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Decriminalization of Homosexuality in India: The Repeal of Section 377 and the political, legal and public health implications for the LGBT community

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A roundtable presented by the South Asia Association

Co-sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian International and Public Affairs Association; and the South Asia Institute.

A panel disussion with Myna Mukherjee, Vivek Divan, Dr. Viraj Patel and Prashant Iyengar on the recent ruling on Indian Penal Code 377 that decriminalized homosexuality.

Moderated by Aseem Chhabra. Supported by a grant from the Kraft Family Foundation.

Time: 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Location: Knox Hall, Room 207, 606 West 122nd Street, between Broadway and Claremont Avenue

Myna Mukherjee is the Founder/Artistic Director of Engendered, a New York non-profit, trans-national arts and human rights organization focused on presenting issues of gender and sexuality in the South Asian Diaspora through performance, music, visual art, and film. Mukherjee serves as the Director/Choreographer for the critically-acclaimed Nayikas, New York’s first resident, feminist, classical Odissi dance theater company. Before Nayikas, Mukherjee was the Artistic Director for Mosaic, the South Asian festival of dance at the Lincoln Center, in association with the World Music Institute. In addition, Mukherjee has produced and curated several South Asian events and festivals in New York, including Diasporadics 2000, the South Asian arts and activism festival. Mukherjee has also choreographed for the Western stage in Paul Knox’s Kalighat and Centered Margins, a theater festival produced by Chashama and Circle East. Before her involvement in arts and human rights issues, Mukherjee spent a decade on Wall Street as a Senior Management Consultant. She earned a Masters degree in Information Systems and Finance from Carnegie Melon University.

Vivek Divan, a lawyer from Bombay, is currently a consultant with the UNDP cluster on Gender & Sexual Diversities within its HIV/AIDS Practice in New York. As Coordinator of the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS Unit in India from 2000 to 2007 he oversaw and was involved in the legal aid, advocacy, research and legal literacy work of the Unit. In that time he was part of the team that drafted legislation on HIV/AIDS for India and strategized campaigns and lobbying on law and human rights issues related to sex work and treatment access. He was also closely involved in the public interest litigation related to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. This included legal research and strategizing and most significantly community mobilization around the case. He has been an outspoken activist on queer rights in India, having written in the press and participated on television talk shows on the issue. Since 2000 he has been on the International Advisory Board of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

Prashant Iyengar is a member of the Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore – a group of lawyers, researchers and activists who work on various aspects of law, legality and power. ALF has been actively involved in the LGBT movement for several years including an ongoing close affiliation with Voices Against 377, a consortium of non-governmental organisations (NGO) that has worked for the repeal of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Prashant’s main interests are in the areas of human rights, environmental law, technology and culture and he has been an enthusiastic supporter of the rights of sexuality minorities in India.

Dr. Viraj Patel received his B.A. in Asian Studies from Emory University in Atlanta and his M.D. from the Medical University of South Carolina. He is currently in his last year of residency in Primary Care & Social Medicine in Internal Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. In addition to completing the standard training in Internal Medicine, he’s also focusing his training on social justice, community medicine, and global health. After finishing medical school and prior to starting residency, Viraj Patel moved to India and volunteered with The Humsafar Trust in Mumbai, one of India’s first NGOs to specifically address the health needs of MSM and Transgenders and conduct community based outreach in India. He now facilitates Humsafar Trust’s student internship program and collaborates on various research and service projects with HST. He co-founded Humsafar International in NYC, which focuses on capacity building for sexual identity and health programs addressing marginalized populations. He serves on the board of directors for the Westchester Square Partnership in The Bronx, an academic and community collaboration founded to address service needs and conduct participatory research aimed at health needs, empowerment, and building social capital among the South Asian communities in the Bronx.

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