Harassment and Violence Among Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM) and Hijras After Reinstatement of India’s “Sodomy Law”
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On December 11, 2013, the Indian Supreme Court recriminalized non-peno-vaginal sex under Sec. 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), overturning a 2009 ruling that deemed IPC Sec. 377 unconstitutional. Similar “sodomy laws” in other countries have been associated with increased violence, harassment, and other discrimination against men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women. However, few studies have looked at the effects of such a law in an Indian context. This study examined experiences of victimization among MSM and hijra/transgender women (MSM-H) in the State of Maharashtra using a mixed-method approach. Data came from a quantitative survey and qualitative focus groups and interviews from an HIV prevention study as well as qualitative media and case reports from a local MSM-H-serving community-based organization. MSM-H in Maharashtra reported experiencing a high frequency of harassment, violence, and extortion, particularly from male sex partners met online and police. IPC Sec. 377 was implicated across qualitative sources as creating a culture of protection for harassment against MSM-H by being used directly as a tool for harassment, hindering victims of harassment from seeking legal recourse, and adversely impacting HIV and healthcare services. The reinstated IPC Sec. 377 may directly and indirectly facilitate negative health outcomes among MSM-H. Health agencies and advocates should continue to monitor the impact of IPC Sec. 377, incorporate rights-based approaches to protect MSM-H identities while addressing their health and well-being, and explore avenues to initiate discussions with the government to work toward repealing the law.
KeywordsHIV India Sodomy laws Men who have sex with men Harassment Violence Transgender
The authors would like to acknowledge and thank the Indian Council of Medical Research, Division of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases, and the The National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, for their support of this study.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
This study was approved by the Institutional Review Boards of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, University of Minnesota, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, University of California San Francisco, and The Humsafar Trust.
The ISHKonnect Study was funded by The National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, funding number 1R21AI094676-01, and the Indian Council of Medical Research, Division of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases, funding number INDO-US/84/2010-ECD-II.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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