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Girl ‘was brutally beaten and had chilli powder poured in her mouth for being a lesbian’

Josh Jackman January 8, 2018
LGBT+ activists at Delhi Pride, 2017. (Photo: SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

(Getty)

A 15-year-old in India has reportedly been beaten and abused in twisted ways because her attackers thought she was a lesbian.

The girl’s parents sent Reshma – not her real name – thousands of miles from home to join a convent school in the south-west state of Karnataka, where she stayed in a hostel.

After a rumour spread around the hostel that she was gay, Reshma was allegedly subjected to horrific attacks – which, she said, were fully supported by the hostel authorities.

Indian LGBT rights activists take part in the Bengaluru Gay Pride March 2017 in Bangalore on November 26, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Manjunath KIRAN (Photo credit should read MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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The girl said: “It was some time in the last week of December when my roommates picked up a fight with me,” according to Indian publication The News Minute.

“I did not understand why they were angry with me and had no clarity about what they were saying.

“By the time I could process that, they got together and thrashed me,” she recalled.

An Indian supporter of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community takes part in a pride parade in New Delhi on November 12, 2017. Hundreds of members of the LGBT community marched through the Indian capital for the 10th annual Delhi Queer Pride Parade. / AFP PHOTO / SAJJAD HUSSAIN        (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)
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“That’s when the warden intervened. I thought she would help me but like always, even she beat me up.”

Reshma said that the warden told her she was “treading a wrong path which was against God’s will” as she physically abused her.

She denied that she was a lesbian, but the attacks continued nevertheless.

The teenager has been repeatedly targeted, including one particularly vicious attack which she said involved the use of chilli powder.

Section 377
(Photo by SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

“This time also the same thing happened but it was worse than all the other times,” Reshma said.

The warden allegedly thrashed her and ordered the other girls to do so the same.

“Some of them held me down and the warden poured chilli powder in my mouth. It burned so much,” Reshma said.

An Indian supporter of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community wearing a pollution mask hold a placard as he takes part in a pride parade in New Delhi on November 12, 2017. Hundreds of members of the LGBT community marched through the Indian capital for the 10th annual Delhi Queer Pride Parade.   / AFP PHOTO / SAJJAD HUSSAIN        (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)
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The warden would not let the 15-year-old have a drink of water, she said.

She told her that she was torturing Reshma because she wanted the girl to “accept her mistake.”

Reshma said that if the warden and girls had discovered another girl who was actually a lesbian, “they would have probably killed her.”

LGBT Activists in Delhi (Getty)

Her friends saw Reshma after she had suffered this abuse and called her brother Ranjit (not his real name).

“When I came down from Manipur, the warden told me that my sister had tried to sexually assault another girl, which is why the other students had thrashed her,” he said.

“She kept telling me how my sister’s mistake was a ‘spiritual’ one. The warden told me that if my sister apologises, then everything would settle down.

Indian gay rights activists at Bangalore gay pride 2009.
(Getty)

“But my sister said that she did not want to say sorry because she was the one who had suffered.”

With her brother’s support, Reshma contacted Childline and filed a complaint against the hostel.

They also reported the incidents to the police.

Indian members and supporter of the LGBT community (BIJU BORO/AFP/Getty Images)
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District Child Protection Officer Kumara Swamy said that the warden “alleges that the girl made advances to other girls”.

“There is a suspicion that the warden may have intimidated other students as well,” he added.

Reshma is now staying with her brother, away from the hostel.

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“Even the mention of the warden’s name brings fear to her eyes,” Ranjit said.

“She has become very scared. There are bruises on her face, body and legs.

“I tried to give her a hug of reassurance,” he said, “but she cried out in pain. Even the process of standing up or sitting hurts her.

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“She is only a little girl. What did she do to deserve such treatment?” he added.

She is hurt both physically and mentally.”

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Homophobic and transphobic incidents are relatively common in India, where Section 377 still criminalises homosexuality.

The Supreme Court will revisit the law before October, it was announced this week.

More: alleged abuse, Asia, Asia, Education, Homophobia, homophobic, India, India, karnataka, lesbian, school

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