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Chennai Pride’s guide to handle online harassment for the LGBTQIA+

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Photo credit: QGraphy

It is Pride month. The city of Chennai in its list of many events during this Pride also included an event on ‘Online Security, Harassment and Blackmail’ on June 11, 2017. The event was organised by Orinam collective and Nirangal, a non-governmental organisation. Vinay Chandran, Executive Director of Swabhava Trust and a counselor with over two decades of experience working with the LGBTQIA+ community led the discussion.

The focus of this session was the harassment and blackmailing faced by the people from the LGBTQIA+ community. This also sometimes includes stalking by lovers or ex-lovers. Several cases of harassment, breach of privacy and blackmail were discussed during the course of the event. There seems to be a certain pattern in these cases. Some of the regular kinds of harassment faced by the community members ( LGBTIQA+) include:

These are just some common instances that came up during the event. Chandran addressed these issues and others highlighted by the people present at the event.

Things to remember for LGBTIQA+

One of the key takeaways from the event was the need for you (victim) to have confidence in yourself. While it may seem scary when a perpetrator threatens to out you and tell the world about your sexuality and sexual orientation using a compromising video or an image, it is important for you to be confident. How can I be confident in such a situation?  You may ask. Here are some legal aids that were discussed that could help you have confidence. However, it is worth noting that these provisions were laid down in 1860.

Section 384: This provision talks about the punishment for extortion. This shall be imprisonment up to 3 years or fine or both.

Section 388: This provision makes extortion a punishable offence but in addition, makes it punishable offence with life imprisonment if done using Section 377 as a threat.

“Whoever commits extortion by putting any person in fear of an accusation against that person or any other, of having committed or attempted to commit any offence punished with death, or with *[imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to ten years or of having attempted to induce any other person to commit such offence, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine; and, if the offence be one punished under section 377 of this Code, may be punished with [imprisonment for life].”

Section 292 A: This provision in the Indian Penal Code deals with punishment for people who print, sell, distribute etc of grossly indecent or matter intended for blackmail. The perpetrator may be punished with imprisonment up to 2 years or with fine or both.

Section 377:

Some important misconceptions about Section 377 were clarified during the event. It would be useful for people from the LGBTQIA community to know that:

Even with all these legal provisions, it is common for that fear to pop up. One that says, “Oh but that person has a compromising photograph/video of me.”

Here is a quick list of things you could do:

But the biggest fear for most in the community comes often from the social repercussion of being out-ed. “What if my family finds out?”

Vinay Chandran’s response to this concern was my biggest take away from the event. Having spent over two decades helping clients handle and overcome this fear, Chandran says that it is important to start engaging in simple conversations with your parents to begin with. Chandran asks you to start engaging with your parents using simple talks around boundary. Say for example, keeping your room door shut. Indian Parents aren’t too often comfortable with the idea of seeing their kids having their room doors shut. Can you engage with your parents for smaller issues like these before you get to sexuality? With time, your parents could become comfortable with discussing about sexuality and may be even your sexuality. There is always room for conversation unless your parents have already blatantly said no to discussions on homosexuality in the house. If that’s not the case, then start talking. Chandran agrees that it could take time, even years but the important thing is to engage.

All that said and done, the idea is not to keep yourself away from people because some bad experience in the past. It is important to get out, meet people and even go on dates, but with caution! Here are some quick online dating tips for the LGBTQIA+ community

  1. Tell a friend or someone close about the date and where you will be going. It is good to keep someone informed.
  2. Meet the person in a public space for the first time before you take them to your home or go to their home or to any other private space.
  3. Do not carry anything expensive or valuable with you. Carry just enough money for your date.
  4. Don’t let your date bring a friend along. It may not be a good idea. Meet them alone the first time in a public space.
  5. Be careful about how much you share with the person on your first date. You don’t want to let them know your debit/card PIN numbers or hand your wallet over to them.

Now off you go! Have some fun!

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