Connecting local responses around the world
Sangha Mitra Welfare Society (SWS) is a CBO of Men having Sex with Men (MSM) and Transgenders (TGs) based at Kakinada, in East Godavari District at Andhra Pradesh, India. Environment Centre, local NGO promoted SWS as part of its HIV prevention programme with MSM and TGs. SWS is now declared as a Learning Site for HIV prevention with MSM and TGs in Andhra Pradesh State. SWS shared the testimony on how they have gained the confidence of TGs by being positive and supportive to people who threatened them in onsite capacity building facilitated by CARE.
Experience of working with MSM and TGs in the state of Andhra Pradesh reveal that both these groups don’t get along well due to several reasons. TGs are reported to be feeling that they are on upperhand over MSMs as they go through all the processes of attaining ‘Nirvana’ (Castration followed by other rituals). At one point of time TGs threatened the MSM community with dire consequences if they come in their way of business (sex work). MSM CBO leaders never got disheartened by the attitude of TGs. Further they continued to approach them for reconciliation with a positive frame of mind.
What brought them together?
Two incidents brought both the communities together. In the first incident ‘Pooja a TG’ was severely beaten up and thrown in the bushes naked. When Pooja was conscious she got back to her residence with the help of her friends. Due to cruel treatment by the clients, she has developed a tumor in the stomach and was advised a surgery. Doctors asked ‘Pooja’ to get the consent of parents. Pooja disowned by her family member’s long time back and could not dare to get their family members. In the absence of parents doctors denied surgery. SWS knowing this incident immediately responded to the situation and took her to the clinic doctors and stood by her. CBO represented as the guardian of ‘Pooja’ and got the surgery done with the help of their clinic doctors bearing all the cost of the surgery. Since then the attitude of TGs changed.
Another incident of great support and solidarity shown was when ‘Simran’ a senior TG from well to do family passed away when she was in sarry (traditional dress woman wear). Simran has a family with a wife and a son and daughter. Family members don’t know the identity of Simran as Simran never disclosed the same with his family. Simran in disguise satisfied his desires in a secluded place without the knowledge of his family members. In an unfortunate situation, Simran died of a heart attack while he was in a feminine get up. Family members were shocked to see Simran and could not dare to take the custody of the body due to social stigma. MSM community leaders of SWS again came to the rescue and performed all the funeral rites with great respect.
Mr.Sunil, the president of SWS stated that these two incidents demonstrate that if you give positivity, you receive back positivity; give negativity, you receive negativity.
Kudos to the attitude of the SWS community, you have demonstrated one of the verses in the Bible: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you and pray for those who prosecute you. Mathew 5:44