‘Gender and Sexuality: Stigma, Discrimination and Exclusions’ by TISS and NHRC

‘Gender and Sexuality: Stigma, Discrimination and Exclusions’ by TISS and NHRC

The Advanced Centre for Women’s Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai (TISS) in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) organised a one-day conference on ‘Gender and Sexuality: Stigma, Discrimination and Exclusions’  at TISS Mumbai on 11 March 2023.


Nidhi sitting with fellow panelists on the stage with a long table in front and mics. On their right is a person speaking into a mic.


The conference was attended by feminist activists, academicians, policy, legal experts and students. The keynote address was delivered by Chayanika Shah, feminist activist and researcher. Other esteemed panellists included our very own Nidhi Goyal, Shampa Sengupta, Deepa Pawar, Dr. Sheetal Kamble, Sai Bouruthu, Dr. Madhu Mehra, Dr. A K Jayasree, Dr. Bindhulakshmi, Dr. Asha Achuthan, Dr. Sangita Thosar and others.


Our Founder and Executive Director Nidhi Goyal spoke on the panel “Stereotyping faced by persons marginalised on grounds of gender, sexuality, living with disabilities, including those living with mental health challenges” along with Shampa Sengupta, feminist activist. Nidhi Goyal spoke about the importance of disability justice and rights, beginning from the underrepresentation of disabled folks in public records as many women exist with invisible disabilities, and are also made invisible in public records despite having visible disabilities. She talked about hierarchies that exist within disability as well as the importance of proper interaction with persons with disabilities and not asking inappropriate questions that are invasive or hurtful.


She highlighted the intersectional nature of our lives, and brought in the importance of thinking about gender and other intersections as well, when advocating for disability rights. She spoke about the vital need to talk about bodily autonomy and sexuality, along with consent and the concept of care in the lives of disabled people — especially as the topic of sexuality and its attendant concerns, such as menstrual management, masturbation, and ownership of reproductive health — are often shrugged under the rug when it comes to persons with disabilities. She stressed the need for us to keep in mind those further marginalised in these spaces such as children and youth with disabilities and those living with disabilities which are stigmatised such as developmental, intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. She asserted the need for broader conversations on support women with disabilities may need while accessing these services. Another important discussion point was talking about access to abortion services, and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act in this context with the extension of the gestation limit for access to abortion and the reasoning that could be used to avail abortion in India.


Finally, Nidhi touched on the topic of harassment and abuse faced by disabled women, and the ways in which this violence is de-gendered for women with disabilities, putting disability at the forefront instead. The violence faced by them is considered natural and inevitable due to their disability, instead of recognising it as gender-based violence. 


The one-day conference also had two other panels with experts who addressed ‘discrimination-stigma against and exclusion of queer women and trans*persons’ and “Discrimination and stigma faced by Dalit Bahujan Adivasi and rural women and children in education and healthcare settings”.


The day-long conference closed with a way forward from Dr. Sujatha Devarapalli, ACWS.