitise media professionals due to the misconceptions that still prevail around the LGBT community and that more needs to be done to encourage employers and organisations who may have LGBT friendly policies on paper to actually implement those policies. Please click Conqueer2019 to read the full report, including a list of participants, media coverage and reference materials.
As an outcome of #Press4Change and Conqueer, Love Matters India is now working with stakeholders to develop a media toolkit that can serve as a guide and reference for journalists and reporters to undertake rights-based and non-stigmatisng reporting on LGBTQ issues in India.