'Corrective rape' used in India to 'cure' homosexuality

June 02, 2015

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The rape is used as a 'disciplining project' in order to 'cure' and 'correct' homosexuality.  — Illustration by Abro
The rape is used as a 'disciplining project' in order to 'cure' and 'correct' homosexuality. — Illustration by Abro

According to findings by the crisis intervention team of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Collective in India's Telangana state, there have been 15 instances of 'corrective rapes' reported in the past five years.

A report published on The Times of India said that in majority of the cases, corrective rape is perpetrated by family members due to which the victims refrain from seeking legal help.

"We are sure there are many more cases, but they go unreported," says Vyjayanti Mogli, a member of the crisis intervention team. "We came across such cases not because they reported the rape, but because they sought help to flee their homes."

"Victims find it traumatising to speak of their brothers/cousins turning rapists and prefer to delete the incident from their memories and cut off ties with their families. Which is why such cases almost never get reported," says Vyjayanti.

Shockingly, victims' parents are in the know of these incidents as the rapist is usually a relative they chose.

The rape is used as a 'disciplining project' in order to 'cure' and 'correct' homosexuality.

"It's usually a cousin who's roped in for this 'project'," Vyjayanti explains. "In some communities in South India, marriages amongst cousins are common. Many times, a girl's parents may decide that she would be married off to a cousin (i.e. her father's sister's son or mother's brother's son) soon after her birth. Now, if this girl happens to be queer and if it is found out that she is in a relationship with another girl, elders in the family believe having sex with the 'would-be', even if it's forcibly, will cure her."

What is corrective rape?

Using rape as means to 'correct' the sexual orientation of people belonging to the LGBT community in order to get them to toe societal norms is corrective rape. This term was coined in South Africa where such practices are rampant, often facilitated by family members of the victims.

Hyderabadi filmmaker's work on corrective rape

'Satyavati', a film by Hyderabadi filmmaker Deepthi Tadanki revolves around the subject of corrective rape. The film portays "shocking real life instances" that occured in Bangalore.

Deepthi explained the difficulty in finding statistics on this taboo. "I wrote to NGOs who work with victims of such hate crimes seeking help with statistics. but to my surprise, not one organisation got back," says Deepthi.

"Many rapes go unreported in India, and it will take years before something like corrective rape even gets talked about. That's why I wanted to tell this story. I knew it is a sensitive subject, something that has never been dealt with before. I didn't even have any statistics, but I had the conviction," she adds.

The film portrays a lesbian couple and their straight friend. "When the family members of the 'straight' girl visit her, they doubt that she is in an 'unnatural' relationship with one of the lesbian girls. And so, they plot a 'corrective rape' on their daughter as well as the gay girl," reveals the 27-year-old Guntur native, who has resorted to crowd-sourcing to raise funds for the film.

"Forty per cent of the film is now complete, but I am facing a financial crunch. I have been trying to crowd-source money to complete the rest of the film," Deepthi says. "While a lot of people said 'kudos' and 'hats off', very few are willing to make monetary contribution. But I won't give up because a discussion on corrective rape needs to be initiated."