In 21st century, the struggle for LGBT equality is a world wide movement. With the advent of modern democracy and various United Nations declarations of human rights, that enshrined dignity and equality, liberal constitutions such as India, United States, South Africa, Argentina, United Kingdom and others, have enabled LGBT individuals to come out of their shadows with the support of their families and friends to seek their seats on the table of equality.

Image Source: azcomgroup.wordpress.com

Indian media has historically stayed away from covering LGBT stories, mainly due to a lack of exposure to and understanding of LGBT issues. Since the Delhi High Court judgement and the Supreme Court’s reversal of it, LGBT citizens are becoming more and more visible in Indian society; in families, workplaces and in communities all over the subcontinent. Indian print and electronic media houses are slowly waking up to the fact that LGBT Indians and their issues cannot be ignored anymore. In the past few years, both national and regional media have covered LGBT stories more than ever.

While some of the coverage has been neutral and some very positive, much has unfortunately been negative, defamatory and offensive. There is a pressing need for our journalists to distinguish between opposing views on LGBT issues and the defamatory rhetoric that fuels prejudice and discrimination.

With this media kit, Orinam.net aims to provide information and tools that will help media persons cover LGBT stories fairly and sensitively.

Terminology:

It is important to use correct terms when referring members of the LGBT community.

Please click here to read Orinam.net’s Terminology of Gender and Sexuality.
It is available in English and Tamil.

Offensive terms:

Please avoid using the terms listed below. They are offensive and derogatory.

English:

1) Homo, Lesbo, Dyke : These terms are derogatory. Please use “Gay” to refer homosexual male and “Lesbian” to refer homosexual female.

2) Eunuch, She-male, One by two, Tranny : These terms are derogatory and completely unacceptable. Please use the word “Transgender”.

தமிழ்:

1) ஓரினச்சேர்க்கை,ஓரினச்சேர்க்கையாளர்: இது வெறும் உடல் சமந்தப்பட்ட சேர்க்கையை மட்டுமே குறிப்பதால், தகுந்த சொல்லாக கருதப்படுவதில்லை. ஓரினச்சேர்க்கை என்ற சொல்லிற்கு பதிலாக “ஒருபாலீர்ப்பு” அல்லது “தன்பாலீர்ப்பு” என்ற சொற்களை பயன்படுத்தவும். ஓரினச்சேர்க்கையாளர் என்ற சொல்லிற்கு பதிலாக “ஒருபாலீர்ப்பாளர்” அல்லது “தன்பாலீர்ப்பாளர்” என்ற சொற்களை பயன்படுத்தவும்.

2) அலி: இது மிகவும் தரக்குறைவான, இழிவுபடுத்தக்கூடிய சொல். “திருநங்கை” அல்லது “அரவாணி” என்ற சொற்களை பயன்படுத்தவும்.

377 Judgment:

The Judgement, due to its historic nature, is frequently discussed in electronic and print media. While it is understandable that there are two sides to the discussion, it is the responsibility of the media to keep the facts in perspective.

  • Justices Shah and Muraldihar read down Section 377 and did not completely strike down the law.
  • The law only decriminalizes consensual sex. Rape, sexual assault and other forms of non-consensual sexual acts are punishable offences.
  • The reading down is applicable ONLY to consenting adults, children under the age of 18 are still protected by the law.
  • Though the judgement is from the Delhi High court it is applicable throughout the country. For more details on this topic read Vikram Doctor’s post here.
  • While referring to the judgement please don’t write that the judgement “legalized gay sex” or “legalized gay relationships”. It is inaccurate. A behavioral act that has historically been considered a crime by Sec 377 has, as of July 2009, now been declared not to be so, when it is between two consenting adults and happens in private. It is not within the scope of this case and its verdict to legalize same-sex relationships. Legalization involves setting up mechanisms that protect the people engaged in the act from discrimination. As far as same-sex relationships are concerned, legalization has not happened yet.
  • While referring to the judgement please mention the judgement in its totality to avoid any confusion or misinterpretation, i.e. the judgement declared that it was unconstitutional to criminalize consensual same-sex acts between adults taking place in private.

Myths about LGBT people:

  • Homosexuality, bisexuality and transgender orientations and identities do not constitute a a disease or a deviance. Please do not refer to LGBT people as deviant, diseased or dysfunctional.
  • Modern medical science has thoroughly discredited the notion that alternate sexuality is a disorder. The American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization have declared that homosexuality is not a disease.
  • Same-sex acts are often referred in the media as unnatural sex, illicit sex, or unnatural acts. This is simply not true. Same-sex attraction for gay people is as natural as opposite-sex attraction for straight people. Also homosexuality is found in more than 450 species of animals, not just in human beings.
  • Another common myth is that homosexuality is a Western import. This argument, used by right wing conservative people in India is false. Homosexuality and transgender behavior have existed for centuries in Indian culture and Hindu mythology, and a substantial body of scholarship exists on this. See writings by Ruth Vanita, Saleem Kidwai and Devdutt Pattanaik.
  • Please refer to our Health care professionals and Religion and Faith sections for more details.

Video : Chennai Rainbow Coalition members addressing some of the questions from the media during Pride month June 2011.

Associating homosexuality with HIV/AIDS

  • While it is true that unprotected anal sex places individuals at high risk for contracting HIV/AIDS, these acts occur both between men and between men and women.
  • Anyone could acquire HIV/AIDS, regardless of their sex, gender or sexuality.
  • Over 85% of HIV transmission in India is from men to women and vice versa. Please do not further stigmatize an already marginalized group by referring to them as ‘high-risk groups’.

Religion and Faith

Much of the bias against LGBT people comes from religious conservatives who interpret their scriptures to mean that God considers homosexuality a sin. While the interpretation of many of these scriptures is up for debate, the fact remains that many LGBT people are theists, and are to be found across all religions and denominations. Further, there are many progressive religious groups who welcome LGBT people in their places of worship and consider them as much children of God as heterosexual people.

We ask that the media, when presenting views of religious leaders, also include voices of religious leaders who support LGBT equality. Please refer to our Religion and Faith section for more details.

Reporting crime stories:

  • When reporting crime stories that involve LGBT people, please don’t sensationalize the issue using the victim or suspect’s sexuality, but deal with the issue with sensitivity.
  • Treat them as any other crime story you would report, unless sexuality or gender identity, plays a major role in the crime.
  • If you would not report on the sexual orientation of a heterosexual suspect or victim, please apply a consistent standard for LGBT victims or suspects.

Privacy and Dignity:

  • LGBT people are entitled to the same rights as the heterosexual majority. The constitution of India guarantees the right to privacy and dignity to all individuals.
  • Please don’t violate the privacy of LGBT individuals by publishing stories, pictures, videos etc. without consent.
  • In this age of social networking it is important to remember, just because the information is available in public, doesn’t mean it is available for the media to use. Please check with the individuals before using their personal information.
  • If you agree to maintain confidentiality of the subjects (changing names, location, age etc.), please stick to these agreements.

 

Please check out our Queer Media Watch for ratings of various magazines, journals and TV channels and their coverage of LGBT topics.


This kit is based on Glaad.org’s media reference kit. The contents have been customized to suit Indian audience. Please refer to Glaad’s resource page for more resources.
(c) Orinam.net. Please read our copyright policy.

This post is also available in: தமிழ் (Tamil)