Report of the

8-9 March 2014 | Chennai, India
Organized by:

Concern for AIDS Research and Education (CARE) Foundation
In association with the

Center for the Church and Global AIDS, USA

For further information please contact:

Professor NM Samuel

President, CARE Foundation
Immediate Past President, AIDS Society Of Asia and the Pacific
Retired Head, Division of Experimental Medicine, The Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University, Chennai

Concern for AIDS Research and Education (CARE) Foundation
Bollinenni Hill side
Block 19/304
Tamil Nadu

Center for the Church and Global AIDS, USA:
Center for the Church and Global AIDS
7185 South Niagara Circle
Centennial, Colorado 80112

Documentation support:
Citizen News Service (CNS)
C-2211, C-block crossing, Indira Nagar, Lucknow-226016. India
2 | CW:
i s t i a n R e s p o n s|eE:
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Against Women

Table of content
Content details
Inaugural opening session

Welcome and objective
Inaugural address

Session 1: Theological and ministerial purpose of our faith and its
importance in dealing with the issues related to HIV/AIDS, violence
against women and homosexuality

Sexuality and justice
Singapore scenario
Redeemed masculinity
‘Are we not human beings?’

Session 3: Challenges faced by individuals living with HIV, women who
survived violence and LGB community: personal reflections and

Session 4: Right to understand patriarchy when addressing violence
against women and sexuality, IPC 377, decriminalization, and explore
how Christian community can be agents of change for reversal of
punitive laws and promoting gender justice




Tejah Singh

Biblical reflections


Human rights
Violence against women

Session 2: Relationship between faith and sexuality

Page no.


Same sex – not a sin and not an illness
Patriarchy – can India tackle the system?
Chasm is growing between young and old in India (concerning human
rights, personal safety, personal freedom and sexuality)
How can Christians in India respond to AIDS, homophobia and violence
against women?

Session 5: Future strategies


Annexure I: Brief bios of speakers


Annexure II: News coverage of this consultation


Annexure III: Programme agenda


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This two-days Consultation on Christian response to AIDS, Homophobia and the Violence
against Women, was organized by Concern for AIDS Research and Education (CARE)
Foundation in association with Center for the Church and Global AIDS, USA. It was organized
in Asha Nivas, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, during 8-9 March 2014.

The purpose of this consultation was to engage Christians in conversations regarding Christian
faith and attitude to HIV/AIDS, and violence against women, with a particular focus on the
recent Supreme Court judgment to recriminalize the LGBT community in India.

Discussing the relationship between faith and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS
always proves to be difficult. Yet if Christian leaders are called to be both Ministerial and
Prophetic, education and dialogue are imperative. Often sex is not discussed openly in India
and the issues surrounding men having sex with men, Gay, Lesbian and Transgendered persons
and their sexual orientation is a taboo. These groups are highly stigmatized by both society
and the religious communities. It is estimated that there are nearly three million individuals
belonging to LGBT community and the actual numbers could be more!
The first consultation on “Sexuality and Faith” was organized in November 2009 when the
Delhi High Court overturned the legal discrimination against same sex relationships--that was
a ‘time of celebration’. However several Christian leaders lobbied against the decision and
appealed to the Supreme Court to strike down the decision of the Delhi High Court. The
human rights of individuals need to be protected and need not be devalued because their
sexual orientation is at variance with others.
Four years later, on December 11th 2013 the Supreme Court (SC) reinstated section 377 of
Indian penal code by upholding its constitutional validity- recriminalizing homosexuality and
devaluing same sex relationships. In the past 30 years several innovative advances have been
made to reduce the burden of HIV/AIDS and to let the LGBT community to make their

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choices. The SC decision is likely to drive the AIDS epidemic underground and fuel new
infections. India at present would not like to see this happen.
The history of violence against women is due to the fact that some view women as property
and also subservient to men. In 1993 the UN declaration on the elimination of violence against
women stated that violence against women is an unequal power relation between men and
women. Individuals intimate with them often victimize women, and violence is also
perpetrated by husbands against wives; fathers against daughters; and boyfriends against
girls. Violence against women in lesbian relationships is as common as violence in
heterosexual relationship. It is reported that girls and women infected and affected with
HIV/AIDS are raped and ill-treated. Often faith based groups and individuals encourage the
unequal role of women, and leaders are reluctant to be in the forefront of speaking against
violence against women.

The consultation on Christian response to AIDS, homophobia and violence against women
provided traditional and alternative Christian voices and visions of mission and Ministry. The
deliberations yielded a public statement providing a contrasting theological perspective on
issues related to AIDS, homophobia and violence against women.

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Inaugural opening session
Welcome and objectives of the consultation
Professor (Dr) NM Samuel
President, CARE Foundation
Welcoming the participants Dr Samuel
spoke about the objectives of the
consultation on ‘Christian response to
AIDS, Homophobia and Violence against
women’. This is what he had to say:
There is a need to address these issues,
which are interlinked and connected.
Although much has been said about
them but very little has been achieved.
The first such consultation “Sexuality
and faith consultation in 2009” was held
in celebration of the Delhi High Court
decision which struck down the law that
dehumanized the rights of the sexual minorities. This initial euphoria was followed by a phase
of hibernation in advocacy and in our struggle to educate and bring awareness to the
community leaders, politicians, lawmakers, those who administer the law, the faith based
communities and, most importantly, in our own religious leaders who may differ due to their
denominational/and scriptural differences. The recent SC ruling of December 13, 2013, that
upturned the 2009 judgment of the Delhi High Court, hurts the fundamental value of the
individual’s right. It has put 3 million of our brothers and sisters --whose sexual preferences
are at variance with others-- back in to the dock. They are terrified for their lives and have
been denied the same freedom that others have. We, as Christians, are called upon to strive
for justice and provide love and care to them instead of being mere spectators.
The SC ruling has had a global impact, affecting countries like Russia, Uganda and Nigeria, by
showing them the way forward to criminalize sexual minorities. However the church in Russia
is advocating for a referendum on the subject.
Both the organizations –the Concern for AIDS Research and Education (CARE) Foundation and
the Center for Church and Global AIDS-- have been spearheading clinical and supportive care
for HIV/AIDS infected and affected individuals and providing advocacy in the churches,
educational institutions and Christian communities for over a decade in India and other
countries. In addition, they are also providing information in schools on gender equality and
violence against women.
Now, more than ever before there is a need to revisit our core values and principles on which
we base our life, and to also inform the government and authorities that we do not agree

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with them to isolate and criminalize our brothers and sisters, as this is fundamental to the
Christian faith.
During interactions with our Christian brothers and sisters, several opined that they were
unaware of the scriptural teachings on human sexuality, minorities and violence against
women. They have observed, from early childhood, violence being practiced at home and
women at home being treated as second class citizens and they have grown up to accept this
as a norm.
At this consultation we were in the midst of some great individuals and exponents of our
theology and learned from them about theological teachings and how they can be translated
in to present day living.
This consultation was held to help us to:
 Come up with some implementable short term and long term plans and proposals,
keeping in mind the younger as well as the older generation
 Form a conduit of theologians, activists, college teachers, community leaders and
professional care providers, working together to achieve our goals
 Use the newer technologies to impart this information in an acceptable,
understandable and coherent way
 Be prophetic and devoid of hypocrisy
We also celebrated the indomitable spirit of women on the International Women’s Day (March
8, 2014). Let us not forget the women and children who are victims of prejudice and
discrimination and, haunted by custom, culture and religion, are unaware of the progress that
is passing them by. Women do not know what to expect the next day--whether they will be
safe as they walk the street or when they are at home, (and not be exploited by a relative) or
whether their children will reach school unharmed.

“Christians can make a
difference. Let this
consultation be different.
Let us Be there, Get
involved, and Never do
- DR NM Samuel

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Inaugural address
Dr Donald E Messer
Executive Director, Center for the Church & Global AIDS
Donald began his talk with the
example of a Christian lesbian
woman who is raped. In the process
she is infected with HIV. Rejected
by family and friends, she is
ostracized, stigmatized and
victimized. Does her faith and
community stand in solidarity with
her or does it label her as a sinner?
Can she count on her church as an
advocate for justice and
compassion, or will her church be
an accomplice in the conspiracy of
silence that reinforces stigma,
harbors homophobia, and condones
violence against women?
This breakthrough conference
addresses three issues that most
Christians would like to ignore: HIV/AIDS, homophobia, and violence against women. More
popular topics might have been evangelism, church growth, family life, or Bible studies. But
instead, we are invited to address ‘hot topics’ that force us to confront realities that we
normally are tempted to ignore-- human sexuality, prejudice, sexual minorities, violence, and
Donald agreed that Christian religious leaders are also challenged to recognize that Christian
beliefs often are in conflict with Christian practices. They do not practice what they preach.
They prefer to point to other faith communities and note how they fail to live up to the
highest ethical standards or point to the flaws in their scriptures or theology.
Donald called this conference an internal dialogue--an ecumenical re-examination of our own
faith and life as Christians--as evidenced in how Christians respond to those infected and
affected by HIV/AIDS; how they relate to persons who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or
transgendered; and how they respond to cultural and religious stigmatizing of women leading
to domestic and public violence.
In the face of overwhelming stigma, bias, and male heterosexual dominance, it may be hard
to imagine how this small conference of minority Christians in India can make a difference.
Like the apostle St. Paul, people might be tempted to be ‘weary of well-doing’ and succumb
to apathy and inaction, justifying their silence by saying that they cannot be expected to
change the church, much less society.
But Christians are strange people of faith who believe that if they can discern God's will and
way, they can overcome the greatest of obstacles, because they are engaged in a mission and
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Ministry as co-creators of justice, equality, and
peace with God. The earliest apostles could
easily have given up, despairing of having no
influence on the world. But they, and their
subsequent followers, went out into the world
building schools to educate the illiterate,
hospitals to care for the ill, and churches to
inspire the masses.
We are not alone in our efforts to overcome the
bias towards those stigmatized by HIV,
homophobia and violence towards women.
People of goodwill--religious or otherwise;
people working in civil society and nongovernment organizations; all stand ready to
join in this battle for human dignity, human
rights, and human justice. If one is willing to
move out of the religious ghetto, one can
discover the joy of solidarity with persons of
diverse sexual orientations, religious beliefs,
and political perspectives. Christians know that
God is not confined to the church but embraces
all those who choose compassion over
condemnation, love over hate, justice over
injustice, peace over violence, and inclusion
over exclusion. Together we can make a
difference, as there is power in being on the right side of history.
Quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. Donald noted that, "the arc of the universe is bent toward
But he reminded that President Barack Obama said that justice is not inevitable and the arc
needs our help in being bent. Our views and voices do make a difference. How we relate to
individuals and groups of people we encounter does change their world.
Today Christians all over the world need to re-examine their basic principles to see how they
correspond to their daily practices. Are Christians seen as beacons of love and life, hope and
health, justice and equality or as stumbling stones, fueling hatred, justifying stigmatization,
encouraging discrimination, and condoning violence?
A fundamental Christian belief is that every human being is sacred and worthy of dignity. In
the Latin language of theology, this is the ‘imago dei’ or the idea that the image of God
resides in every human being. There are no non-persons as every person is a child of God,
bearing God's imprint. Therefore, no human being should be stigmatized or ill-treated. Yet
despite this theological conviction, Christians too have often treated persons infected and
affected by HIV as less than human. They have been guilty of rejecting persons of differing
sexual orientations, refusing to accept the reality that they were created lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered. People cannot choose their sexual orientation, but people can
choose whether they want to be caring, inclusive, and accepting. Bullying and violence
against LGBT people is abhorrent to all who believe in the ‘imago dei’. The violent

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mistreatment of women is rampant in today's world, even among many Christians. This is a
flagrant sin before God and crime against humanity. Therefore, globally the church should be
challenged to respond with acts of repentance and actions of reconciliation.
Donald suggested five words (all beginning with the English letter C) that according to him
should be included in both one’s personal and ecclesial responses:

Confession: Clearly almost all of us have fallen short of God's expectations and have
been complicit in some way with AIDS stigma, LGBT discrimination, and mistreatment of
women. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, whether by action or attitude, through our
personal behavior or our participation in church and society, we find ourselves enmeshed in a
behavior contrary to the life of love, compassion and inclusion exemplified by our Lord and
Saviour, Jesus Christ. Thus confession of our sins and short comings is a beginning point,
asking for forgiveness and grace to move forward and to live a new life free of stigma,
discrimination, and violence towards fellow human beings.

Change in behavior: Individually as Christians, and corporately as a church we are
called to demonstrate care, not condemnation. Too often persons infected and affected by
HIV have experienced judgment, not grace, rejection not healing. Persons and pastors have
been dismissed from their churches and seminaries because they were diagnosed as HIV
positive. Instead of teaching our young people about ‘safer sex’, we have been silent on how
they can protect their sexual health, preferring to risk that they get infected than for us to
be embarrassed by a discussion of condoms and sexual practices. Such lack of love for even
our own children and church members is astonishing. Gay and lesbian people do not feel
welcome in many of the churches because of homophobic and discriminatory treatment.
Unless the church's behavior changes and becomes more Christ-like, loving, compassionate,
and caring, there is little hope to influence the world. Instead of focusing on the sexual
orientation of persons, it would be better to focus on their spiritual orientation, bringing
them closer to God's love, grace, and forgiveness. Let us change our behavior and say with
Pope Francis: "Who am I to judge?"

Commitment: If the current status of the world and church is to change, it will take
committed persons who make it a priority to champion human rights for all people, without
exception. Individuals can make a difference. Bishop Kim Hap Hoa, from Singapore, is a good
example. Because of his one-man crusade, he was able to change policies in Singapore.
Previously a person living with HIV was denied HIV treatment if imprisoned. This meant that
instead of being sentenced for a short time, it truly became a death sentence. But because of
Kim’s efforts, now persons in prison get anti-retroviral drugs. Because Dr NM Samuel cares
for the poor and the people living with HIV, he operates a clinic for women and children in
rural Namakkal, after his retirement. The question is not just what should the church's
commitment be, but what each individual can commit to do.

Courage: Speaking and acting against the majority opinion of a church or society is
always difficult. Risking oneself by speaking out to friends and family and other church
members, however, is required if one has to change the status quo. Men need to speak out for
women's liberation--this is not just a topic for women and girls, rather all are involved.
Donald remembered his friend, Ashok Pillai who was diagnosed as HIV positive while he was
in the Indian Navy. When he returned to his ship, it was broadcast over the public speaker
that he had AIDS. At the mess hall, no one came to sit beside him, even though he had been
a popular, charismatic sailor. He ate alone and everyone looked at him with scornful and

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stigmatizing eyes. Finally, one of his friends stood up, came to his table, sat down, and ate
some of Ashok's food. That friend was a man of courage--a Hindu who had the heart of Christ.
Ashok became the first person to go public in India with his HIV status and formed the
network of HIV positive people in this country--a courageous act on his part that led to hope,
help, and health for millions. What courageous acts are we willing to do?

