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The Health Herald

A monthly Newsletter

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Aviral Sharma

Vatsla Sharma
Global Fund seeks India's support for health
Michel D. Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund (GF) to Fight AIDS,
Tuberculosis and Malaria, has asked for greater Indian support and funding for
global health spending ahead of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals
(MDG) summit in New York. India's position is perceived to be critical at two levels
as a country with a significant disease burden, and also as one being looked up to
for leadership in keeping the focus on health issues.“The replenishment conference
for the Global Fund — which is seen as key to the achievement of the MDG by 2015
— will be held in October. Two weeks prior to that, world leaders will meet in New
York for the MDG summit. Mrs. Sonia Gandhi will represent India. He has also
asked the Indian government to directly enhance its contribution to the GF
replenishment fund. “We are seeking to see if India, as a beneficiary of the GF with
remarkable results on the ground in AIDS, TB and malaria, could support our
advocacy efforts.”Professor Kazatchkine will also ask the government to directly
contribute to the GF replenishment, as he did with other emerging economies -
China and Brazil — earlier this year.

Nutrition scheme for adolescent girls cleared

The Centre has cleared for implementation the Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for
Empowerment of Adolescent Girls known as “Sabla” aimed at enhancing their
nutritional and economic status. The scheme will be run along with the Integrated
Child Development Services (ICDS) project in Anganwadi Centers in 200 select
districts, targeting girls in the age group 11-18. The districts will be selected using
a set of indicators and will be a combination in equal proportion of good, moderate,
and not well performing districts. Adolescent girls will be provided take-home
rations. States can also opt for serving cooked meals, the standards of which will
have to be set. Separately, the Women and Child Development Ministry will explore
the feasibility of implementing a Conditional Cash Transfer scheme as an alternative
in 100 more districts. Cash transfer will be contingent on conditions to be laid down
being fulfilled. An allocation of Rs.4,500 crore has been made for implementing
“Sabla” during the remaining period of the 11th Five-Year Plan. For 2010-11, a
budget provision of Rs 1,000 crore has been made. In the initial years, 40-50 per
cent of the girls accessing the scheme or 0.92-1.15 crore per annum are expected
to be covered in the 11th Plan.
Sowa-Rigpa now part of Indian medical system

The Rajya Sabha has passed a Bill to include Sowa-Rigpa within the ambit of the
Indian medical system. It is practiced in the sub-Himalayan region and other parts
of the country, besides Tibet, Mongolia, Japan and some other countries. The Bill
seeks to include registered practitioners of Sowa-Rigpa in the Indian Medical
Council. The Indian Medicine Central Council (Amendment) Bill, 2010, seeks to
include Sowa-Rigpa along with Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani Medicine in the system,
set minimum standards for education, and maintain a register of all practitioners in
these fields. Replying to a debate, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Bill
would ensure protection and preservation of the Sowa-Rigpa system and help in its
development. It would lead to the setting up of a regulatory mechanism in the
education and practice of Sowa-Rigpa.

Discrimination against Sexual Minorities in India

The founding document on which most human rights organizations base their
advocacy is the universal Declaration on Human Rights. From this initial document
has emerged a whole series of human rights declarations, conventions and treaties
pertaining to the rights of various marginalized groups and communities such as
children, women, indigenous people, disabled people, prisoners, religious and ethnic
minorities, refugees, etc. However, one significant absence in international human
rights law has been an express articulation of the specific interests of sexuality
minorities.
Legal Discrimination against the sexuality minorities takes many forms, the most
notorious being Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a British colonial
legislation criminalizing homosexual behavior, that continues to be in the Indian
statute book although it has long since been removed from the British statute book.

Section 377 reads: Of unnatural offences: Whoever voluntarily has carnal


intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal, shall be
punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to
10 years and also be liable to fine.

There is no recognition of the rights of sexuality minorities in law. For instance,


same sex unions do not even have legal recognition, let alone any of the economic
and legal rights/benefits available to heterosexual marriage contracts. Same-sex
couples are deprived of, among other things, the right to common property and
inheritance, “next of kin” privileges in the event of illness or death of their partner,
and custody maintenance and adoption rights. Given the fact that all cases of
same-sex union in India that have appeared in the media are those of women from
smaller towns, their economic and social vulnerability makes the legal and social
acceptance of their relationship vital.
The police often stop gay/bisexual men in the cruising areas, threaten them saying
we know what you are doing, take their names and addresses and extort money
from them. It is difficult to estimate the number of cases of extortion suffered by
the community, as there are obviously no police records. Since FIRs are almost
never recorded it appears to be one of the easiest ways for the police to make easy
money as the gay/bisexual men are so scared of being ‘outed’ to wider society that
they will part with whatever they have with them. From the above statements, it is
clear that police regard homosexuality as an aberration and an instance of animal-
like behavior. Despite these prejudices regarding homosexuality, they still have to
adhere to a certain rule of law framework laid down in the Indian Penal Code and
the Criminal Procedure Code. The combined operation of the various societal
institutions and mechanisms which bear down upon the affected person constructs
a mindset wherein the person begins to think of himself as dirty, worthless, unclean
and vulgar. The invisibility and silence which surrounds the existence of sexuality
minority lives and worlds produces its own order of oppression, creating in many
the impression that they are the only ones ‘cursed’ with such desires in the world.
The process of self-abuse in some people leads to cycles of depression and self-
rejection, leading to attempts at suicide and sometimes-actual suicide. This is
especially true for the adolescent gay/lesbian/bisexuals for whom there is confusion
about one’s sexuality and sexual identity. Discrimination against sexuality
minorities is embedded in both state and civil society. Any proposal for social
change would have to take into account this complex reality. A greater respect for
sexuality minorities as people would depend upon a variety of factors, including a
change in gender relations and class relations. Change would also crucially hinge
upon overturning the existing regime of sexuality that enforces its own hierarchies,
(e.g. heterosexuality over homosexuality), exclusions (e.g. hijras as the excluded
category) and oppressions. Despite the importance of social change, one still has to
redress the ongoing human rights violations against sexuality minorities.