Queer(phobia) in India
We call India a progressive country, moving in massive strides up the charts in terms of population, economy, and technology- but not acceptance of gender diversity. We’ve been conditioned to perceive society as consisting of two distinct categories- male and female. Taught our whole lives to see in black and white, we don’t see the rainbows- we perceive these rainbows as anything but ordinary, diverging from the traditional trajectory, thus creating fear. This fear stems from the potential for the erosion of societal norms. This unsettling and commonly observed occurrence is referred to as queerphobia. In this optimistic article, we’ll look at an organisation that takes pride in promoting LGBTQ*IA+ rights and ticking off queerphobia.
With immense enthusiasm, I am thrilled to introduce the Nazariya Foundation, an exceptional Queer Feminist Resource Group. This remarkable organization is dedicated to championing the rights and empowerment of queer individuals while embodying the core principles of feminism.
What better to understand Nazariya’s work than words from the founders, Ritambhara Mehta and Rituparna Borah themselves? While I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting with them, here’s how they uphold their mission, taken straight from the Pride 2020 series spotlighting LGBTQI+ activists around the world!
“We conduct workshops in colleges, universities, and different organizations on gender, sexuality, and LGBTQI+ issues. We have been working with the corporates to sensitize them to sexual harassment in the workplace and promote diversity and inclusion. We also run a helpline, do crisis intervention work, provide free mental health counseling, and conduct research and advocacy.”
Events organized by the Nazariya Foundation
Additionally, the Nazariya Foundation also runs various programs for members of the LGBTQIA+ community!-
The Crisis Intervention Program: A helpline for people to talk if they face gender-based violence at home, in public, or in their workplaces. The helpline provides a safe and confidential space for victims to share their experiences and seek immediate help.
Mental Healthcare Unit: A mental healthcare unit that is queer and trans* friendly! Trained professionals or volunteers provide emotional support, validation, and guidance to help abuse- survivors cope with trauma. This unit ensures that individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community can receive culturally sensitive and affirming mental health support, addressing the unique challenges they may face.
Q-tales- Monthly Listening Circle: An opportunity for the community to meet and and come together in a safe space, hosting art therapy workshops, open mics and film screenings. The Q-tales listening circles have facilitated healing and community bonding, providing an inclusive space for expression. These activities foster inclusivity, dialogue, and artistic expressions and have designed as a commitment to recognize the significance of community-building and solidarity.
Support in Documentation: The Nazariya Foundation facilitates people in the process of job applications, opening bank accounts, enrolling in educational institutions, and passport applications! This support contributes to the economic and social empowerment of LGBTQIA+ individuals.
Training Programs: The Nazariya Foundation partners up with private and government institutions to draw attention to the discrimination faced by people marginalised because of their gender identity and sexual orientation from family, school, friends and colleagues. Through training programs, they engage with various stakeholders, including families, schools, friends, and colleagues, to foster greater understanding and acceptance.
While awareness initiatives do help, what makes a colossal hit and is emotionally appealing are thought-provoking personal stories! The Nazariya Foundation publishes blog posts narrating the stories of oppressed people from LGBTQIA+ community on their website!
Giving a voice to the voiceless isn’t their only forte; what makes this organizations extra special is their steadfast commitment to ensure that people of LGBTQIA+ communities get the respect they deserve.
How do they do it?
Head to the Resources page on their website!
Here, they debunk myths, differentiate between fact and fiction, and educate journalists on how they can empathetically report sensitive stories.
This garners more attention to the fact that sensitivity is observed in all members of society- regardless of sexuality, race or religion. When we take care to respect the members of the LGBTQIA+ community, the barrier that we’ve put up between them and ourselves will hopefully dissolve.
With unwavering confidence, The Nazariya Foundation, a flagbearer of “the solution movement”, as I call it, shows no signs of quitting their mission despite what society hurtles at them. However, it isn’t very wise to not acknowledge the fact that they may have had their fair share of shortcomings that they had to work through. Like any good solution, this one too, has some critical and significant issues that must be solved in order to amplify its effects!
These are some potential limitations the Nazariya Foundation may have faced while manifesting the growth of their support personnel and organization:
Social and Cultural Resistance, ending in Stigma & Fear: In many societies, queerphobia can be deeply ingrained due to social, cultural, and religious beliefs. Organizations may face resistance from individuals, communities or institutions that oppose their vision. LGBTQ+ ndividuals, especially in more conservative or hostile environments, may fear social stigma, discrimination, or even violence. This fear can prevent them from seeking support or engaging with organisations.
Legal and Policy Challenges: Legal frameworks and policies can sometimes be restrictive or lack adequate protection for LGBTQ+ individuals. Organizations may face challenges in advocating for legal reforms or implementing supportive policies due to opposition
Limited Resources & Reach: Non-profit organizations often operate on limited budgets and rely on funding and donations to sustain their work. Limited financial resources can hinder their ability to reach a wider audience, expand programs, or provide comprehensive support to LGBTQ+ individuals. Geographical constraints can limit the reach and impact of organizations combating queerphobia. It may be challenging to provide support and resources to LGBTQ+ individuals in remote areas or locations where queerphobia is prevalent.
Lack of Awareness and Education: Widespread misconceptions and lack of understanding about sexual orientation and gender identity can hinder efforts to combat queerphobia. Organizations may need to invest significant time and resources in raising awareness, conducting educational campaigns, and engaging in community dialogues to challenge stereotypes and promote acceptance.
Amid this sea of restrain, limitations and drawbacks, there exists a flicker of hope for the foundation to have a fighting chance at pushing down queerphobia into the depths of the pit, so members of the LGBTQIA+ community can resurface and emerge from the groping darkness they were forced into. But, it’s also imperative for us to welcome back the rainbows that bring diversity, colour and meaning to this exclusively-black and white society. The Nazariya Foundation and all those other organizations out there need vessels- who believe in their vision- to carry out their message to the rest of the world.
The question is, are you willing to be the vessel?
Written by Nivrrithi Arvindkumar