Community: The church is called to stand in solidarity with the sufferers, be they
persons living with HIV, or LGBT persons ostracized by family/friends and now criminalized by
the state, or women who have suffered domestic or public violence. Christians often speak
of ‘koinenia’, that special form of community where people are accepted for who they are
and where people show love, compassion, and seek to be of service to others. In such a
community, human rights are respected and advocated, persons are not criminalized due to
their sexual orientation, and peace and non-violence persists, Justice prevails and God's grace
According to Donald, acts of repentance and actions of reconciliation are imperative-confession, change, commitment, courage, and community--if one wants to be faithful to
God's call to address issues like HIV/AIDS, homophobia, and violence against women. He
exhorted that everyone should together explore what God is calling him or her to be and to

Be the change you want to see in this world.

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Theological and ministerial purpose of
Christian faith and its importance in dealing
with the issues related to HIV/AIDS,
violence against women and homosexuality

George Zachariah, India
Kim Yap Hoa, Singapore
The co-moderators said that the objective of the session was to understand the theological
and ministerial purpose of the Christian faith and its importance in dealing with issues related
to HIV/AIDS, violence against women and homosexuality.

Lorenza Andrade Smith spoke on human rights. Human rights are about doing
the right things so that we may treat those living with HIV, survivors of violence against

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women and homosexual individuals, with
love and compassion. Quoting from
Chapter IV of the Bible, Lorenza read “The
Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me To
bring good news to the afflicted; He has
sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To
proclaim liberty to captives And freedom
to prisoners.”
Lorenza read out pertinent lines from the
publication “Annihilation of Caste” by Dr
BR Ambedkar: “They must be prepared to
have women priests and women soldiers.
Hindu society has grown accustomed to
women teachers and women barristers. It
may grow accustomed to women brewers
and women butchers. But he would be a
bold person, who would say that he will
allow women priests and women soldiers. But that will be the logical outcome of applying
Chaturvarnya to women. Given these difficulties, I think no one except a congenital idiot
could hope and believe in a successful regeneration of the Chaturvarnya.”
Lorenza said that human rights come into play when we are trying to do the right things for
all people and not just a few because in the latter case they become an abuse. She narrated
an incident of 2011 when she had joined the congregation. She met a homeless and sick
person who needed care and help. She took him to her pastoral home, but her congregation
refused her permission to keep him there. So she had no option but to send that person back
to the streets. As a layperson she could house people whenever she wanted, but as part of
the clergy she unable to do so. Lorenza found this discriminatory attitude of faith leaders
towards homeless, sick, poor or people living with HIV, inhumane. After this incident, she
found it difficult to stay in the congregation and asked her Bishop to appoint her to the
streets. Human rights is about standing up and going where the need is.
Lorenza was ignorant about the caste system in India till her driver asked her friend about her
caste. Oppression due to caste is also a serious violation of human rights.
Lorenza shared her personal experience as her mother had died of cancer and her brother is
living with HIV in USA. She said that the compassion, respect and love her mother received
when people came to know of her cancer illness was not given to her brother when he made
his HIV status public.
Violence against women is not just physical or emotional but has many more dimensions that
adversely impact women’s human rights. Women often face professional and economic
violence in their lives. Similarly people living with HIV are also facing professional and
economic violence.
Lorenza rightly said that — everyone has a right to be treated with dignity, love and empathy.
If we are not conscious about our attitudes then human rights may become a privilege for

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Question: What are the human rights issues when naxalites are trying to kill those government
officers who were earlier driving tribals away from their native land?
Lorenza: if we look at this issue from a Christian lens we need to review what is the right
thing to do. We are created in God’s image in giving us well-being and completeness. We
need to see whose well-being and completeness we are looking at – those who are killing or
those who are getting killed? Both are oppressed.
Human rights without human responsibility are disastrous. If we are to be a prophetic church
then we need to take a stand instead of being indifferent.

Dr Donald E Messer spoke on HIV/AIDS related issues.

He referred to a book by
Elton John ‘Love is the cure’, in which Elton (who is a gay), makes a statement that ending
AIDS is a matter of living Christian values. It is interesting that Elton John does not identify
himself as a Christian but values that he advocates in his book are in sync with Christianity.
In Denver, Colorado, where Dr Messer lives, there has been a 100% drop in the new HIV
infection rate over the last decade. This drop in new HIV infection rate is because of access
to free anti retroviral therapy (ART) in Denver. But new HIV infection rate remains high in
rural parts of Colorado because medical care is not as good in rural Colorado as in the urban
cities and HIV-related stigma still rages high. As there is no cure of HIV and an effective
vaccine is still not available, providing ART to every person living with HIV will reduce the risk
of HIV transmission by over 96% (source: HPTN052 study).

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Elton, in his book, also advocates increasing the utilization of existing HIV prevention methods
such as condoms. If people use condoms for every sexual act then, along with other public
health benefits, HIV infection rates too will come down dramatically. It is within our grasp to
promote the use of condoms in a proper way. Yet many in the Christian community do not
even talk about condom use.
Parent to child transmission can be prevented with effective medicines. In US, virtually no
child is born with HIV because of universal access to these effective medicines that prevent
parent to child transmission. But over 900 children are born with HIV every day in the world
because countries lack the political will and compassion to make the necessary medical care
available to those in-need. It is the human right of every child to be born free of HIV.
Scientific evidence has shown that Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) works for HIV-negative
people who perceive themselves at risk of HIV. They may consider using antiretroviral
medicines in PrEP to substantially reduce their chance of contracting HIV. Post Exposure
Prophylaxis (PEP) can also reduce risk of becoming HIV positive.
HIV is no longer a death sentence as scientific advancement has made it a manageable
UNAIDS and other agencies have set the goal of zero new HIV infection, zero AIDS-related
deaths and zero discrimination by 2015. Ending AIDS in our lifetime is a possibility. Elton
highlights two barriers to achieving the above-mentioned goals: intolerance and indifference.
Intolerance is fueling HIV related stigma around the world, which acts as a barrier to existing
HIV services. It is because of HIV related stigma that people are not getting tested for HIV and
treated. Intolerance makes us stigmatize, victimize, marginalize and treat people living with
HIV as sinners or outcasts, and all this contributes to increasing HIV rates. Unfortunately,
often the church has been most guilty of fueling the pandemic.
Governments of Nigeria, Uganda, India and many other countries criminalize relationships of
gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgender people, thus severely limiting the reach of HIV
prevention, treatment, care and support services to these people who are in need of them. If
we criminalize and stigmatize people who come to seek HIV services we will not have an AIDS
free generation.
Scriptures tell us not to stigmatize anyone but to reach out and heal all those in need. Our
calling should be to address the issues of indifference so that we no longer remain uncaring.
We have to break the silence to address intolerance so that we are ready to accept those who
are different from us. We need to embrace all of God’s children.
Comment: It is important to talk about condoms. But let us not forget female condoms. It is
more important to talk about female condoms when we mention HIV prevention. It does not
help if men have the power to decide whether to use a condom or not.
Comment: I have been moving around Tamil Nadu and seeing that children who were born
with HIV, 18-20 years back are getting married and having their own families. Rollout of ART

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has certainly made the difference and so has rollout of prevention of parent to child
transmission (PPTCT) services.
Comment: Women in sex work are perhaps in a better position to negotiate condom use with
their male partners as compared to housewives. As church leaders we should advocate for
addressing HIV prevention issues of housewives.
Response: The issue of female condoms is very important. There is little political will to push
female condoms. Especially in contexts where women are not in a position to negotiate
condom use with their male partners, it becomes very important to have HIV prevention
options which women can use to protect themselves, as well as their partners. Also there is
research going on to develop vaginal anti-HIV gels (microbicides) which if found safe and
effective can give another option to a woman to choose from to protect herself (and her
partner) from HIV.

Aruna Gnanadason spoke on violence against women.

She highlighted that
March 8, 2014, the first day of the consultation, was International Women’s Day. She put the
focus on women who do not even know that there is a day marked to celebrate their lives –
women who live on the edge of our society in virtual slavery – in homes, in sweat shops, on
the streets, in the villages – as unsung heroes – and yet are the backbone of our society.
Not a day passes without one or two stories of violence against women reported in
newspapers. Aruna mentioned that when she was preparing for this presentation, the story of
the sexual abuse of children in two unlicensed children’s homes run by an NGO in Chennai hit

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the national headlines. 42 children, three of them below 5 years of age, were rescued from
these homes. Then there was the story of the rape of a 20 years old college student in
Coimbatore by twin brothers. They laced her drink with sedatives and then raped her. Some
weeks ago, a khap panchayat (a village court of elders) ruled that a 20 years old woman
should be gang raped by 13 men as she had dared to have a relationship with a man of
another community. The honour of a clan, community or caste group takes precedence over
justice and human life, especially female life, which then becomes dispensable. Thousands of
nameless women face violence and abuse in villages and urban poor settlements—and their
stories never make it to the newspapers. Many of them are Dalit and Tribal women. Violence
often takes place in the secrecy of homes and even at times in churches and other religious
What is really scary is that even women seem to have become almost immune to news stories
of rape and violence against women that they read every day. They feel helpless and
outraged and yet do not react, as if this was natural. As Pierre Bourdieu, a French
philosopher had written, “the established order, with its relations of domination, its rights
and prerogatives, privileges and injustices, ultimately perpetuates itself so easily, apart from
a few historical accidents, and that the most intolerable conditions of existence can so often
be perceived as acceptable and even natural.”
Pierre goes on to identify what lies at the heart of the problem: “masculine domination, and
the way it is imposed and suffered, is the prime example of this paradoxical submission, an
effect of what I call symbolic violence, a gentle violence, imperceptible and invisible even to
its victims.”
What makes things more intolerable is that most often it is the victim who is blamed. Women
are often accused of not dressing properly, or showing inappropriate behaviour, or giving
wrong signals to men. Ironically a recent report of the University Grants Commission of India
states that while 42% of the student population across the country is women, ‘these spaces
are nowhere near gender sensitive.’ Restrictions of dress, space and time are imposed on the
girl students rather than engaging in serious conversations with the student community on
how they could nurture safe environments, friendly relationships and mutual respect and
honour among themselves. The family, media and even religion do little to educate men and
women on how they ought to live together and the educational systems have not opened
themselves out to become spaces for transformation. Urgent discussions and actions for
change are needed on the role of the family, media and especially religion in dealing with this
Violence against women till recently was not viewed as a human right, and even today most
would view women’s rights as domestic and related to the family. Therefore gross violations
such as rape in times of conflicts or peace; domestic violence leading to death; trafficking
and sexual slavery; sexual harassment in the work place (and in the churches and its
institutions) and the abuse of women’s bodies and sexuality in the media –all have been
viewed as private and, therefore, not deserving public dialogue and action. Women are not
considered worthy of focused attention – in fact in the eyes of most people they are not fully
human, unless they are viewed in the context of a particular man, family, clan or tribe.
Regretfully, such attitudes that are reinforced and given divine justification by all religions,
including Christianity, have relegated women to second-class citizenship, even in their
homes. Women could be presidents, chief justices, pilots, doctors, priests (in some religious
traditions), and even fly into space – but in every profession they are treated differently from

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men. Any woman could be the victim of
harassment and abuse on the streets, in
work places and even in homes. Tokenistic
positions of leadership for women are still
the order of the day. They rarely make it
into higher political positions on their own
merit unless they have the backing of a
family or man.
In India, desire, sexuality and sexual
choices are determined and controlled by
patriarchal norms within the strict
parameters of marriage and family. For
women, the domain of the family is the
most intimate and the most difficult within
which to exercise their autonomy. In a reality that rarely extends beyond the limited universe
of the household, the family becomes the primary source of affirmation for women.
Motherhood therefore does not become merely a personal aspiration, but often a means of
social recognition. Such expectations alienate and oppress single women, widows and women
without children and encourage prejudices that are reinforced by culture and religion.
There is enough evidence to show that HIV spreads mostly through heterosexual relations,
with men carrying the virus to their homes, and as women have limited control over their own
bodies and their sexuality, it increases their vulnerability to acquiring HIV. The so-called good
women are expected to be ignorant about sex and passive during sexual intercourse. This
makes it difficult for them to be informed about risk reduction or, even when informed, to
proactively negotiate safer sex. The tradition of girls remaining virgins restricts their ability
to ask for information, as they are likely to be thought to be sexually active if they make
inquiries. The widely held belief that sex with a virgin would cleanse men of sexual diseases;
economic insecurity that forces women to have unprotected sex for money; and sexual
violence against women remain a major barrier to HIV prevention and care. Rape, incest, wife
battering – all point to the fact that sex is often coerced, which in itself is a serious risk
factor for HIV infection. There is a need to speak out more boldly about these issues.
The offence of marital rape has not been sufficiently accounted for in India. The law does not
punish rape within marriage if the woman is above fifteen years of age. Forced sexual
intercourse is an offence only when the woman is living separately from her husband under
judicial separation. As marital rapes occur within the confines of the home, there are often
no witnesses to the crime. Violence which women experience is not confined to just physical
abuse--the feminization of poverty is blatantly apparent and there are an increasing number
of women in the unorganized sector. The Dalit woman is doubly, or even triply oppressed in
Indian society and has rightly been called ‘the dust of the dust’.
The contributions that Indian women make to families are often overlooked, and instead
women are viewed as economic burdens. There is a strong son preference in India, as sons are
expected to care for parents in their old age. This, along with high dowry costs for the bride,
sometimes results in the mistreatment of daughters. Indian women typically have little
autonomy--living under the control of first their fathers, then their husbands, and finally their
sons. While women in India face a multitude of serious health problems, high mortality rates
at childbirth and the feminization of AIDS are worth mentioning.

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Aruna spoke of four theological concepts that need to be examined further so as to challenge
the churches to act with compassion and justice:
The image of God violated:
The Biblical affirmation of women being ‘made in God's image’ has perhaps given women the
courage to deal with the many forms of violence they experience. Feminist theologians have
claimed that in women is the image of God and therefore they will resist all forms of violence
against their bodies. As women’s bodies epitomize the Body of God, any form of violence
against women is a form of aggression against the Body of God. And yet, legitimized by the
values of dominant culture, women have acquiesced to the worst forms of violence and
women’s bodies have become things of possession, conquest, control and abuse. So powerful
are societal pressures that many women have come to believe that they are inferior beings
and they do not recognize in themselves the image of God. The image of God is distorted by a
traditional theology of dualism that has divided the body from the divine and has placed the
divine somewhere outside their lives and everyday experiences.
Aruna quoted Joseph Prabhakar Dayam, who wrote: “Christian theology in the Indian context
argued for an inclusive language in its theology and liturgy, like the incorporation of
expressions such as ‘Our Parent’ or ‘Our Mother’. It is more of an attempt to be politically
correct than a serious theological engagement. In adoption of feminine metaphors we tend to
talk about the feminine traits of the divine. In doing so we have fallen into the trap of
essentialism. What is needed is to engage in conversations with the Goddess traditions, and
rework our symbolic structure that would privilege the idea of Goddess over God.”
This image only compounds the violence people do to the image of God when women are
Interpretation of sin:
Alienation from each other due to violence is the starting point for an interpretation of sin,
which according to Rosemary Radford Ruether has three dimensions:
The interpersonal dimension- abusive domination by one and a sense of submissiveness
on the part of the other
A social-historical dimension-- some men/women, groups and nations assume power to
dominate and violate the less powerful
An ideological-cultural dimension-- the way the church, educational systems, and
media are enlisted to maintain the power of some, while others are taught to
interiorize their inferiority and are silenced from challenging injustice and violence
they experience.
Sin has been reduced to purely a question of alienation from God. Redemption will come only
when there is a healing of relationships between the victim and victimizer and not by some
act of divine intervention.
Christian Anthropology:
This also has been the source of much of the inferiority heaped on women. It has made the
female body an obstacle to the fullness of woman's humanness in the hierarchy of creation
and made women open to abuse and violence from men. The fear of their bodies has made it
difficult for women to accept the integrity of their being and led to the separation of their
make up into material and spiritual, body and soul/spirit/mind.

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Latin American feminist theologians such as Brazilian Nancy Cardoso Pereira developed what
they call ‘a body hermeneutic as a new theological methodology. This is not just a new way of
doing theology, but is seen as the starting point for constructing knowledge. Nancy wrote:
“Reading the passion and resurrection of Jesus, with the lacerated bodies of Latin America in
mind, requires us to contemplate the raped bodies of men and women, boys and girls, and to
feel the urgent need for resurrection of these bodies now. The recreation of the body as a
place of sacred revelation means accepting and affirming the liberating dynamics of
enjoyment, pleasure without shame, without the limits imposed by shame, stereotypes and
oppressive censorship.”
Women theologians have reclaimed the body and the power of eroticism as theological
subjects. Such a theology of embodiment challenges the abuse of the female body in any
form. It also emphasizes the sacredness of sexuality, including homosexuality. Sexuality is a
taboo topic in the church, and has been shrouded with silence. This has resulted in the church
being unable to address the many forms of violence against women that at times might even
occur in the church--such as clergy sexual abuse and paedophilia. A church that hesitates to
affirm the human body and loving human relationships as God given (except relationships
which are considered normal, such as those within the confines of a marriage between a man
and woman), refuses to condemn these blots as an abhorrence in the eyes of God.
Christology, Atonement, Forgiveness, Healing:
The church has used the doctrines of the Cross and of Atonement to silence women. To
liberation theologians, the Cross has been the strongest symbol of Christ's identification as cosufferer with the oppressed. However, to women its meaning is rooted in the theology of
sacrifice and suffering that the church so easily invites women to. A sacrificial lifestyle and a
commitment to die for others are indeed Christ-like qualities that women would emulate if it
would lead to the liberation of their families and communities. A majority of women would
give up their own dreams and aspirations for the sake of their families, especially for their
children. Often this is a voluntary act. However, it is equally true that women have silently
borne pain and hurt for centuries, most often standing on the threshold of a violent death at
the hands of the man they live with. They remain silent because they are taught by the
church that, "Christ died for you on the Cross, can you not bear some suffering too?"
African American theologian Delores S Williams, who has offered some of the most
outstanding theological explorations of the meaning and purpose of atonement, writes: "Jesus
did not come to die for humankind; Jesus came to live for humankind. Thus it is Jesus' life
and his ministerial vision that redeem humans.”
At the end of her presentation, Aruna turned to Jesus’ ministerial vision for inspiration. She
said that although the church had in many respects forgotten about the vision of justice, nonjudgmental attitude and respect for the dignity of all, the Jesus community was, and will
always be, a compassionate and inclusive community for which everyone should aspire.
Comment: It is important to educate women that they are not inferior to men. We should
utilize media and other channels to emphasize this message.

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Comment: People do not choose their sexual orientation; rather they are born with it. People
should not be afraid of being who they are as God has created them that way. Sexual
orientation is not a chosen lifestyle but a gift of God.
Question/comment: Why do we always turn to women and tell them what to do or not to do?
Why do we let men get off the hook? Women and men as Christians have to learn to live with
each other. I went to a counselling centre in Bangalore and learnt that there is a direct
correlation between domestic violence and suppression of sexuality. Most gays and lesbians
hide their sexuality even from their own selves out of fear. Families are often reluctant to go
public about their children’s sexuality and force their children to get married. In my own
family a woman despite being a lesbian was forcibly married by the family to a man. She was
unable to have normal sexual relationship with her husband, which led to domestic violence
and eventual breakup of marriage.
Comment: In India Dalit women are particularly disadvantaged. They face varying degrees of
violence and abuse inside their homes as well as in the community.
Comment: It is not just women but even young children and infants who get sexually abused
by men. So we must address these issues with men.
Comment: Teachers need to be sensitized as well to address and discuss gender-based
discrimination with boys and girls.
Comment: Thousands of people came out on the streets demanding justice for the gang raped
woman in Delhi and the issue remained in media headlines for a long time. Yet hardly anyone
comes out to fight for the cause of the Dalit women who are raped almost every day across
the country. Indian media too have forgotten about violence against Dalit women.

Rev Winnie Varghese spoke on homophobia related issues.

She explored the
teachings of the Bible which the church uses in defense of gender discrimination and
homophobia, and those which mainstream Christians already disregard as too bigoted in the
modern age.
As faith-based leaders it is important to be
disruptive to status quo in our local contexts.
She said that the Bible, which she reads, is
full of contradictions. Contrary to popular
belief that healthy marriage and family is
central to the Bible, Winnie wondered if there
was even a single example of a good and
healthy marriage in the Bible. Yet majority of
the Christians believe that good and healthy
marriage is at the heart of Christianity.
The Christian tradition and the Jewish
tradition (from which the former emerged)
are the faith practices of people on the
margins: the enslaved, the conquered and the
minority groups. Christian faith is peculiarly

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gifted in presenting a critical look at power in society and is defined through the prophets of
Israel and the teachings and practices of Jesus as communities in which the treatment of the
marginalized, the widows and the orphans is the test of faithfulness. As followers of Jesus,
Christians should be on the side of the marginalized people such as homosexual people. Bible
guides that people might find God while caring for people at the margins and not in the
centre. Sexual conformity within marriage has become an important issue all over the world
further alienating gays, lesbians and transgender people.
Gender and sexual expression have always been the primary areas of control and subjugation
in society, creating/defining the margins and then the marginalized. These are not just the
issues of the present time. Gender expression and sexual freedom have been used to drive
people out of the community, out of the temple and out of right Jewish behavior in the Bible.
Jesus and his disciples challenged those teachings, but the text itself does not have a
singular, liberal narrative on either gender or sexuality.
As long as all the people in a family go to church every Sunday they are said to be ‘good
Christians’. In the neighbourhood of Winnie’s grandfather, there were homes where women
were beaten up every single night, and there were homosexuals who were forcibly married to
the opposite sex and denied the right to not get married. But since all family members went
to church every week, all were ‘good Christians’.
Winnie said that one should not shut down other people by being prescriptive, but one should
be empathetic. Sympathy drives disconnection and empathy drives connection. So while
interacting with women who have faced violence, or gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender
people, or people living with HIV, a know-all attitude can shut them down. Genuine empathy
will perhaps heal their wounds.
Question/comment: All reported cases of violence against women are not true when
investigated, as at times women have used the laws for their own vested interests. It is also
true that most of the cases of violence against women seldom get reported. So how do we
address this dichotomy?
Comment: A lot of violence against women that happens within homes is clubbed under
dowry-related violence, even though it may not have anything to do with dowry. Violence
against women is rooted in the expression of male domination and power. Most cases of
violence against women do not get reported primarily because of fear. Women also do not
feel safe in police stations. Even the family seldom provides a safe space and support to a
woman to enable her report cases of violence against her. There have also been many
incidents of honour killing of girls by their parents and families.
Comment: Only 1% of rapes in India get reported.
Comment: As seminarians we find lot of contradictions in the Bible which are difficult to
Comment: One good aspect of this consultation is that it allows people to speak and dissent
on a range of contentious issues around Christian response to AIDS, homophobia and violence
against women. This safe space to have a dialogue without fear or prejudice is really

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important. Perhaps in future consultations of this nature we should have opportunities to
‘experience the other’, because only by experiencing the other, can we empathize. For
example, may be for a day men should try to be the women in their families and experience
what a woman in their own family goes through. Christianity is all about getting under the
skin of others to understand and empathize with them.
Response (Winnie): It is not the church which is changing on its own to be more supportive for
gays and lesbians, but the change is led by the people themselves who have showed up in the
church despite being discriminated against for generations.
Response (Lorenza): ‘When we got to go, we got to go’ – to places that are dirty, vulnerable,
where we feel naked in the midst of opposition -- to help the people in need. We cannot
afford to be afraid of going to these difficult places where our help is needed most.

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Session 2
Relationship between
faith and sexuality

Winnie Varghese, USA
Joshua Kalapati, India
This session recognized the relationship between faith and sexuality. It is difficult to talk
about sex, particularly among the Christian communities. It is more difficult to talk about
men who have sex with men and transgender people. The session sensitized Christian religious
leaders and communities to be prophetic and pastoral in understanding AIDS, homosexuality
and violence against women.

Rev. Christopher Raj Kumar from National Council of Churches in India
(NCCI) spoke on sexuality and justice. In 2009 when Delhi High Court was
considering de-criminalizing same sex behavior in context of IPC Section 377, the issue of
homosexuality was debated on several national TV channels. NCCI also got phone calls asking
for its position on this issue and we then had said that NCCI needs to study this issue in the
context of this case and will get back to the journalists when a position has been taken. Later
NCCI leaders wondered whether it was right to state that NCCI had not yet taken a position on
this issue of homosexuality.
It is important to understand that NCCI is not one church but rather brings together over 30
churches across the country. These churches include orthodox churches, Lutheran churches,
and reformed churches, among others. So there was not a single voice on this issue and
opinions varied among NCCI members. That is why it was difficult to take a position instantly
and mandated an intense consultative process to come to a position with consensus. Most of
the voices were against homosexuality and favoured not to repeal IPC Section 377.
Eventually, the Commission on Justice, Peace and Creation of NCCI (of which Christopher is
in-charge) was given the task of doing the required study and come up with a position for
The main aims of this study were to:

Find out as to why there were aggressive positions in favour of and against

Look at churches, if any, who were working with sexual and gender minorities.

Apprise the mission of the framework of dignity, justice and inclusiveness.

Study the scriptures from sexuality perspectives.

Identify strategies and ways for churches to move on further on this issue of

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Several sessions were held with church leaders, theologians, Christian ministries, youth, men
and women, among others, at different levels. Each of these meetings taught us how to move
further. Leaders of seven faiths also participated in these meetings. In a series of initial
meetings, the position of faith leaders was against homosexuality.
One question that a person from a sexual minority had asked that became a game changer
was-- “We have no place in mosques, temples, even our homes. If churches too do not give us
that space where will we go?” This question touched the hearts of Christian leaders in a
positive way to reconsider their stand on homosexuality.
“We live in a closet and have no one to share our sorrows, anxieties and pain. We hope that
church will listen to us,” said another member of the sexual minority.
Another comment from a sexual minority community that helped move the study forward was
“Church leaders are always preaching and not listening to us.”
The third comment that dented the moralistic position on homosexuality was when a
representative from sexual minority said that “We have no faith in God. If God created all of
us then why did He create us differently? We do not believe in God.”
These three comments helped shape the thinking process on the issue and another high-level
consultation of churches was called. The serious question confronting us was that if the
Church is an inclusive fellowship where everyone can come and seek love, compassion and
healing, then why are we declining to include a particular community? Other points of
contemplation were if the Church was capable and trained enough to handle sexual minorities
and issues related to them; and if the theologically trained pastors capable enough to handle
situations of people coming and confessing their sexual orientations and gender identity.
The next step was organizing a consultation with senior theologians. Over 40 theologians
came together in Kolkata for a Theologians’ Roundtable where members of sexual minority
were the key speakers. This was the first time when theologians were listening to the
perspectives of those from the margins, and it was a turning point too, because it was
important to understand the perspectives of sexual minorities to help us later to adapt
theology in order to support them.
Theologians felt that NCCI should send a statement on their experience after attending this
roundtable to the global Church body. This statement was sent and was widely circulated. It
helped tremendously in changing the atmosphere. We also came up with a small ecumenical
document on this issue to further progress on this matter. This document addressed seven key
theological themes and was presented in the general body and adapted, then presented in
the assembly and adapted as well, thereby becoming an official document of Indian churches
in the current context on homosexuality.
Soon it was realized that this theological document was good but not enough. Another Bible
study document was needed to go along with this document in order to reach the grassroots.
So, more than 40 representatives of youth groups, including young theology students, among
others were brought together. Chrisida (a speaker at this workshop) was one of them. 10
representatives who attended this meet came forward to develop the Bible study document,
which was read along with the theology document and was widely disseminated across the
country. Youth groups and theology students are using this document.

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The position of churches associated with NCCI on sexuality was in line with its commitment to
justice, compassion and inclusive fellowship. Churches should be good ministries to the
people and sexual minorities are not excluded from this fellowship.
Another significant step NCCI took was to foster bondage with sexual minority communities. It
is ensured that at least two members from sexual minorities participate in the NCCI
assemblies, council or other meetings at all levels. In its last national convention, which
brings together over 500 church leaders, two transgender people had also been invited. On
the first day, these two transgender people felt that some church leaders were looking at
them differently. There were questions floating around as to why the transgender people
were there in the congregation and what their role was. On the second day the transgender
people were asked to pray in the meeting. This ended with few church leaders smiling at
them. On the third day the transgender people were engaged on the dais and one of them
said that they want to live a life of dignity, and not indulge in begging or sex work. They
asked us that since there are thousands of Christian educational institutions why cannot there
be an institution where they can get education with dignity and a place where they can live
and work with dignity? These interactions helped change the perspectives. The fourth day saw
the Bishops and other church leaders listening to them, getting photographed with them and
understanding them much better.
Now NCCI is working with seminaries where it is hoped to create at least 10 interest groups on
sexual minorities, where not only theology students can better understand people from sexual
minorities but also help move the process forward with churches across the country. Such
interest groups exist in Indonesia.
Another major challenge is to work with inter-faith groups on sexuality. When Christian faith
leaders took position in support of sexual minorities, some other religious leaders responded
that Christianity is a foreign religion and so it is embracing western notions. So it is very
important to work with inter-faith religious leaders too.
Comment: The tools he has mentioned are brilliantly written and very helpful for pastors.
Comment: The title of the consultation is not ‘Churches’ response’ but ‘Christian response’ to
AIDS, homosexuality and violence against women. There are far few Christians responding to
these issues.

85 years old Bishop Kim Yap Hao from Singapore expressed his happiness to be
invited to the consultation to share his experiences and become an ally in this common
struggle as an expression of Christian responsibility. He shared his experiences of
homosexuality in Singapore:
During an interview with the influential international Time magazine in July 2003, the then
Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong of Singapore had announced that his government did not
discriminate against gays and lesbians, and hires them even in sensitive jobs. Although
homosexual acts remain illegal under Section 377A of the Penal Code of Singapore, the
government has promised not to prosecute anyone under this provision.

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Earlier in 1998, in a CNN interview, the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was asked about
LGBT rights in Singapore. The question was posed by an unnamed gay man in Singapore who
asked about the future of LGBT people in Singapore. Lee had replied that it was not for the
government, but for the Singapore society to decide whether or not homosexuality was
acceptable. He also said that an "aggressive gay rights movement" would not change people's
minds on the issue, but had added, “The government would not interfere or harass anybody
whether straight or otherwise."
In Singapore, Section 377A of the Penal Code still criminalizes homosexual sexual intercourse.
However, the current Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong (who is Lee Kuan Yew's son) said in the
Parliament in 2007 that the government will not actively enforce the law, even though it is in
place, because of the current sentiment among Singaporeans.
These political leaders were concerned primarily with the economic growth of their country
and wanted to project a good image internationally. They could not afford to have local
talent leave the country and at the same time wanted to attract foreign talent (even if
LGBT). However, the majority of the population still holds conservative views on gender and
sexuality and the government is moving quietly and cautiously to change their negative
A letter written by Kim supporting the stance of the government was published in the Straits
Times, alongside a letter condemning it by a fellow Methodist pastor.
From around the year 2000, gay Christians
began meeting in fear and secrecy. Some
were called to leave their home churches.
They summed up the courage to come out and
organized the Free Community Church (FCC)
in 2004, and invited Kim to help them after
reading his views in the press. Kim
volunteered as the Pastoral Advisor of this
church whose website declares that the
Church welcomes all people regardless of
race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and
economic status. The Church is an inclusive
community that celebrates diversity in living
out God’s love and promise of abundant life
for all. In 2008, one of its members left his IT
job to pursue his Master of Divinity degree at
the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. Rev
Miak Siew returned two years ago and is now
the only fully ordained and openly gay
Christian pastor in Singapore. Thousands,
especially youth, have passed through the
doors of FCC to reconcile their faith with their
sexuality. It is the only officially gay-affirming
church in Singapore.

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Kim is the first and only ‘straight’ pastor in Singapore who has publicly declared his support
for lesbians, gays, bi-sexual and transgendered people and affirms that LGBT people are of
sacred worth too, having the same desires and passions, hopes and aspirations like anyone
else. A few of his fellow pastors share his observations.
Kim does not recall any real discussion about homosexuality until he began his Christian
ministry in the mid-fifties. The subject was not in the curriculum of seminary training even in
Boston University, which is known for its liberalism in the United States. It was a closed
subject in the faith communities.
Kim admitted that his thinking has aroused the hostility of a majority of his own people.
About 10 years ago, the Bishop of his Methodist Church, after attending the General
Conference in the United States, officially introduced for the first time in the Church’s
statute book that homosexuality is a sin. But Kim is not afraid to always subscribe to biblical
obedience as he interprets it, rather than be in compliance with church teachings of an
uncritical majority. Another guiding principle for him is whether the teaching shows love and
does no harm. Kim’s commitment to stand in solidarity with the oppressed and stigmatized
led him to lend support to the LGBT community as well.
The Religious Right has its influence on the conservative Christians in Singapore. In a current
controversy prompted by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) of the Ministry of Health, the
National Council of Churches, and another organization known as Love Singapore, objected to
the publication of scientific information about HIV/AIDS by the HPB which stated that
homosexual and heterosexual acts are similar in terms of the transmission of the HIV virus.
Conservative Christians interpreted this as promotion of the sexual act of homosexuals, which
according to them would lead to the destruction of family life and condone gay marriages.
They wanted the State to condemn the homosexual sex act. But the Minister of Health, who
happens to be a Christian, stood his ground and refused to bow to their wishes.
According to Kim, our interpretation of the sacred texts is always personally directed, time
bound, historically determined and culturally conditioned. We will have to learn the lessons
of yesterday to face the challenges of today.
It was only when there was public discussion of homosexuality that Kim began to explore the
issue more extensively. His initial casual reading of the Biblical text revealed a few passages
about same-sex relationships that were recorded as abomination. The same Bible was quoted
to justify the teaching of the Church on political domination, religious bigotry, racial
discrimination, gender inequality, sexual stigmatization, economic disparity, capital
punishment and specific issues of slavery, anti-abortion, violence and warfare.
It is only when he studied more carefully the life of Jesus and his Ministry that he discovered
that Jesus had associated himself more with the poor peasants, despised women, and those
sick and wounded. Jesus had opposed the religious and political authorities that exploited the
people in order to maintain their power and control. He was engaged in a liberation
movement and He gave the great commandment to his followers to love even those that
hated Him and crucified Him.
In homophobia there is hatred instead of love, condemnation instead of compassion,
contradiction instead of understanding, conflict instead of harmony. Gays and lesbians are
people of sacred worth and created by God like others. They too want to express their love

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for one another in marriage. It is ironical that while so many marriages are breaking they
clamour to get married legally. They are not demanding more rights but equal rights with the
others. Despite the claims of reparative therapy, there are few, if any, genuine or permanent
changes of sexual orientation. Celibacy is a choice and cannot be forced upon by others, but
homosexuality is not a choice. God has created them also and they were born that way. Their
religious faiths have reconciled them to their sexuality and they are as religious as others; as
much a sinner as anyone else.
Such is Kim’s response to homosexuality. He calls it his Christian calling that he cannot
ignore, and believes that it is his duty and obligation to express his love of God and love of
Besides homophobia, Kim has engaged with other issues in Singapore like AIDS and Violence
against Women.
Kim recalled that: At the recent 11th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific
(11th ICAAP) in Bangkok, Thailand, Dr NM Samuel had said: “We know WHAT to do (the
science could not be more clear about treatment as prevention--TasP). The more difficult
challenge is to know HOW to do it. HOW can we deliver uninterrupted treatment to those who
are hard to reach – sex workers, injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, and
transgendered persons?"
Kim recognized the lack of response of the Christian community to the issue of HIV/AIDS. The
fact is that HIV is primarily a sexually transmitted infection. But sex has been a religious
problem and non-involvement in it is still regarded as a virtue. Those who are infected with
HIV are seen to deserve the consequences and perceived as God's punishment. At the time
when it was first identified AIDS was seen to be a gay disease. But since it is now known to
affect straights as well, it has become a public health issue. This can be used as an entry
point to work with marginalized sex workers, LGBT and migrant workers on a range of issues,
other than health.
Responsible governments are now taking the lead in services related to HIV/AIDS. Churches
must sense the guilt when they continue to ignore people who are infected with this dreadful
virus. It calls into question their expression of love and compassion for the sick. When
volunteers from FCC were counselling the prisoners in Changi prison they discovered that
those with HIV were not provided with antiretroviral (ARV) medication, perhaps due to the
high cost of the drugs. FCC then started to provide them to the prisoners. When there were
more demands Kim solicited the assistance of the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi
Foundation and together they provided the essential drugs to the prisoners infected with HIV.
Kim campaigned for two years for a change in this policy of the Ministry in charge of Prisons
and finally succeeded. Now no prisoner in Singapore will be denied ARV medication.
This led Kim to the issue of accessibility, availability and affordability of generic ARV drugs
for the PLHIV. Those who are financially well off, can travel to neighbouring countries like
Thailand and India to purchase them. But, what about the rest? The poor do not have access
to such drugs. Generic drugs cannot be sold publicly because of the Trade Agreements
entered into by Singapore. Kim has now set up a non-profit group that can make such drugs
available and secured the first shipment from Thailand. During this trip to India he is sourcing
for some drugs that are manufactured in India.

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Upon his return from 10th ICAAP in Busan in 2011, Kim convened an Interfaith Network on
AIDS, coordinating with different religious groups (including Catholics, Buddhists, Protestants
and Evangelical members) engaged in projects related to HIV/AIDS, for a collaborative
response to this disease.
Another target group is that of sex workers. For some years a few former Student Christian
Movement members have been reaching out to them. In recent years they have added the
dimension of advocacy for their rights and their protection from police atrocities and abuses
since they are engaged in an illegal business. In the interest of public health, the government
has assisted in developing Women Care Centres in the Red Light districts for sex workers to
meet and receive safe sex information as well as supplies of condoms and gel. Singapore
citizens who are sex workers are officially registered for monthly medical examinations. But
there are others who are illegals and over-stayers who enter on tourist visas. Occasionally
police raids are conducted to control the size of this group. A few sex workers seek change of
vocation and are being assisted to train in other skills to equip themselves for alternative
Singapore has a large migrant labour force such as domestic maids, and factory/construction
workers to fuel its economic growth. They have displaced local citizens from the job market
because they work at much lower wages for the industries. The services extended to them
include not only protection of their rights denied by unscrupulous employers but also
promotion of safe sex and protection from HIV/AIDS.
One of the important NGOs dealing with Women’s Rights is working on issues like sexual
harassment, disparity in employment and wages, rape/marital rape. UN Women has granted a
large grant to an NGO for women's rights for a three-year research project on Interfaith
Understanding of the Role of Women. The government is also about to introduce a new Bill on
harassment, including stalking and cyber bullying. These are positive responses to years of
advocacy to prevent violence against women.
Kim agreed that we live in a society where religious and cultural traditions promote and
sustain male domination and women play a submissive role. However, changes are happening
to redress gender-based discriminations that breed violence against women. Recently there
was a public uproar when a University Muslim professor in the Department of Malay Studies
posted on his Facebook timeline that lesbianism was cancerous condition, a sign of
waywardness and a disease. It forced the university to investigate this issue with a petition
signed by hundreds of university students.
When Kim embarked on his personal involvement with social justice issues, he found that one
cannot deal with single issues alone and they have to be approached on a multi-dimensional
basis. The issues are inter-related even from a public health standpoint. So one should not
work in isolation, but in cooperation with other agencies concerned with related aspects.
Kim cited a few situations that point to a process of change which has already begun.
When a pro-government newspaper published an editorial on "The Plight of Sex Workers", Kim
responded by supporting the call to protect sex workers from what they described as abuse by
the customers and from human trafficking. The same newspaper published this. However,
they dismissed his comment on police brutality, as it does not score political points. But the
important thing is that the plight of the sex workers has now been recognized--sex work is
work and workers need protection.

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A week later, the same newspaper wrote an editorial on "Lessons on Sexuality Education
Debate,” pointing to the need for a more appropriate sexuality education. In the past, schools
were allowed to secure the services of outside vendors to conduct sex education. Kim himself
was involved in helping an NGO to conduct Comprehensive Sexuality Education that went
beyond abstinence, faithfulness, use of condoms and safe sex to prevent sexually transmitted
diseases. The Religious Right launched a fierce campaign against it and the authorities yielded
for fear of losing political support of the voters. Their argument was that it would promote
pre-marital sex (even though youth are engaging in it at an earlier age than in the past), and
that parents can best do sex education. But how many Asian parents will teach their children
about sex and provide them proper information?
Kim quoted from the editorial: "Pragmatic Singaporeans would agree that a health agency
should not be asked to umpire a contest of ideas about sexuality. Sticking to its remit, HPB
should communicate vital sex health information accurately and non-judgmentally to those in
need. It should, though, be mindful of sensitivities, and where there is ambiguity or
differences of opinion, take pains to point this out, to avoid being seen as taking sides.”
However, the majority of parents value the holistic and secular approach of these
programmes, run as part of the character and citizenship education curriculum. These lay an
emphasis on sexual abstinence before marriage and the focus on family as an indispensable
basic unit of society, which implies "encouraging heterosexual married couples to have
healthy relationships", as the HPB put it. At the same time, it would be antiquated for the
authorities to wear blinkers when it comes to homosexuality, even though it is a fact of life.
A recent Institute of Policy Studies survey showed that 78% Singaporeans frowned on
homosexuality. Singapore needs to find its own way of striking a sensible balance. It should
avoid importing the ‘culture wars’ seen elsewhere, since notions of sexuality clash with other
values like tolerance of diversity and social inclusiveness.
These, and other related messages, may lead to the possible and overdue repeal of Section
377A in the Singapore Penal Code in the not too distant future.
Kim ended his inspirational talk by saying, “If we make ourselves available, the doors will be
open for us to enter, and other doors will be open waiting for further commitments on our
part when we are able and willing to pursue further. The Christian response is simply to start
getting involved in projects and programmes of HIV/AIDS, Homophobia and Violence Against

Rochhuahthanga Jongte spoke on redeemed masculinity.

He said that
masculinity is not determined by biological factors but, like gender, it is a social construct.
Hegemonic masculinity is not only oppressive for LGBT community but also oppressive for men
themselves. Conceptually, hegemonic masculinity proposes to explain how and why men
maintain dominant social roles over women, and other LGBT communities.
A problem with masculinity is that biologically male people have to keep on proving their
masculinity to the world every moment. In order to be truly masculine every single day
biological males have to fulfill their social expectations and perform their gender roles on a
daily basis. ‘Men should not cry’, ‘men should not be weak’, and other such characteristics of

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masculinity are determined by social construct. Men are under constant pressure to prove
their masculinity and live under the fear of losing it if they do not meet social expectations
associated with it.
That is why it is very vital to redeem masculinity. Unless they redeem their masculinity, men
are doomed. Redemption of masculinity is fundamental to bring in desired changes towards
LGBT community, HIV and violence against women. Men are robbed of their humanity and
humaneness in order to prove their masculinity.
There is also a need to reimagine the image of God. Is that image of God patriarchal,
heterosexist or masculine? We need to imagine an image of God that is inclusive, humane and
this will directly impact humanity. We can also draw a rainbow image of God where different
individuals can relate to that image. People of different sexuality should also be able to
relate to God. We need to reconstruct the image of God in such a way that it brings
liberation. We never see Jesus performing his household activities; rather all images of Jesus
conform to earlier Mediterranean notions of masculinity. Jesus was sensitive and responsive
to pain of others. So those men who have grown insensitive, indifferent and judgmental to
other people’s pain and agony, need redeemed masculinity to learn from Jesus and become
Secondly, vulnerability is often seen as weakness. Patriarchal men should learn to embrace
vulnerability. Unless men are able to be vulnerable they cannot truly love anyone. Without
vulnerability there can be no true union with other human beings and with God.
Lastly we need to reimagine erotic masculinity. When we hear eroticism we might think of
pornography, which is a sin. Eroticism is love, desire for others, and it should not be equated
with pornography. We need to reclaim eroticism and bring it back in our lives. Desire to be
with others is Godly.
It takes courageous men to refuse to enjoy the privileges that come to them because of their
maleness. Without redeemed masculinity it is difficult to deny these privileges that oppress
women, LGBT, and other human beings.

Magdalene Jeyarathnam spoke on ‘Are we not human beings’.

During her
counselling training, she was told to be non-judgmental and practice total acceptance. She
did counselling at a drug abuse centre for over six years but the real challenge came when
she moved to work with people living with HIV. Transgender people were her colleagues and
wanted to be addressed as ‘women’. She was challenged with her Christian teachings and
considered it as a sin. The next shock came in when she was doing a project and her
roommate was a sex worker. She found it very difficult to accept her in totality and not be
judgmental. Moreover people recognized her friend as a sex worker, and many men started
coming to their hotel room and thought that Magdalene too was a sex worker. But slowly she
started becoming non-judgmental, accepting people in totality. It took her three years to
resolve these issues within herself while working with transgender people, gay men, and
others. Only then she was ready to start accepting people in totality without being

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Accepting people as a whole, in totality and without becoming judgmental is very important
to be able to empathize with them. We just cannot accept one part of them-- such as their
spiritual, emotional, professional, sexual or other aspects-- and decline others. We need to
get comfortable with accepting people in totality.
Sexuality is often not accepted, especially when we are working with children. When
Magdalene asked 10-12 years old boys that what do they do when a girl they like refuses their
proposal, the responses invariably were that they try harder to woo the girl. So boys are not
willing to take no for an answer from girls. However, if a girl accepts a boy’s proposal then he
will have no qualms about dump her at any time. This notion has to change. When girls says
that they do not like a boy in a particular way then boys have to let them be.
Because of IPC Section 377 and public debates on homosexuality it has become easier to
discuss this issue with young people. Before this debate came in public domain it was very
difficult to broach this subject. Young boys who said they like other boys in a particular way,
said that they feel lighter as it has become much easier to be open about one’s own sexuality.
Unless we practice being non-judgmental and accept people in totality it is not possible to be
Comment: Message of the document of NCCI should percolate down to the pastors - way down
the hierarchy. NCCI should have regular sensitization programmes with different levels,
especially lower levels. Lowest level of the structure should be involved equally.

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Comment: On the issue of IPC Section 377, even the government did not have a consensus.
Ministry of Health’s affidavit was calling for decriminalizing same sex behavior and Ministry of
Home Affairs’ affidavit was calling to continue criminalizing same sex behavior.
Comment: Calling on men to have courage to say no to privileges they get due to being males,
is again reinforcing masculinity. So, we need to avoid such reinforcements of masculine
notions especially when we are encouraging people to consciously opt for redeemed
Response (R Jongte): Bravery, courage, etc are good virtues. Problem is when we relate these
virtues with men only. These virtues are equally good for men, women and transgender
people. Similarly relating weakness with females is problematic. Associating with courage is
fine if it is for humanness and not masculinity.
Response (Christopher): The purpose of both documents is surely to reach to the grassroots.
The Bible study document is specially made with that intention in mind to go along with the
other document on NCCI’s position on sexuality.

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Challenges faced by people living with HIV,
women who survived violence & LGBT
community: personal reflections & experiences

Burt Golub, USA

Gabriel, Tejah Singh, Kokila, Vikram, Selvam


opened the session with the comment on previous sessions that generalizing men as
offenders was discomforting. Most men might be offenders but not all men. IPC Section 377 is
not only affecting LGBT community but also heterosexual people because it criminalizes any
sex that is non-penile and non-vaginal.
Gabriel shared his experience of being a gay and a Christian. It was fine when he was young
and could get away with his eccentric and vivacious nature, till he reached puberty. When he

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was 16-17 years of age, people started noticing the different side of him --the way he walked
and talked, the colours he liked, and his other preferences. It became evident that he was a
homosexual and thus came prejudices and discrimination related with being gay.
Gabriel was made to starve and beaten to drive the lustful spirit out of him. One Evangelist
who came to his home where he was being forced to starve told him that, “You have a
prostitute’s spirit inside you”.
Gabriel was shocked that he was being treated in a discriminatory way just because of his
different body language. Years later he was physically abused too. Discriminatory attitudes
towards homosexuality forced him to addictions. A lot of this discrimination came because of
the church. He experienced that when he went to church he was made to feel like a sinner.
Gabriel shared another story when a gay friend of his who is also a Lutheran Christian, invited
him to come to a Lutheran Church, where he used to sing. The pastor there constantly
referred to his friend as a gay and said that though his friend was gay he was very good and
talented. The question Gabriel asked was what was the pastor implying by saying that ‘even
though his friend is gay he is good’? The Pastor said that he had accepted his gay friend.
Gabriel urged him to understand them better.
Mental health needs are grossly under-served in India for LGBT community. When Gabriel
went to the clinical psychologist he was referred to as ‘mental case’ and called other
derogatory slang terms. When he went to a pastor he was told in front of his parents that he
is supposed to change himself as only a relationship between a man and a woman is
appreciated. Lying is bad but church leaders were asking him to lie about his sexuality.

Tejah Singh said that images of God had European streaks such as blonde hair, golden
shawl, or pink gown. But when he and his friends prefer colours such as those they are called
‘sinners’. Jesus had said that ‘we will burn in hell if we say anything to pain our brother’. So
Tejah argued that since there is no mention of homosexuality in any of the four gospels,
Jesus’ message was to accept each other in totality without being judgmental and live in
peace, love and harmony with each other as well. Biblical understanding of homosexuality is
limited to ‘two men lying with each other’ and does not mention about women liking other
women, or men liking women and men both, or women liking men and women both. This
understanding of homosexuality needs to be deeper and broader, argued Tejah. Tejah was
born in a Christian family and is gay. Right since childhood he had preferences that were
different from other boys such as going for Bhartnatyam classes instead of sports.
When Tejah started reading the Bible he was also subtly internalizing shame due to his
homosexuality. “I am going to burn in hell for being a gay” was shaming him deeply. He did
not even know what sex was, but moralistic standpoints in religious scriptures were already
telling him about burning in hell for who he really was. This heavy shame led him to pray for
hours together asking God to make him straight. He would fast for hours hoping God will
answer his prayers. Soon he realized that God is not going to change his sexuality because
that is how he was born and made by Him. When he accepted himself as he was, that was the
beginning of the real fight.
Bible does not say that homosexuality is a sin and homosexual individuals will burn in hell. But
Bible does say that lying is a sin, and a man should not lie to another man as he will not lie to

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a woman. By being truthful to one’s own self we are not sinning. However the interpretation
of the verses of Bible is often done to imply that homosexuality is a sin, although the Bible
nowhere says so. Christ is a true lover and selflessly loves all his followers.

Kokila spoke in Tamil with simultaneous English translation being provided by a volunteer.
Kokila was born in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, and was married at an early age of 13 years to the
son of her mother’s brother. She gave birth to her first child at the age of 15 years and
second child at the age of 17 years. After her second delivery, doctors told her that she
should not have sex for at least 2 years. Her husband employed a maid and soon after had an
extramarital affair with her. After a while both her husband and the maid chased Kokila out
of the home along with her two children.
Her aunt asked her to approach a court and ask for alimony. In the court her husband accused
her of being a ‘whore’. This accusation was a breaking point for her as it was he who was
indulging in extramarital affair and not her. She did not get alimony and was struggled to feed
her two children with hardly enough money to even buy them milk. She then found a shelter
home which took them in, and her children grew up there. She found a job at a small phone
booth. She worked here for three months after which her colleagues mixed something in a
cold drink and she became unconscious after consuming it. Later she found herself in Mumbai
and discovered that she had been sold to a commercial sex work place. She had to sleep with
25 men a day to be fed one time. She found it difficult to cope with this situation and was
soon drugged and sold again to a Singapore-based centre which made pornographic films. She
lived there for 15 years under heavy influence of drugs injected into her every now and then.
She was physically abused daily under influence of different drugs.

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A male merchant from India promised to take her back to India when she told him that she
has not seen her children for so long. She was asked to pay INR 15 lakhs before she could
leave. Eventually she left Singapore with this man and returned to India. She lived with him
for five years and succeeded in finding her children who recognized her instantly as their
mother. Unfortunately this man died in an accident. His wife however was very supportive
and kind and allowed her to keep the house she was living in and also gave her substantial
amount of money. His wife said that her husband was in the habit of rescuing women and she
will help her when she is in need. His wife continues to help her.
Her son got married a few years back and all of them were living together. But unfortunately
he died in an accident and soon after his death, Kokila insisted that his wife should remarry a
suitable person at the earliest in order to avoid going through the trauma she had
experienced. Kokila organized her daughter-in-law’s wedding with a painter, gave them the
house she was living in, along with money and jewelry and relocated to Tiruvannamalai
district of Tamil Nadu.
Kokila is living with HIV. She serves as the secretary of a network of nine community based
organizations of people living with HIV and sex workers, and also is represented on the board
of national sex workers network in Delhi.
She shared an experience when she took a woman living with HIV to a hospital at midnight
and was refused medical care owing to HIV related stigma and discrimination within
healthcare settings. Eventually she had to organize her cremation as well. She said that
unless HIV positive women come forward to take care of and empathize genuinely with newly
infected HIV positive women, there is little support they can find elsewhere.
For the last two years she had been trying to go to a church but pastors denied her entry as
she was a sex worker. Despite her insistence she was repeatedly told that since she is a sex
worker and HIV positive she is not welcome inside the church. Finally a man from the church
came forward and allowed her in. She has been going to church since then daily and prays
that--“Jesus as you take care of people around me, please take care of me in the same
manner. After I die I want to be with you.”
Kokila appealed to NCCI and church leaders to come forward to help support people living
with HIV and sex workers as they are in dire need of help and care. They are broken down and
spiritual help will heal and save them.
Last January her second son also passed away as he was stabbed in a commotion between
friends. She lost all hope then. She believes that the organization she works with-- South India
AIDS Action Programme (SIAAP)-- will continue to help support her and care for her. She
believes SIAAP will also cremate her after her death. After she lost her son, local church
leaders also came forward offering support, shelter and compassion to her.
She raised the issue of violence and abuse meted out by police to sex workers. She said police
staff sleep with sex workers and when they are done then they take away all their money and
lock them up on charges that they were cruising for sex work. Often sex workers are sent to
jail for 15 days or more depending upon the charge. One female police officer had arrested 12
sex workers in Chennai and sent them to jail for six months. It was so difficult for children of

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those sex workers who were forced to do child labour in order to survive and save enough
money to bail their mothers out of jail.
Recently the government supported the call from sex workers that police should not harass
them. Police officials told her that if they cannot arrest them from the streets, they would
arrest them from lodges or hotels when they are providing sex work services. But then Kokila
caught a police officer in a compromising position with a sex worker and fought the case to
send him to jail. His family came to sex workers pleading them to help in getting him released
on bail.
Kokila is also actively working to help young girls who are abducted and trafficked. A young
girl was abducted and trafficked from Bangalore to Tiruvannamalai but she took help from
Commissioner (Human rights) and rescued her from the brothel and ensured that she got back
to her native place.
She concluded that whether we are dark skinned or fair, rich or poor, Jesus will love and save
all. The co-moderator of the session remarked that she has been saving a lot of people from
pain and agony in the society which reflects her divinity.


wondered why he was supposed to conform to gender roles based upon how doctors
identified his biological sex when he was born. He emphasized that he is not gay but is
feminine and does not identify with masculinity which is a social construct. He preferred a
certain way of dressing and living which are characterized by society as feminine. Vikram said
that gender roles are much more visible than sexuality. He was unable to identify himself
with either of the LGBT and insisted that gender spectrum is much wider than often thought.
Vikram was initially conscious of wearing a pink colour shirt with floral patterns but only
when he came to terms with his own self that he became comfortable with his preferences.
But society relates pink colour or floral patterns on clothes with being feminine, and has
gendered these materials. We need to also look at how we are going to respond to
entrenched gender norms as they affect human lives much more than sexuality. We do not
realize always but often gender norms begin very early when a child is born. For example, the
different choices of toys (dolls for girls and ball/bat for a boy) or colours etc start influencing
the child much early on.
As long as we keep men and women segregated we will not be able to address the problem.
Asking people to conform to gender norms is an assault on their dignity and being. Gender
segregates us within our own families. Gender norms are more difficult to question and even
more difficult to fight against.
Vikram appealed to participants of the consultation to continue addressing sexuality related
issues and broaden their approach to include gender norms as well.


always wanted to play with boys when she grew up. She was physically stronger too
and worked in stone cutting to support her poor family. She kept herself detached from the
family as she could sense that there was something ‘wrong’ with her. She used to wear her
elder brother’s shorts and half-sleeved shirts till she was 15 years and even used to go to work

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like that. Her family scolded her repeatedly for her masculine behaviour which was
inappropriate as per societal norms. When she turned 15 her family forced her to wear a
skirt, but she always wore a short underneath it, only to be reprimanded by the family later.
Despite family rebuke she did what she thought was normal for her. She never could relate to
people outside of her family.
She was very uncomfortable wearing a woman’s traditional dress and always preferred to
wear a dress with a collar.
Soon she started earning more than her father and spent the extra money on buying gifts for
her female friends. She was also spending money on the families of the girls she wanted to
hang out with. At times she even had to come with a strategy to let families of these girls
allow her to take them out, such as by buying them alcohol. Even these girls were only willing
to go out with her when she bought them gifts. Some of them were her brother’s friends
which annoyed her brother. But it gave her more happiness in spending time with them rather
than with her family. Her family was upset that she was not spending money on her 5 siblings
or parents but instead on other girls.
Eventually she left home to live with one of her female friends. Her family used to meet her
on the day when she got paid to collect some money to run the house. She was happy in
parting with some money and in return not get bothered by her family. After sometime this
female friend also left her. Later she helped this female friend and her family to get her
married to a man.
When she was 16, Selvam came to terms with her sexuality and believed that she always
wanted to be a man. She projected herself as a man and wanted to be addressed with a male
pronoun. She was never interested in doing household chores but was happy working outside
her home. She often wondered why God created her as she was.
She came to Chennai where she had sex reassignment surgery (SRS) and now lives as a female
to male transgender. She wanted that there should be an organization to support people like
her. Because of her health issues she has been unemployed for the last one and a half years
but has been finding time to provide counselling to people like her.
Comment: It is for each one of us to think what is right and wrong for us. But we should not
impose our judgment and prejudices on others. God has asked us to be non-judgmental and
accept others in totality. Jesus loves all of us selflessly.
Comment: our faith is all right for our own selves but we must not impose it on others. We
are nobody to decide for others.
Comment: Church should be inclusive and include everybody without prejudices. It should be
like a social church where everyone is welcome.

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Asir Ebenezer

said that when the Delhi High Court judgment came on IPC Section 377 they were asked
about their position and viewpoints on the issue. What was more perturbing was the fact that
only sexuality aspect of homosexual individuals was taken into account as if there is nothing
more than that to those human beings.
First reflection was from the story of Babel [The tower of Babel was built by people to reach
the heavens in order to prevent their city from being scattered. But God thwarted their
attempts by making them speak in different languages (up to that point there was one
common speech for all people)] so that they would keep on disagreeing with each other.
The challenge is to discover that language again which is understood by all – not ‘one’ voice,
but ‘a’ voice.
Second reflection was based upon what John said to Jesus in the Bible: “…may all be one, just
as you Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.”
Perhaps it means that there are different unique identities which are tied together for a
purpose. People are unique in themselves, orientations are unique in themselves, and there is
no ‘one’ real, but there are different realities in this world which can be held together.
Third reflection was based upon what Jesus said to John in the Bible: “I have other sheep,
which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will
become one flock with one shepherd.”
Perhaps Jesus recognized that there are different folds-- be they of religions, ethnicities, or
orientations. There are realities and authentic relationships beyond what we have. These are
God’s created gifts. The challenge is to accept God’s design of plurality.
Comment (Dr NM Samuel): perhaps we should revisit the suggestion to include members of
LGBT community in churches and other groups and engage them as equal partners with
dignity in decision making processes as well. Some of the church leaders here are already
doing this and it will be great to keep this in mind when we return to our work.

The challenge is to discover that
language again which is understood by all
– not ‘one’ voice, but ‘a’ voice

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Right to understand patriarchy when addressing
violence against women and sexuality, IPC 377,
decriminalization, and explore how Christian
community can be agents of change for reversal of
punitive laws and promoting gender justice

NM Samuel, India
Lorenza Andrade Smith, USA
Winnie Varghese spoke on “Same sex – not a sin and not an illness.”

are all God’s creations made in the image of God. We are free to make choices, to love, to
create, to listen, to live in harmony with the creation of God. We take the story of our lives
and bind them with scriptures. We find ourselves in this conversation as to who is worthy of
salvation and what does it look like? What is sin and how do we identify it? As Christians we
have inherited a rich and diverse history of doctrines of absolutely everything- from the
nature of God, to the nature of sin, to the nature of salvation. The challenge in every
generation is to follow Jesus in the world known to us and revealed to us.
Winnie said that she believed in evil which is all around us and about which we read all the
time. What is important is how we locate that evil or sin in stories around us in our lives.
Winnie wondered why Christians often locate evil or sin on the bodies of those who are its
recipients, such as people living with HIV, the homeless, women who face violence, LGBT
community, among others. In her country (USA) black people and Mexican people are often
taken as evil but most often they are the ones who are at the receiving end of sin. Why is it
that people who are victimized by evil are looked down upon as sinners when actually they
are sinned upon? The recipients of societal scapegoating and the disposable people in
societies, are plundered and sacrificed. We put the sin on the least powerful amongst us and
ask for their repentance. When we are treated inhumanely actually sin is enacted upon us and
we might end up feeling sinned and asking for forgiveness.
The role of the church is to tell the person that he or she has not sinned but actually has been
sinned against. In fact all of us are sinners in some way or the other.
Winnie does not think that homosexuality or being a transgender person is a sin. Perhaps the
LGBT people are marked as ‘different’ because others are conforming and traditional. Why do
people become intractable when it comes to gender and sexuality and put sin on it so easily?
It is said that the church in USA underwent a resurrection because of the inclusion of LGBT
community. It was the mothers of HIV positive LGBT people who forced the church to not
stamp their children as sinners. This brought about significant changes in the role and
attitudes of the church towards people living with HIV and the LGBT community.

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According to Winnie, rage that appears to come from nowhere is a sign of depression and
cause of violence against women. Such a rage and aggression is often rooted in deep-seated
shame in the perpetrator.

Aruna Gnanadason spoke on “Patriarchy – can India tackle the system?”
She commented on the very appropriate title of the consultation which included homophobia
along with AIDS and violence against women. Many senior church leaders globally consider
homosexuality as a sin and the surety with which they believe so is what is keeping
homophobia alive.
Aruna referred to the brutal mass rape of a young woman named Nirbhaya in Delhi. That
incident, and the many other reports of rape that followed, and the many more that remain
unreported, convinced her that the system of patriarchy remains as a bastion that is nowhere
near being dismantled in India. But the outcry after the death of Nirbhaya that the guilty
must face death penalty made her even more convinced that all women and men are
embroiled in the system of patriarchy. She wondered if the people and the state have the
right to take the life of even the worst criminal. Also, whether the death of one rapist is
going to deter men from raping women is the challenge. Are not all men and women caught
in the grip of power and domination as the tools in their hands to bring the so called order
into a world filled with violence and discrimination?
Aruna wondered whether the system of patriarchy can be dismantled in India. Patriarchy rules
in India in spite of efforts by the women’s and other civil society movements; in spite of
efforts of a few brave men who have had the courage to speak and act against it; in spite of
laws and other ordinances promulgated by successive governments; in spite of efforts of
theologians and religious groups. There seems to be no letting down on the power of
patriarchy to control and abuse women.
Patriarchy literally means ‘rule of the father in a male dominated family’. But it has been
expanded to become ‘a social and ideological construct which considers men (who are the
patriarchs) as superior to women’. Aruna referred to Surajita Roy who speaks of patriarchy as
a system of power relations that are hierarchical and unequal where men control women’s
production, reproduction and sexuality. “It imposes masculinity and femininity character
stereotypes in society which strengthen the iniquitous power relations between men and
Sigmund Freud, the psychoanalyst, famously said that ‘anatomy is destiny’, implying that it is
women’s biology that primarily defines not just their roles but also their abilities and skills. It
is important to recognize that feminists do accept and acknowledge that biological
differences might lead to some difference in roles, but this cannot become the basis for
sexual hierarchy in which males assume some form of dominance.
Pierre Bourdieu, a Professor in Social Sciences in France, has written an excellent treatise
debunking the position of Freud. He claims that that is not biological reproduction that
determines the division of labour and of the whole natural and social order, but “it is an
arbitrary construction of the male and female body, its uses and functions, especially in
biological reproduction, which gives an apparently natural foundation to the androcentric
view of the division of sexual labour.”

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The changelessness of the system is rooted in the fact that we live and survive in a
patriarchal, casteist space - a space where homophobia runs rife because our sexuality/
sexual choice has been determined by, what is considered ‘natural’, so that homosexuals or
transgendered people are dismissed as engaging in ‘unnatural sex’. We also live in a country
trapped in the unjust and ruthless pursuit of economic growth at all costs ensuring scandalous
levels of poverty. Change is slow because any number of reforms or small expressions of
success cannot materialize in what is at its essence a patriarchal, a casteist and homophobic
space. For Aruna the definition of patriarchy is that it is ‘a system of graded subjugation’.
There are several systems in place in India that keep some in subjugation – caste, class,
sexual orientation have all been used and have played into each other so that we live in a
context of violence.
Women’s sexuality has been appropriated, taking away from them and other oppressed groups
the power to protect themselves from violence and HIV. As a feminist theologian Aruna spoke
about the role religions have played in giving foundational strength to this system of graded
subjugation. There is a ‘naturally accepted’ image of God as an all-powerful, judgmental
supreme MALE being who rules over Heaven and Earth from somewhere far away. And all our
attempts of reclaiming a more caring and loving image of God, with female imagery drawn
right out of the Bible itself, have failed. How do we debunk the role this male image of God
has played in giving foundational strength to patriarchy? How can men in the community,
church and society recover positive masculinities so that women and men walk boldly
together in partnership into a world without patriarchal, caste and heterosexual hegemony?
This is the socio-cultural and political challenge to be conquered.
Aruna said that we could take many small steps to create a culture where we recognize that
we are a community of women and men with the common responsibility of creating a world
free of violence where justice and peace would prevail.
Comment: we need to recognize those men who are with us in this fight for justice and
dignity for all. The word ‘woman’ includes ‘man’ and likewise ‘she’ includes ‘he’ so it might
be good to use ‘woman’ and ‘she’ to refer to both woman and man. We have created a male
image of God.

Rev Cand Chrisida Nithyakalyani spoke on “Chasm is growing between
young and old in India (concerning human rights, personal safety, personal freedom and
She began her talk by referring to some atrocious and misogynistic responses of a few socalled leaders and elders of our country when a young girl of 23 years of age was gang-raped
brutally in the capital city of India and assaulted to eventual death:
“Women are equally responsible for the sexual offenses committed against them. The cause
of rapes is the influence of Western culture and excessive display of body.”

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“She should have called the culprits ‘brothers’ and begged before them to stop. This could
have saved her dignity and life.”
“Did Nirbhaya really have go to watch a movie at 11 in the night with her friend?”
Chrisida lamented that these are not just the responses to the 2012 Delhi gang rape, but the
usual statements made to hide the bloodstains of violence infused on the bodies of women.
Through these kinds of responses of blaming the victim, the pain is covered superficially and
the agony is muted. But instead it increases the pain and makes the wound deeper. The
responses for the same brutality from the other side were of a greater outcry and uproar from
thousands of young women and men protesting in solidarity against the ruthless perpetrators
and against the entire rape culture, gender constructs and increasing violence against
This difference in responses for the same incident that shook the country shows that there is
an increasing gap in the attitude, thinking pattern, perspective and values between the young
and the aged in addressing the issues that are concerned with women.
Crisida said that 65 per cent of the population of India is young. History shows that
generations with an exceptionally high youth ratio create political and social movements that
shake up their systems and leave a profound impact. But, then there are other factors at play
Intergenerational and Intra-generational gap
The population of a country is comprised of several generations. People raised in different
generations tend to hold different perspectives on various issues because of the variance in
the cultural, social and political understanding.
There could be three generations living during a certain period within a single family.
Familial generation is a group of humans constituting a single step in the line of descent from
an ancestor whereas social generations are cohorts of people who are born in the same date
range and share similar cultural experiences. The familial and social generations get more
stacks of divisions in terms of attitudes and understanding. There could be a generation gap
even between sisters or brothers of the same familial or social generation. This gap hinders
the dialogue in addressing the issues that haunt our society.
Today technology is on the rise and the whole world is at our fingertips through gadgets and
media. Youth are more attracted to the sharing of thoughts through the technical world of
networking which brings people closer and makes them remain connected. But are we using
our networks and gadgets in raising our awareness and carrying out advocacy works?
There is a need for sharing of ideas between the aged and the young to understand each
other better in a non-judgmental way. There is a need to bridge the gap through constructive
partnerships and dialogue in inter- and intra-generational manner.
Addressing the Culture of ‘Violent Silence’ and ‘Silent Violence’
Sex and sexuality has always been a debatable issue to be understood from a holistic
perspective. The stigma and taboo created around the issue of one’s sexual orientation has
generated diverse understandings in the minds of the people. People who are marginalized on
account of their sexuality and sexual orientation are layered with presumptions and lack of
proper awareness.

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Chrisida gave a personal example to show how much we are obsessed with homophobia and
stigma, so much so that it becomes difficult even to speak or hear about it.
In a family comprising members of all ages and generation, the societal morals have created
certain circles and spaces for each individual within a family, which prevent discussions with
each other on certain topics. This silence has become a barrier between the youth and the
elders (parents), preventing them from talking about things related to sex and even the
problems faced by the young people. This culture of silence has brought society to a level of
ignorance, with confident presumptions and misjudgments on issues of homosexuality. These
misjudgments and presumptions are so deeply rooted in our minds that we are not able to
come out of our phobic attitudes. This culture of silence is also a form of violence on the
marginalized communities.
Can Violence be Spiritual?
Chrisida spoke about the culture of spiritual violence in our society. She gave the example of
a woman who wrote her experiences on a blog of being raped at knifepoint by a stranger
when she was 16 years old. Not having a clue of how to handle it, she disclosed it to her
pastor for support. The response of the pastor was, “It is too bad that you did not force him
to kill you instead. That way you could have at least died a virgin.” The rape survivor wrote
on the blog, “Almost 30 years later, I harbour more anger towards that pastor than I do
towards the man who raped me. At least the rapist was not pretending to represent God. The
damage the rapist did to my body and my psyche was not insignificant; but the soul-damage
done by this ‘man of God’ nearly killed my faith.”

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The response of the pastor echoes the attitude of the churches in the present scenario.
Violence against marginalized people such as women, people living with HIV, or LGBT
community is on the rise often because of the violent words of rejection and marginalization
from the side of the church. This spiritual violence causes more damage to these individuals
and deviates us away from the actual mission of God.
Personal Safety versus Personal Freedom
Young people are often seen as carefree and dependent individuals who should be given extra
care by the elders. Especially, when it comes to young girls, the first thing that is said is
safety. It is a collective responsibility of all individuals that we need to have a society that is
safe for all, irrespective of their gender. But the safety of individuals has undergone a change
and is equated with ‘protection’ from men, by men and for men. A woman or a girl has to be
‘safe,’ ‘protected’ and more precisely ‘virgin.’ Safety and protection have become
attributable mostly to virginity with regard to young girls. But this partial and temporary
protection is attempted at the expense of one’s freedom, mobility and development in order
to be safe. Women are often stopped from going ahead in their lives in the name of safety.
Chrisida raised another thought provoking question-- Are women who travel less, who do not
go out late in the night, who dress up in a so-called decent manner, safe? Are they not
violated and abused? Children and infants are raped. Women in villages and rural areas are
abused and molested. Dalit women are still chained in patriarchy, casteism and classism.
This is because of our shallow understanding and judgment about the issues which prevents us
from addressing the root cause of the problem. A woman is safe when she can exercise her
freedom, without any restrictions, with equality and justice. A woman is said to have freedom
when she is safe without any ‘conditions apply.’
Another issue is about moral policing. The elders often police the youngsters. Moral policing is
governed by religion and is invariably manipulated according to social convenience, customs
of the land and individual preferences. The initiatives taken by the Church are not adequate
in regard to the moral agency of the youth in the Church. The voices of youth are seldom
recognized and heard, thus resulting in a lack of interest in the youth for the Church. The
home and Church must equip themselves appropriately to become effective and exemplary
role models for the youth of the nation.
A Christian Youth Response
Youth are the backbone of the nation, society and the church. The young people of India are
exhibiting their potential and talents in many fields, contributing to the development of the
nation. However there are also many instigating elders and leaders who raise their voices in
times of conflict and violence and there are young people too, who are still trapped in
traditionalism and conventionalism, which instigates further violence. Altogether, the gap
between the young and aged, and also within each of these age groups, has to be filled
through dialogue and action.
The immediate response is of being humble to be able to learn from each other. Chrisida
quotes Bill Nye who said: “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you do not.”

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Comment: the chasm is growing between the young and the old globally and not just in India.
There are elders who are very supportive of human rights and social justice as well.
Question: What is the theological perspective on virginity?
Response: Notion of virginity has very deep patriarchal roots with the intention of controlling
the woman’s body and being. Sign of an intact hymen is still taken as a sign of virginity.
Comment: Church has come a long way from 30 years ago when the pastor had made a
negative comment regarding virginity. Churches have changed with times and become more
liberal in their views and more responsive and supportive to women who have survived
Response: Although there has been progress made by churches but still some of them have
biased attitudes.
Response: Notion of virginity is established in the church also.
Response (Chrisida): In Biblical understanding the word ‘virgin’ refers to a young girl of a
marriageable age. But in our Indian context this word refers to her sexuality. We never speak
about virginity of a man.
Question/Comment: Are we looking at diversity inclusion in churches? Had we included people
from LGBT community, women survivors of violence or people living with HIV in churches at
different levels including as pastors sufficiently, perhaps we would not be dealing with so
much of insensitivity.
Comment: Church system is also at times very patriarchal and very difficult to break through
it. Just having more women or people from LGBT community in churches will perhaps not help
because we need sensitive humane people, be it a male or female or one from LGBT
community, to bring about the necessary change.
Response (Chrisida): Women who are in the churches also have to face lot many challenges as
expectations are often very high.
Comment: If there were pastors and priests in churches from the LGBT community or from
women or other disadvantaged and marginalized communities, perhaps it will make a change
in the attitude of the church towards these communities. People from these communities will
also perhaps be more comfortable in accessing churches.
Comment: We have a church in Singapore where the pastor is gay. But gay and lesbian people
who come to this church often keep to themselves and do not mix with each other. Perhaps
diversity and plurality is not easy to deal with.
Response (Chrisida): We must learn and unlearn to march forward.
Comment (Aruna): Let us take a few small steps and move forward in faith.

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George Zachariah spoke on “How can Christians in India respond to AIDS,
homophobia and violence against women?”
Even as we envision together a
rainbow church, recent statements
of two revered Christian leaders
inspire us to dream despite the
cultural homophobia and the spiral
of violence that haunts us. "If
someone is gay and he searches for
the Lord and has goodwill, who am I
to judge him?” - This statement of
Pope Francis is a historical shift
from the Vatican position that
homosexuality is an intrinsic moral
evil. Gary Hall, Dean of National
Cathedral, Washington DC, in a
sermon recently condemned
homophobia as a sin. Shaming
people for whom they love is sin.
He further observed that when all
our churches say that clearly and boldly and courageously, then only our LGBT youth will be
free to grow up in a culture that totally embraces them fully as they are.
We need to understand that the campaign for IPC Section 377 is a theological problem
informed by a distorted theological understanding of human sexuality. If ‘normal’ behavior is
‘natural’ then why do we need an elaborate system of legal, cultural and religious apparatus
of control and punishment to inculcate the ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ behavior in the community?
George quoted Menon who rightly observes that, “The disciplining of thought through family,
education, media, jurisprudence, and religion reinforces the ‘truth’ that homo-eroticism is
insane, criminal and sinful. So the coercive apparatus of the state and the brutal religious
weapons of stigma and exclusion are systematically being used to keep people heterosexual.

“Why would we need laws to maintain something that is
natural? Are there laws forcing people to eat or sleep? But there
is a law forcing people to have sex in a particular way.”
As Rebecca Parker rightly observes that Christianity in many women’s lives has been the
primary force in shaping her acceptance of abuse. The central image of the Christ in the
centre of the cross communicates a message that suffering is redemptive. Those whose lives
have been deeply shaped by the Christian tradition, feel that self-sacrifice and obedience are
not only virtues but the definition of faithful identity. Women who undergo violence of abuse
in their homes come to the sanctuary in search of solace, comfort, courage, and
empowerment. But they are indoctrinated by the Church to endure the violence as our Lord
has done on the cross. Lucia was one among those women who genuinely tried to follow what
the Church exhorted her to do. But after twenty years, she is talking back: “I went to my
pastor twenty years ago. I’ve been trying to follow his advice. The priest said, I should rejoice
in my suffering because they bring me closer to Jesus. He said, ‘Jesus suffered because he
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loved us.’ He said ‘If you love Jesus, accept the beatings and bear them gladly, as Jesus bore
the cross.’ I’ve tried, but I’m not sure anymore. My husband is turning on the kids now. Tell
me, is what the priest told me true?”
Aruna Gnanadason had shared a similar experience: “Go back to him… Learn how to adjust to
his moods…do not do anything that would provoke his anger… Christ suffered and died for you
on the Cross… Cannot you bear some suffering too? This is the voice of the church—the words
of a priest counseling a woman who was being battered by her husband every single day of
her married life. She went to the church for refuge and for moral and spiritual support. What
she received instead was advice to learn submissiveness and obedience in a distorted
relationship and abusive marriage.
How do we theologically and pastorally engage with these sisters and mothers who have been
brutally abused within the sacred institution called family? How could we promise them
healing when our central message is the glorification and valorization of self-sacrifice and
imposed torture?
In the mainstream Christian engagement with HIV (we tend to understand HIV infection as the
consequence of the irresponsible and immoral behavior of the infected persons), it is a
common belief that HIV infection could have been avoided if the person had led a high moral
life. Such an approach reduces responsibility to the personal behavior of individuals, and
identifies the infected as a sinful person. As a result in the dominant discourses of our times,
HIV has been theologically and ethically problematized as an issue of immorality and sexual

In such a ministry, people living with HIV can never be the
agents of their lives rather they can be the beneficiaries of our
goodwill and charity.
In contrast to this familiar, dominant, and comfortable model of house, George proposed a
different model for the church. Church is not a monument that is built on the foundations of
traditions and doctrines rather it is an empowering and transforming experience that happens
in the lives of the communities on the margins. Here church becomes an event. Church
happens as fellowship, solidarity, love, care, compassion, justice, and restoration in the lives
of people, who go through the tragic experience of utter God forsakenness. The model of the
Church here is no more the household with fortified walls and exclusive claims of supremacy
and purity. The alternative model for the church happening is the model of street. The model
of street symbolizes mutuality. We experience a deep sense of relationality there.

It is this sense of mutuality and relationality that helps our
brothers and sisters on the margins who barely hang on to life to
face life with determination and reclaim their God-given

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Session on future strategies

We have to be open when children ask us questions related to sex and sexuality. For
example imagine a scenario when a child inquires about condoms from a person who
has a strong position against it? So we have to have an open mind and be healthy and
non-judgmental while interacting with children and young people on these matters.
Her daughter asked her about what is gang rape. So we need to be able to discuss
these issues without being judgmental or prejudiced.

Sex education has to be incorporated into schools, and other such institutions
including theological institutions. Even people who have studied liberation theology
are yet to be liberated which makes one wonder where are we heading to?

We also need to sensitize school teachers as introducing sex education in curriculum is
not enough. Teachers need to be comfortable and skilled to deal with this subject.

There are issues relating to homophobia, urgent need to engage churches at all levels
in addressing homophobia, connecting with peers who understand homophobia as sin
and how do we get across to these people, how do we document data on people with
LGBT communities, and how do we utilize those data to transform church’s theology,
how do we mainstream it and take it into families and education sector, these are few
things we should be doing.

It was the foresight and wisdom of people like Dr NM Samuel to convince the churches
to talk about HIV back in 2000s. Lot of work happened in churches on HIV such as
education and work place policies regarding people living with HIV. There is also some
work going on to develop a social inclusion tool which can be used by educational
institutions, other Christian groups and churches to evaluate where they stand on
social inclusion with regards to sexual minorities, caste, gender, among others. This
tool deals with inclusion in terms of ‘bringing in’ and does not help a person on how to
‘get included’.

NCCI is helping the process of organizing LGBT groups so that they are connected to
policy decision making process and every decision is informed by them.

Please do not put so much of confidence that theological institutions will influence the
church, because at times it does not.

Theological institutions do influence the church to a certain extent.

One suggestion is to devote one Sunday on a particular marginalized community such
as transgender people. That is a small step forward but will have an impact.

People from sexual and gender minorities have written extensively on a range of
topics. We should utilize these resources. They can be good resource people in
trainings, meetings or workshops not just on sexuality and gender but a range of other
topics such as social or community work. If we do so then it will help in mainstreaming
and normalizing sexuality and gender variances.

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Dr NM Samuel: When we thought of organizing this consultation we wanted to show
that there are Christian groups which are not opposing the 2009 High Court judgment
and actually we will rather like the punitive laws to be repealed in interest of social
justice and public health. We were told then that letters of support are required to
influence the government. We did file letters of support and mobilized other partners
and like-minded groups such as Harvard University, International AIDS Society (IAS),
among others, to send in letters of support of the Delhi High Court judgment. We were
hoping that this consultation will also come up with a statement of support.

Dr NM Samuel: The proceedings of this workshop will be made available and widely
disseminated in Theological College libraries and other Christian institutions. We also
need a small core group to continue discussing, evaluating and strategizing as we
move ahead in addressing these key human rights issues.

Dr Donald E Messer: We are here not as experts but as partners in our fight against
homophobia, AIDS and violence against women.

Christopher Raj Kumar (NCCI): We should take this challenge back to our institutions/
churches which we represent, and try to convince them to support human rights and

We believe that the church can bring about these difficult changes. As agents of Jesus,
we have to build bridges between the marginalized and the rest of the society, correct
misgivings in people, and change our own mindsets and stereotypes.

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Annexure 1
Brief bios of the speakers
Aruna Gnanadason
CSI, Masters in English Literature, Bangalore University; and Doctorate of Ministries (DMin),
from the San Francisco Theological Seminary, USA. She served the World Council of Churches
in Geneva, Switzerland directing its programme on women in church and society; and the
work on justice, peace and creation. She is the author of “No Longer a Secret: The Church
and Violence against Women,” and “Listen to the Women: Listen to the Earth”, published by
the WCC. She has edited several books and has contributed to leading national and
international journals and publications. She is recipient of three honorary doctorates. She
has authored several books, edited many and has published numerous articles in renowned
national and international journals. She now lives in Chennai and offers her services as a
freelance writer, speaker and editor to the churches in India and globally.

Lorenza Andrade Smith
Ordained Elder of The United Methodist Church with a specialization in Women, Society and
Church Studies. Official appointment by Bishop James E. Dorff of the San Antonio, TX USA
Episcopal Area, to a ministry with the poor and marginalized. Presently on pilgrimage across
the globe in the cultural lands of Egypt, Australia, India, Ecuador, Pakistan, Nepal, China,
Russia, Europe, and Israel. Prior work--- United States Air Force Veteran, Air Traffic
Controller; Business Management

George Zachariah
Serves the United Theological College, Bangalore as faculty in the department of Theology
and Ethics. His theology is formed and informed by his association with different social
movements in India. He started his vocation as a social activist in Chhattisgarh. Then he
served the Student Christian Movement, Theological Literature Council, and the MM Thomas
Research Centre before he started his advanced theological studies. He did his theological
studies at the United Theological College, Bangalore, Union Theological Seminary, New York
City, and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Dr. Zachariah also served on the faculty
of the Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute, Chennai. He serves on
different academic committees of the Senate of Serampore College (University). He has
attended several national and international conferences and presented papers. He also served
as visiting scholar in different universities and academic institutions. His current areas of
research include Climate Justice, HIV and AIDS, Human Sexuality, and Subaltern Social
Movements. He is actively involved in the campaign against homophobia in India since the
Delhi High Court verdict on IPC Sec. 377, and initiated several programmes and publications
to enable the churches, theological institutions and the ecumenical movements to understand
and support the concerns of LGBT friends. His recent publications include Alternatives
Unincorporated: Earth Ethics from the Grassroots, (London: Equinox Press, 2011) and Gospel
in a Groaning World: Climate Injustice and Public Witness (Nagpur/Tiruvalla: NCCI/CSS,
2012). He can be contacted at

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Magdalene Jeyarathnam
Has completed her masters in medical and psychiatric social work. She is also certified as an
expressive arts therapist from Women’s Christian College. Magdalene has completed several
courses and is certified in various art therapy modalities. She is a member of the International
Association of Group Psychotherapy. She has worked as a counsellor close to 20 years and has
supervised and trained counsellors for 19 years. She has worked with various governments on
HIV related projects. She was a consultant for WHO working in the south East Asian region
between 2003 to 2005. She was also hired by the Royal government of Bhutan to write
guidelines and train counsellors in Bhutan. She has written the National guidelines for
voluntary counselling and testing centers for Myanmar. Magdalene worked as the counselling
consultant for the state of Tamil Nadu from 2005 to 2007, in this capacity she helped the
government set up 350 HIV counselling and testing centres all over Tamil Nadu. Magdalene is
on the expert committee for counselling for the National AIDS Control Organisation. She has
her own counselling practice where her clients are from the ages of 3 to 65. Magdalene is the
Director of East West Centre for Counselling and Training. This institute deputes counsellors
and life skills educators to schools and college within Chennai. This institute collaborates with
Women’s Christian College on a diploma in Expressive Arts Therapy. The only certificate
issued in the country on Expressive Arts therapy. She is also directing the Indian Institute of
Psychodrama, the only organisation in India which teaches psychodrama, which is using role
plays and role reversals in achieving therapeutic goals. She works as a consultant for several
NGOs working with HIV.

Joshua Kalapati
Is Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Philosophy, Madras Christian College.
Among the important projects he undertook was the Oxford Encyclopedia of South Asian
Christianity, of which he was the Associate Editor. Dr Kalapati's doctoral work, Dr Sarvepalli
Radhakrishnan and Christianity was published by the ISPCK in 2002. With a Masters in
Theology from Edinburgh University, Kalapati's academic interests include Indian Christianity
and Inter-faith understanding. He enabled MCC to organize couple of National Conferences on
HIV/AIDS, along with Dr. Don Messer and Dr NM Samuel. Dr Kalapati's academic visits include
to Institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge in UK and Fuller Seminary in the USA. He is
blessed with wife Salome, who teaches Mathematics in MCC, and children Mylius and Miller,
both named after Missionaries.

Christopher Raj Kumar
Serves the National council of churches in India as its Executive Secretary for the Commission
on “Justice, peace and creation “He will be sharing the NCCI’s journey in addressing the issue
of human sexuality

Donald E Messer
Executive Director of the Centre for the Church and Global AIDS, Centennial, Colorado, served
19 years as President of the Iliff School of Theology, Denver, and 10 years as President of
Dakota Wesleyan University. Messer is author of 15 books, including "Breaking the Conspiracy
of Silence: Christian Churches and the Global AIDS Crisis," "Names, Not Just Numbers:
Facing Global AIDS and World Hunger," and "Caught in the Crossfire: Helping Christians
Debate Homosexuality." A United Methodist pastor, he studied at Madras Christian College in
Tambaram, India, and holds a Ph.D. from Boston University in social ethics. He founded the
Centre to support and advocate for persons infected and affected by HIV and AIDS, raising

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funds to assist AIDS-related programs in Chennai and Namakkal, as well as other places in the

Burton Phillip Golub
Completed MD from Boston University School of Medicine in 1965.Research and clinical
fellowship from the CDC Atlanta and the Infectious disease, university of Colorado Medical
Centre. He is in Private practice, internal medicine and infectious Disease specialists; PC.He
is affiliated to Swedish Medical centre, Porter Adventist Hospital, Craig and Littleton
Adventist Hospital in Colorado. He is affiliated to University of Colorado Medical centre and
associate clinical professor, Department of Family medicine.Dr.Golob published extensively.

