The Gender Beat: Delhi Commission for Women May Shut Rape Crisis Cell; Tanzania Suspends HIV Programmes for Gay Men

A round-up of what’s happening in the worlds of gender and sexuality

Thousands come together for Taiwan’s gay pride parade  

Asia’s biggest gay pride parade saw thousands of people come to the streets of Taipei carrying placards that called on Taiwan’s new government to legalise same sex marriage.

According to a report in The Guardian, several people were dressed in costumes and many held rainbow flags. Supporters of the movement even waved placards with slogans reading ‘How long will tongzhi have to wait?’ – referring to the Chinese term for someone who is gay.

Taiwan is more liberal than much of Asia on LGBT rights but moves toward marriage equality have stalled due to resistance from the Kuomintang party, BBC reports. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party – which controls Taiwan’s parliament and took power five months ago – on the other hand is widely considered sympathetic to the LGBT community and thus many are hopeful that same-sex marriage would become legal under its reign.

The rainbow flag, which represents the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, was visible across Taipei on Saturday. Credit: Reuters

The rainbow flag, which represents the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, was visible across Taipei on Saturday. Credit: Reuters

President Tsai Ing-wen, according to The Guardian, has openly supported marriage equality and would respect any decision reached by the parliament. “Even though my role has changed, my values remain unchanged,” she wrote on her official Facebook page on Saturday.

If it does go into force, Taiwan would become the first country in Asia to legalise same sex marriage.

Delhi Commission for Women could be forced into shutting rape crisis cell

The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) last week said that the body could likely be forced into shutting its mobile helplines and its the rape crisis cell since the member secretary to DCW, who was appointed by the lieutenant governor, had allegedly stopped giving salaries to the staff, PTI reports.

According to a statement released by DCW, “Despite the work undertaken by the commission in the past one year, certain vested interests have launched an attack on the autonomy of the panel. The latest has been the illegal appointment of a member secretary by the Centre.”

The statement further revealed that Alka Diwan had not released the salaries of the employees for the past two months and the “non-payment of salaries would result in stopping the programmes of the commission – 181 women helpline, rape crisis cell and mobile helpline among others.”

The commission officials further alleged that Diwan’s appointment to the post was illegal.

Maharashtra focuses on skill development to gain women empowerment

Multi-pronged skill development programmes across 36 districts of Maharashtra are being planned by the state’s government to further the cause of women empowerment.

According to a report in the Indian Express, the BJP-led central government has set aside an amount of Rs 32,000 crore for skill development across the country and has assured a sizeable portion of the budget to Maharashtra for the project.

The projects, which comes under the ‘Skill Sakhi’ model, will help urban, semi-urban and rural women who are seeking new avenues of work in their villages, towns and cities, writes Shubhangi Khapre.

In a departure from the past where women welfare projects were confined to a single ministry, Maharashtra government has integrated the project with the ministry of education and ministry of skill development as well.

HIV programmes for gay men suspended in Tanzania

Tanzania’s minister for health on Monday announced that the country had suspended community-based HIV/AIDS prevention programmes for gay men.

According to a Reuters report, Ummy Mwalimu said that the government had received reports of same-sex relationships being promoted and normalised same-sex as part of their HIV programmes.


The government would however continue providing HIV/AIDS services to adolescent girls, drug users and other groups. Credit: Twitter

According to government statistics, there are 1.4 million people living with HIV in Tanzania where same-sex sexual acts are illegal and are punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

“We have suspended MSM (men who have sex with men) community-based interventions pending [a] review,” Mwalimu told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The minister, however, added that the government would continue providing HIV/AIDS services to adolescent girls, drug users and other groups.

John Kashika, who is a part of the Community Health Education Services and Advocacy NGO, said that this move by the government was a blow in the fight against the virus.

“This is essentially denial of services to people who are at the highest risk of contracting HIV, there’s going to be a lot of implications.”

 Gender bias in health research likely

A study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in October found a high success rate for an injectable contraceptive for men, but according to Global News, the study was cut short after participants in the clinical trial reported side effects such as depression and mood swings.

Since the 1960s, varied forms of birth control have been available for women, and an injectable form such as Depro Provera and some birth control pills have been linked with depression.

These methods, however, continue to be on the market, writes Nicole Mortillaro, hence begging the question whether there exists a bias against women in the way medical community handles research.

According to Cristabelle Sethna, an associate professor at the University of Ottawa’s Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies, “I think there’s inequality throughout medicine [and] gender inequality throughout health.”

Sethna further told Global News, “I don’t think it’s specifically about birth control, I think it’s about medicine in general.”

The US National Institutes of Health implemented guidelines for the study and evaluation of gender differences in clinical trials in 1994, however, the gender bias remained unaffected.

2014 study, for example, revealed a gender bias in research, particularly in the case of cardiovascular disease. According to Global News, even though women are 70% more likely to be affected by depression, a study found that “fewer than 45% of animal studies on anxiety and depression use female lab animals.”

Women metabolise drugs differently than men, which requires the need for equal amounts of research on both men and women, writes Mortillaro. Hence, while drug trials may be successful in treating a particular health issue in men, it may not be the case for women.

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