The elephant moves
June 3, 2012 10:55 AM   Subscribe

“Sexual orientation does make you poor,” says Manohar Elavarthi, a community organizer with Sangama in Bangalore. “Poverty is not just economic – you miss access to so many things: ration cards, inheritance rights, voter ID cards.” In several South Asian countries, there are reports that LGBT people have even been denied access to disaster relief. And homophobia is intricately connected with other divisions in South Asian societies, particularly around gender but also religion and caste. Yet I saw many signs of hope and change in both India and Nepal. Those transgender sex workers in Chennai have organized a coalition, called V-CAN, of every single community-based organization in the state of Tamil Nadu that serves homosexual or transgender people. Working with the NGO Praxis, they have been able to gain access to some public benefits, such as pensions and registering as “third gender” on government ID cards. Activists in Nepal’s Blue Diamond Society have achieved similar results and more. ~ World Bank blog post
posted by infini (9 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you for this post. I heard news about this "third gender" thing on Gay USA this week, and was wondering about the greater context, figuring either I didn't have the full story or there were cultural considerations which gave context to something which the hosts of that show were talking about rather dismissively.

(I love Gay USA and watch it every week, but sometimes when reporting about world news, they can have a pretty cultural elitist way of talking about the way GLBT issues are being handled in very different parts of the globe.)
posted by hippybear at 11:11 AM on June 3, 2012

I'm surprised the post doesn't explicitly mention same-sex marriage. Statistically, married people are more likely to flourish in a wide variety of ways, financial and otherwise. (I don't have a link to any studies off-hand, but maybe someone else can provide them.) Now, there are legitimate questions about which way the causation goes (does marriage make people better off, or are better-off people more desirable mates?), but no one could deny that marriage provides additional economic security through health insurance coverage, inheritance, etc. Same-sex marriage isn't only of concern to rich elites (presumably "white") who can afford to focus on "social" issues; it is an economic issue. In fact, it's especially important to the poor: rich same-sex couples who live in jurisdictions where they can't get legally married can at least afford to buy their own health insurance, hire good lawyers to draft their wills to override the default legal presumptions about inheritance, etc.
posted by John Cohen at 11:39 AM on June 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can someone explain what the dissolution of Nepal's parliament last week means for the theoretical mandate that their new (and overdue) constitution would recognize same-sex marriage?
posted by psoas at 11:39 AM on June 3, 2012

Er, I mean theoretical constitution, seeing as they haven't passed one.
posted by psoas at 11:40 AM on June 3, 2012


"I heard news about this "third gender" thing on Gay USA this week, and was wondering about the greater context"

India's traditional gender/sexuality classification system has 3 genders: kothis (biological males who are "feminine"), panthis (biological males who are "masculine") and narans (biological females who are feminine. Kothis desire panthis; panthis desire kothis or narans. So in this system, there are men (panthis) and non-men (kothis and narans)- notice the classification is based on gender, not so much biological sex.

Hijras are the highest ranking kothis and are sometimes called the 3rd gender. Hijras are biological males who achieve their status through a ritual initiation into womanhood and being inducted into a "family" (sort of like the "houses" of the NY ball culture I thought) and often through castration. (like transgendered people in the West who can afford regular surgery, hormone treatments)

Hijras had royal patronage before the British, they played a role in many traditional rituals (weddings, births), they entertained in court. British colonial rule in an effort to "clean up", sanitize, etc, re-categorized hijras amongst others in the "criminal caste".

Also the time when sodomy, emasculation, and other "unnatural sex" became incorporated into the criminal code in India. The same colonial law that was upturned recently and which the article refers to.

Hijras are typically from a lower socio-economic strata; their 'poverty' complicated by their sexuality/gender as the article mentions. Middle class trans people -when they dare- opt for surgery and transitioning 'proper'

@ John Cohen: Homosex was de-criminalized last year - in the Delhi high-court (Supreme Court verdict is awaited). Marriage is a distant dream...
posted by drummergirl80 at 12:50 PM on June 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

Previously on hijras and the third gender
posted by infini at 1:04 PM on June 3, 2012

Anthropology 301... I am all for human rights and knowing where we came from. Thing is how long do we cling to the past? Should we be planning reparations for past injustice? There comes a time when there is no excuse and people must confront their humanity. We are a single species human beings. Diversity is a distraction. I am not ignoring the past but understand it is past. Moving forward...
posted by pdxpogo at 2:25 PM on June 3, 2012

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times:
Homophobia does not mean you're afraid of gay people.
It's not even a real phobia.
It just means you're an asshole.
Anybody who uses first word of that phrase to identify people's behavior is doing the world a tremendous disservice by not also including the last.
posted by Blue_Villain at 3:00 PM on June 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

there are reports that LGBT people have even been denied access to disaster relief.

I'd like to know where I could find said reports. I work for the world's largest NGO which could be labled "Christian" although our work isn't tied to any missionary / proselytizing / evangelism, and I know for a fact that our disaster relief work explicitly forbids any discrimination on any factor like sex, race, sexual orientation, religion, etc.. Even Islamic Relief has similar standards in place. Really the only discrimination accusation that could be made at most NGOs is that we discriminate against distributing aid to single men in favor of distributing it instead to female head-of-households as there is documented proof that in such cases the aid has a higher chance of helping those most in danger (the children), and the least chances of misuse (reselling, etc.).
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:08 PM on June 3, 2012

« Older "This is a museum without an ending."   |   A salty debate Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments