On ‘Religion, Inclusiveness and Sexual Minorities’ Discussion, Bangalore, 24th AUG 09

Many people (including myself) spoke at the discussion organized by Sangama and Aneka with religious leaders on “Religion, Inclusiveness and Sexual Minorities” in NGO hall, Bangalore on 24th August 2009 including:

Swami Agnivesh (Bandhua Mukti Morcha and Arya Samaj)

Dr. Asgar Ali Engineer (Islamic Scholar, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism)

Rev. K. C Abraham (Theologian, Church of South India)

Mr. Christopher Rajkumar (Commission on Justice, Peace, Creation – National Council of Churches in India)

Mr. Dinesh Ghodke (World Alliance for Youth Empowerment, Art of Living)

Guruji Vinay Vinekar (Institute of Universal Consciousness)

Dr. Saleem Kidwai, medieval historian, translator, writer and editor of Same-sex love in India

Ms. Mansi Meera Baindur (Ecofeminist and Philosopher, National Institute of Advanced Studies)

Ms. Revathi, writer and sexual minority activist

Ms. Abhinaya, Film Actress

I represented Sangama and Aneka as their co-director and spoke about the situation of sexual minorities in the society and how they also get rejected by different religious spaces, institutions and leaders. This program was focused on how religions could be more inclusive.

Swami Agnivesh stated that he was one of the first people who signed the petition against section 377 of the Indian penal Code. He said god could be realized in all human beings and sexual minorities too are human. He said that when he welcomed the Delhi high court judgment some other religious leaders attacked his house and he said if him supporting sexual minorities received this response what could be the situation of sexual minorities.

Film actress Abhinaya stated that she supports the cause of sexual minorities.

Rev K.C. Abraham said that society and religions should be open to all people without discrimination. He appealed to sexual minorities to take forward their struggle for justice.

Ms. Revathi from Sangama spoke about how in Hijra culture includes many aspects of Hinduism and Islam.

Swami Dinesh said that IPC section 377 was like a fossil and was extremely discriminatory. He conveyed the message of love and support from his Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Swami Vinay Vinekar said that religion is not a religion if it teaches hate. All religions will accept people without discrimination.

Dr. Christopher Rajkumar said that he was impressed by reading the book of an Aravani Vidya and also said that if religions preach discrimination they are not religions at all. He said that there is a need for a campaign to become human and to remain human.

Ms. Mansi Meera Baindur said even religions have been changing and patriarchy has taken over the religion too, which has led into problems.

The session was chaired by Mr. David Selva Raj from Visthar.

Here are the links for some media coverage:

DNA: Agnivesh backs sexual minorities

HINDU: Centre urged not to fight Section 377 ruling

MID-DAY: ‘Be more human’

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Discussion: Religion, inclusiveness and Sexual Minorities, Bangalore, 24 Aug 09

Sangama and Aneka

invite you to a discussion on

“Religion, inclusiveness and Sexual Minorities”

on 24th August 2009, Monday from 2 PM to 6 PM


at the NGO Hall, Cubbon Park, Opposite Vikasa Soudha, Bangalore – 560001. Phone: 080 22354784

Speakers include:

Swami Agnivesh

Guruji Vinaykar

Dr. Asgar Ali Engineer

Dr. Saleem Kidwai

Mr. Christopher Rajkumar

Fr. K. C. Abraham

Mr. David Selvaraj and

Ms. Manasi  Baindur

Issues of sexuality and gender are hotly contested in both religious communities and national cultures around the world. Further when the question relates to homosexuality and  transgenderism they invoke sharper responses, from ideas that this these are sinful, shameful, perversion and deserving of the highest punishment and wrath of god; to ambiguity and limited tolerance and even acceptance.

In the wake of the judgement on IPC section 377 by the Delhi High Court, that decriminalises homosexuality many religious bodies have condemned the judgement arguing that it was against religion, immoral and even against Indian culture. These people have been quoted repeatedly by the media and have also been invited to speak at various fora on these issues. This emphasises the notion that religious traditions are inherently conservative or even reactionary in their  commitments to powerful patriarchal and pronatalist (encouraging child bearing) sexual norms and gender categories.

However there have also been voices that spoke differently and adopted a more nuanced stand. These however have got scant attention. It is these voices that Sangama and Aneka is seeking to bring together to illustrate the diverse, complex and at times even contradictory traditions and practices that come under the broad rubric of “religion”. There are also sexual minorities who are people of faith; embracing both religion and their sexuality with joy  who are again invisible in the discourse. The basic tenets of all religions that are love and compassion; and recognizing the divine in all beings. This then makes the attitude of hate and violence inadmissible.

Religions have also been influenced by strong movements for rights and have changed their position on for example issues related to women. The texts and practices are constantly being reinterpreted by people coming from other perspectives and they have transformed religion. The time is now ripe for such an engagement between religion and issues of sexual minorities. We invite all of you to come and be part of this discussion.

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