A Helping Hand for the LGBTQ Community: Interview with Pearl Daruwalla

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Humsafar Trust
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How do you react when you witness something unusual? You either choose to ignore it, reject it, hate it, do away with it, give in, and very rarely accept it. Acceptance of any kind requires courage, especially when something is not ingrained in us or does not fit in our territories of upbringing.

For years, many among us have had to live hiding their true identities because our society as a whole refused to embrace them. For the Indian society, the very idea of getting romantically involved with the same gender, was a very unusual and unnatural thing. Therefore, acceptance was hard, the harsh consequences of which were faced by those belonging to the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community.

However, after the Section 377, under which ‘sex with the same gender was a punishable offence’, was decriminalized on 6th September, 2018, India made history and broke the shackles of our rigid societal structure, restoring citizens’ faith in the Indian law and judicial system.   

Many NGOs and individuals have had to knock the doors of the Indian law, requesting for justice to the LGBTQ community for more than 20 years. One such NGO, the first one and the oldest to work towards the betterment of the LGBTQ community, has been the Humsafar NGO.

The Humsafar Trust (HST) was founded in April 1994 by Ashok Row Kavi, a journalist by profession. It initially started with reaching out to LGBTQ communities in Mumbai Metro and surrounding areas. After 18 months of networking, efforts, and advocacy, it succeeded in setting up its first office in a municipal building in Mumbai. 

This year, the Humsafar Trust has completed 25 successful years. On this occasion, Pearl Daruwalla, had many interesting insights to share with our readers.

The Humsafar Trust has always worked on 4 basic virtues. Health being the most important one, the trust provides free HIV and STI testing, free clinics having physicians, and mental health counselors. Second virtue is advocacy, which aims at approaching the various stakeholders like the corporate companies, educational institutes, mental health therapists, lawyers, politicians, media houses, etc and create awareness among them about the LGBTQ rights. The third virtue is capacity building, which aims at supporting other groups and NGOs working towards the same cause. Till now it has worked with 51 organizations in India and helped them develop and expand. Fourth is research. The trust believes that everything it works towards should be backed by research and authentic facts and proofs.

The decriminalization of section 377 has undoubtedly brought about a positive change on legal level but on a social level, we need to enforce inclusivity on various levels, states Pearl. Simple things like employing transgenders or having gender neutral washrooms in malls and other public places also has the potential to bring about positive changes in the society.  Pearl mentions that the next agenda the trust has on their list is bringing about social awareness and social inclusivity as it believes that each individual is entitled to equal rights and status in the society.

When asked about the greatest achievement of the trust, she said that, there can be no other greater achievement than the decriminalization of section 377. Pearl also said that when the petition filed by the trust for the LGBTQ community, was passed in the Supreme Court, it just wasn’t Humsafar’s victory, but was the victory of thousand others who stood up for the same cause.

Click on the space below to watch the complete interview.