It’s no surprise that people struggle when it comes to opening about abuse in India with the amount of victim-shaming and blaming that takes place. We find comfort in silence and solace on the internet with safe spaces like How Revealing allowing people to talk about abuse without judgement and anonymously. Their latest campaign, #BreakTheSilence focussed on bringing to light on abuse of India’s queer community. The online platform for sexual assault survivors and abuse victims ran the campaign through the month of August in partnership with Gaylaxy Magazine, an online publication dedicated to the lives of stories of India’s queer community.
“We’ve been thinking for a while about useful campaigns for reaching out to people that may not have avenues to talk about sexual harassment and sexual abuse. Given that the section 377 case is going on in court, it felt like the right time to run a campaign targeting the LGBT+ community,” says Urmila Pullat, the Founder of How Revealing. “The website has always been open as a forum for anybody, regardless of gender, sexuality, or nationality, but we wanted to use this campaign as a way to bring the focus to the issues and harassment that queer people experience.”
It is evident from a quick read of the responses the campaign has gotten that the issue of LGBTQ abuse is one that desperately needs to be addressed in India. “The hope is that this kind of campaign will bring the matter of abuse of LGBT+ Indians into the light and allow this stigmatised topic to be discussed rather than silenced,” says Urmila. “There is never a pressure to tell your story if you do not want to, but sometimes the act of sharing the story itself can be cathartic, and it can also help you see that you are not alone in your struggle There are others with you and there are others supporting you.”
From ensuring that the submission process is completely anonymous, providing a sense of community and providing resources from organisations like Humsafar (Advocating the rights and health of LGBT people in India) and MINGLE (Mission for Indian Gay and Lesbian Empowerment), How Revealing! is designed to be a safe and supportive space for survivors of assault to speak their truth.
The legality of queerness is still hotly debated and the matter of Section 377 is still in court. Meanwhile, the Indian Penal Code’s rape laws, detailed in Section 375, are explicitly gendered and thus don’t allow the prosecution of same-sex rapists or provide support to queer victims of abuse. And, beyond the faults in the legal system, there is an unbelievable amount of stigma attached both to being anything but heterosexual and sexual abuse itself in Indian society.
As with such double discrimination, the stories of queer victims of abuse don’t find themselves in the mainstream narratives on abuse and harassment. In an India that is bent on muzzling the voices of queer people, a campaign like #BreakTheSilence and the way in which it allows queer victims to share their stories of harassment on their own terms is revolutionary and a step forward in opening up more such dialogues in the future.
Be a part of the movement and share you own experiences by visiting their website here.
[Note: Queer is a word with a heavy history (which we should all know and read about), and in the current context we’re using it as an umbrella term for people whose sexual identity and gender identification is not heterosexual and cisgender.]
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