Winnie Varghese
is the 13th Rector of St. Mark's Church in the Bowery, the oldest site of continuous worship in
New York City in the United States. St. Mark's is a diverse, energetic, growing congregation in
a site on the National Register of Historic Places, partnering with critically acclaimed resident
arts partners: Dan space, The Poetry Project and Incubator Theatre to engage the community
7 days a week. Winnie edited the recently released What Shall We Become: the Future and
Structure of The Episcopal Church. Winnie has been featured in the teaching series: Living the
Questions 2 and Via Media, and has written for The Witness, Episcopal Life, the Huffington
Post and The Episcopal Journal. She has served on The Executive Council of The Episcopal
Church, The board of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, the Alumni Council of Union Theological
Seminary, and The Episcopal Evangelical Education Society. She is a trustee of the Episcopal
Divinity School and chairs the board of The Episcopal Service Corps. From 2003-2009 Winnie
was the Episcopal Chaplain at Columbia University. She is a graduate of Southern Methodist
University, B.A. '94 and Union Theological Seminary, M.Div., '99.

Vinod Wesley
Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute, Assistant Professor, Department
of Theology and Ethics. Research Areas include: Christian ethical perspective on Farmer’
Suicide, Climate Change and Dalit Communities, Christian Theological and ethical issues
concerning LGBT communities. Previous work experiences include Project Co-ordinator
Vuyiroli - project for destitute elders, Project manager, Arise – Project for orphan and semiorphan Slum Children. Publications include, Celebrating the Manger Family in Born to be
Broken: Christmas Message from Dalit Perspectives, Nagpur: NCCI , “The Abuse of Life: Child
Sexual Abuse,” Gurukul Jyothi, “The Third Image of God: A Perspectival Reading of Luke
10:25 – 37, Gurukul Jyothi, Worship order on Sexual minorities, South Asian Geo-political
Issues, climate justice for National Council of Churches in India (NCCI). Have presented
several paper on the following topics :Climate Change and Climate Refugees: Issues and
Debates, at Youth Leadership, A Talk on Lent and Ecology, Seven words on the Cross and
Christian Ethics, Climate Justice and Challenges to Church, Communicating Climate Justice :
Dalit Voices, Climate Justice : A Dalit Perspective, Mapping the Present Situation of Ecological
Crisis with Special Reference to Indian Context”, at a Seminar on Ecological Crisis – An Indian
Christian Response, Church and Corruption, at the Chennai Inter-Theologate Seminar,
Chennai, Sexuality in Indian Context, The Role of Civil Society, Worship committee convener
for the International Consultation on Climate Justice, organized by the Lutheran World
Federation, Puri, Orissa, 2010.These seminars and consultation were organized by WACC, CSI
Synod, NCCI, BTESSC, LTC Jabalpur, SCM, CIITS, CASA, Lutheran World Federation
etc.International exposure includes a 3 months research program in Amsterdam including a

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paper presentation on “Contextual Theological Reflection and the Relevance of Religious
Coping with Farmer Suicide and Agrarian Crisis caused by the Impact of Globalisation and
Development Policies in India” at the VU University, Amsterdam, Netherlands.Have
participated in Solidarity campaigns for and pride parades of sexual minorities, Public protest
in solidarity with Abolition of Bonded Children, awareness campaign on Child rights and
campaign on need for organic food and issues related to alcoholism and substance abuse.
Have composed and written several bhajans and songs on social awareness. Have composed
songs for two musical albums “Agara Mudala” – awareness Child rights and ecological
concerns. The last project “Aram” – a musical album on awareness on substance abuse, non –
communicable disease with special focus on cancer.

Asir Ebenezer
Ordained minister of the Church of South India in the Diocese of Madras since 1992. Served in
different urban and rural parishes of the diocese, and as Director of the Diocesan Board for
Socio-economic concerns. In the service of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI)
since 2004 first as the Executive Secretary for Urban Rural Mission and later of the NCCI
Commission on Policy and National Governance. For a year in 2010 served as the Officiating
General Secretary of the NCCI. Presently serving as the Finance Secretary of the Council.Has
been a resource in several local, national regional and global ecumenical gatherings over the
last two decades including in the recently concluded assembly of the World Council of
Churches in Busan Korea.Conducted a study on the Rights of Religious minorities in South Asia
and the responses of the National Council of Churches in each country, on behalf of the South
Asia Ecumenical Forum for Peace and Security as part of a global study platform of the WCC –
Churches’ Commission on International Affairs (WCC-CCIA).Co-ordinated evaluations of the
ministries of different ecumenical organisations including recently that of the All India Sunday
School Association on behalf of the EMW Hamburg, Germany.Engaged as a core group member
in the Strategic planning process of the National Council of Churches in India and the Christian
Medical Association of India.Co-facilitated the Churches’ protest against the Tamilnadu
Freedom of Religion Act leading to the repealing of the draconian legislation – the only such
law to be repealed in the country. Professionally trained at the graduate and post-graduate
levels in diverse fields of Commerce, Social Work (specialising in Medical and Psychiatric
Social Work) and Theology.

NM Samuel
Currently leads Concern for AIDS Research and Education (C.A.R.E.) which manages two
important HIV care programmes in Namakkal. One programme addresses the needs of HIV
positive pregnant women and the other programme engages tribal populations where HIV
related stigma and discrimination is far more. “Children living with HIV get a priority at our
centres. Since the intervention has been in place for more than a decade, we are now dealing
with other issues apart from HIV care. For example, children of 10-12 years of age, are asking
questions such as 'Why am I infected?' or 'Who is responsible for giving me this infection?' or
'You never told me I have HIV infection?' These children are taking medicines, including
antiretroviral therapy (ART). At times parents tell these children that they are giving these
medicines for better immunity, to become stronger, or for TB but not telling them that they
have HIV. The issues, such as disclosure, preparing the mother and father for answering such
questions, and not to feel burdened or responsible that they have infected these children,
were not the issues that were talked upon earlier on in Prevention of Parent to Child
Transmission Programmes,” “Colour of urine in children co-infected with TB and HIV might
be red due to anti-TB drug Rifampicin. People who use the toilet after them and find the red

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urine, often confront these children on why they have blood in their urine. These are some of
the important issues we have not dovetailed into our regular counselling. In our clinics
children and their caregivers such as parents, grandparents or guardians are counselled

Kim Hao Yap
is a former Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore and Malaysia and former General
Secretary of the Christian Conference in Asia. He retired from active service in 1994. In 2004
when the only gay-affirming Christian Church was founded in Singapore called Free
Community Church in 2004 he was invited by the LGBT community to serve as the Pastoral

Ajay Sathyan (Gabriel)
“I'm a freelance internet researcher, social media analyst and SEO content writer. At present
I'm working as a consultant for Center for Sexuality and Health Research and Policy, a not-forprofit research agency that works to restructure policies on sexuality and sexual health. I cofounded the organization Chennai Dost with the organization's present director Vikranth
Prassana. I'm a trained LGBT peer counsellor and I've counselling the community for the past
two years through Chennai Dost.I've addressed a conference on Sexuality and Faith sponsored
by the Concern for AIDS Research and Education Foundation in association with Center for
the church and Global AIDS USA in 2009 and one organised by the Gurukul Lutheran
Theological College & Research Institute on LGBT Christians, their Faith and Sexual health.”

Rev. Dr. Joseph Prabhakar Dayam
is an ordained minister of the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church, currently teaching
Systematic, Philosophical and Contextual Theologies at the Gurukul Lutheran Theological
Seminary and Research Institute, Chennai. He received his under-graduate and post-graduate
degrees in Theology at the United Theological College, Bangalore. He later received his
doctorate in theology from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA., in the area of
Systematic and Philosophical Theology. His research interests include theology of the cross,
religions of the marginalized, feminist theologies and human sexuality. Before joining the
Gurukul College, he taught at the United Theological College.

Rev. Cand. Chrisida Nithyakalyani
belongs to Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church. She holds a Bachelor Degree of Science in Plant
Biology and Plant Biotechnology, Bachelor Degree in Divinity (B.D.) from Gurukul Lutheran
Theological College and Research Institute and Master of Theology (M.Th.) from Tamilnadu
Theological Seminary specializing in the subject of Old Testament. She is one of the former
National Executive Members (2009-11) in Student Christian Movement of India (SCMI) and
presently a senior friend of SCMI. She is also one of the five global winners of the essay
writing competition conducted by the Youth Department of the World Council of Churches in
2011. She works closely with the young people of the churches in India. She has a deep
concern towards the issues of women, LGBT communities and ecological concerns which are
often reflected through her writings. Her Master of Theology dissertation on “Diversity in
Human Sexuality as God’s Creativity: A Queer Perspectival Study on the Creation Narratives in
Genesis” addresses the need of looking at this issue through the eyes of the Bible, specifically
from the Old Testament which is often claimed to be forbidding homosexuality.

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Annexure II

Online at:

Christians want Church to be in
solidarity with people on margins
12 March 2014: A consultation on “Christian response to AIDS, homophobia and
violence against women” has said that the mission of the church is not to protect or
defend her heritage, liturgy, confessional doctrines, ecclesiastical office or even the
“Rather, we are called to enable the process of making these means of grace and the
rich resources of our faith to incarnate in the street by exposing them to the
challenges in the street...” the 8-9 March consultation held in Chennai stated.
The consultation, organized by Concern for AIDS Research and Education Foundation
and Center for the Church and Global AIDS was attended by some 50 church leaders,
theologians and activists from India, Singapore and the USA.
Representatives from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) communities
and sex workers also participated at the consultation, and shared problems and
challenges they faced in their daily life.
The purpose of the consultation was to engage the Christians in conversations
regarding Christian faith and attitude to HIV/AIDS and violence against women, with a
particular focus on the recent Supreme Court judgment to recriminalize the LGBT
community in the country.
Speaking at the consultation, Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao, ecumenical leader and former
bishop of the Methodist Church in Singapore said that a concerted struggle can
achieve the goal of repealing article 377 in the Penal Code dealing with homosexuality
in India. Singapore also has the same article 377 in the Penal Code. He called for
affirming LGBT communities, and seeking equal rights for all regardless of race,
religion and sexual orientation.

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Dr Aruna Gnanadasan, a feminist theologian and activist, in her presentation on
Patriarchy felt that religions have played an important role in giving foundational
strength to this system of graded subjugation.
Dr Donald E Messer, executive director of the Center for the Church and Global AIDS
told the participants that the intolerance and difference of people of faith has fuelled
the global HIV and AIDS pandemic. He felt that ending AIDS in our lifetime is not a
utopian dream, but a practical possibility if Christian theological beliefs of love,
compassion, human integrity and inclusion are taken seriously.
Dr George Zachariah, who teaches Theology and Ethics at the United Theological
College in Bangalore, said that Church happens as fellowship, solidarity, love, care,
compassion, justice, and restoration in the lives of people who go through the tragic
experience of utter God-forsakenness.
“Church is not a monument that is built on the foundations of traditions and doctrines
but it is an empowering and transforming experience that happens in the lives of the
communities on the margin,” he noted.
According to him, Church requires the prophetic commitment to become illegitimate
to the dominant norms and morality. Only then can the church in India become a
Samaritan Church in the context of homophobia, stigma and violence.
The consultation felt that more discussions need to be held in the churches on
homophobia and positive masculinity.
Sex education in theological colleges and collecting data on LGBT community were
recommended by the participants at the consultation.
Rev Winnie Varghese, Rector of the St Mark’s Church in New York, Rev Asir Ebenezer
from the National Council of Churches in India and Dr Joshua Kalapati from the Madras
Christian College were among those who spoke at the consultation.
12 March 2014

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Annexure 3
Programme agenda
8th March 2014
9:00am 9:30am

Opening inaugural ceremony

9:30am –

Master of ceremonies

Vinod Wesley
Prayer and worship

Team from Gurukul Theological College and Research Instituion, Chennai
(Tommy Varghese, Jegan, Spurgeon, Henry, Priyamma, Sandegaard, Macrinth
Thomas, Gnana Prakash)
Welcome and objectives

NM Samuel
Lighting of Kuthuvilakku

Donald E Messer, Kim Yap Hao, Winnie Varghese, Gabriel and Kokila
Inaugural address

Donal E Messer, Executive Director, Center for Church and Global AIDS

Asir Ebenezer, National Christian Council of Churches of India
Joshua Kalapati, Madras Christian College, Tambaram
Kim Yap Hoa, Singapore
Aruna Gnanadason, Formerly of WCC, Geneva


SESSION 1: Theological and ministerial purpose of our faith and its importance in dealing
with the issues related to HIV/AIDS, violence against women and homosexuality
11:00am Co-moderators:
– 1:00pm
 George
 Human rights: Lorenza Andrade Smith, USA
 HIV/AIDS: Donald Messer, USA
 Violence against women: Aruna Gnanadason,
 Kim Yap Hoa,
 Homophobia, Winnie Varghese, USA

1:15pm –


SESSION 2: Relationship between faith and sexuality

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2:00pm –

 Winnie
Varghese, USA
 Joshua
Kalapati, India

 Sexuality and justice: Christopher Raj Kumar,
NCCI, India
 Singapore scenario: Kim Yap Hao, Singapore
 Redeemed masculinity: Rochhuahthanga Jongte,
 ‘Are we not human beings’: Magdalene
Jeyarathnam, India

 Internaction
4:00pm –
SESSION 3: Challenges faced by individuals living with HIV, women who survived violence
and LGB community: personal reflections and experiences
4:30pm – Moderator:
Panel discussion
- Burt Golub, USA
Panelists: Gabriel, Tejah Singh, Kokila, Vikram, Selvam

9th March 2014
9:30am –
Biblical reflections:
Facilitator: Asir Ebenezer
10:30am Tea

SESSION 4: Right to understand patriarchy when addressing violence against women and
sexuality, IPC 377, decriminalization, and explore how Christian community can be agents
of change for reversal of punitive laws and promoting gender justice
11:00am Co-moderators:

 NM Samuel,
 Same sex – not a sin and not an illness: Winnie
Varghese, USA
 Lorenza
 Patriarchy – can India tackle the system? – Aruna
Gnanadason, Chennai, India
Smith, USA
 Chasm is growing between young and old in
India (concerning human rights, personal safety,
personal freedom and sexuality): Chrisida
Nithyakalyani, Chennai, India
 How can Christians in India respond to AIDS,
homophobia and violence against women? –
George Zachariah, Bangalore, India
Interaction and panel discussion on future strategies
- 1:00pm
Facilitator: George Zachariah, India
Closing ceremony
1:00pm – Co-moderators:
Message from the consultation: Asir
Ebenezer, India
 Don Messer, USA
Blessing and charge: NG Mathew, India
 Winnie Varghese, USA
1:30pm –

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