NGO reaches out to lesbian women in Gujarat

As one travels from urban to rural India, the voices change. They become wary, muted and afraid.

But that’s not without reason. In a town in Gujarat, a group whose identity is virtually a secret, reaches out to each other only through undercover meetings.

Parma is a group that works with the sexually marginalized in Gujarat.

Parma was formed in 2004 in an attempt to reach out to lesbian women in rural Gujarat in adivasi villages and Muslim communities.

The idea was to create a safe space where women could meet.

”The drawback where I come from in Europe is that people no longer believe in love. In India you have stories of two girls in villages running away with each other. Here it’s different. In India love is still simple and pure between same sex partners,” said David, Research Scholar.

Creating a safe space in a state, severely polarised after the 2002 riots is not just difficult but dangerous.

So, Parma works undercover as part of a larger NGO working on developmental issues. Their meetings are held in secret inside a building in a town in Gujarat.

Even their existence is known only to group members who are spread across villages and towns.

In official records Parma does not even exist.

”We work under great pressure. There is such stigma around this kind of love. And since the riots the divide between Hindus and Muslims has widened and we have to find ways to reach out to women within that situation,” said a member of Parma.

”There is no support for such relationships so we do face great pressure. But through the group we are able to support and help each other,” added the Parma member.

It’s the kind of support they do not get from a world, which sees them only through newspaper reports as ‘the other’.

But there is the same love, anger, tears and hope.

”This is the time for us to speak up about our rights. Otherwise we will always be suppressed,” said Mala, Auto Workshop Supervisor.

”It’s about the world being able to see that diverse people have always existed. It’s because they are not able to see that they turn around and say, ”You mean this happens? We thought it does not happen in villages”. Then they think about it and say it’s but natural,” said Maya Sharma, author.

Thus, a virtual world that does not exist for you and me lives on through groups like Parma.

See also Lesbians forced to live in anonymity in India

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