Anjali Gopalan: An Advocate of Section 377
Anjali’s passion and devotion in her field has earned her several, and has even put her into the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME Magazine. She is among the leading experts on the fight against HIV and AIDS, and is even currently working with several organizations in the United States to combat the said diseases among the American population. She also supports and collaborates with NGOs around the world to give advice and assist them in their goals to help those who are affected by HIV and AIDS.
Anjali was among the pioneers in accepting people of the third sex into the community. It was not easy, and Anjali faced a lot of opposition due to the religious background of the Hindi people. At some point in her career, she even faced several death threats in an attempt to stop her from her work, but amidst the fear and uncertainty pushed forward, believing that all are created equal and should be treated equally as well.
Her courage and persistence enabled her to gather numerous supporters who then actively promoted the rights of the lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people, which resulted in the creation of Section 377.
Anjali Gopalan’s Biography Before NAZ
Anjali Gopalan was born in the city of Chennai in 1957, the daughter of an Indian Air Force officer and a homemaker. Anjali grew up in a place where Hinduism was strongly practiced. Because of this, she was exposed to an environment where women and children were not being treated quite well, and people from the third gender were often looked down upon.
Fortunately for Anjali, although her parents did practice their religion, they did not strictly follow the rules that seemed to take advantage of and abuse women and children. Instead, through the relationship with her father, who showed his love to both his wife and Anjali, she learned compassion and love at an early stage in her life, something that would impact her as she grew up.
Because of her father’s work, she had to move from place to place and study in different schools during her elementary years. It was not until during her secondary high school studies that she was able to stay in one school, the Higher Secondary School in La Martiniere, Lucknow, in Uttar Pradesh. She was among the top students of the school and graduated with high remarks.
Anjali applied for Lady Shri Ram College at Delhi University to study political science. In an interview made with her many years later, Anjali recalled how her time in the university exposed her to the injustices done to the homosexuals and bisexuals simply because it was forbidden in their religion. She did care about these matters, but her desire to help the community of the third gender would not come out until she went to the United States years later.
After graduating and receiving her bachelor’s degree, Anjali proceeded to pursue her education further by attending the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, where she took a course on journalism. Her classmates and professors described Anjali as someone who is really dedicated in her line of study. She was not only by nature bright and intelligent, but she was also very hard working and studious. She graduated from Delhi University with excellent marks and earned her postgraduate degree.
Anjali left India for the United States, where she stayed in New York to study International Development. After she finished her studies and earned her master’s degree, Anjali continued to stay in the United States to work with several organizations and providing services for issues pertaining to the marginalization of HIV and AIDS.
Anjali Becomes an Advocate of LGBT Rights
This developed her knowledge and skill pertaining to the prevention and treatment of the said diseases. Through her work, she also got acquainted with undocumented migrant labor, the welfare of school children, and the treatment of South Asian communities.
Anjali’s time in the United States helped her gather much information and skills that would later on make her very efficient in her work. She not only learned the methods of helping those who were affected by HIV and AIDS, but also understood the principles of effectively running an organization. Anjali not only acquired the information she needed, but through her experiences in working with people from different walks of life, also became more compassionate and caring to those who were normally shunned by society, especially the people in the third gender.
Backed by knowledge and skills, Anjali decided to return to India in 1994 and established the very first HIV clinic in Delhi. Through the clinic, Anjali was able to reach out to the HIV and AIDS affected communities, giving them care and a place where they would not feel rejected by society.
Within just a few months, the clinic became so popular that it could no longer accommodate the number of patients coming in. This prompted Anjali to realize that more than building a clinic she needs an organization that would have a greater reach to those who were affected by HIV and AIDS in the community.
Founding the NAZ Foundation Trust in India
After doing a feasibility study, Anjali finally founded the NAZ Foundation Trust in 1995. The foundation’s main aim was to focus on the prevention of HIV and AIDS, and the care of those who were affected by the said diseases. Through the foundation, Anjali was able to reach out to more people, and in just a short time the NAZ Foundation Trust became a very successful charitable organization.
It drew the attention of many supporters, both in the governmental and non-governmental agencies; some of them even pledged serving the organization in their entire lifetime. Anjali personally trained many of the people who came to join the foundation in caring for the HIV and AIDS affected patients, and acquired the facilities they needed to meet the growing demand in caring for the patients.
In 2000, Anjali, through the NAZ Foundation Trust, opened the very first holistic home care services for orphaned children and women who were HIV positive. She also designed a systematic method of providing multi-faceted care to children who were infected with HIV, both in homes and foster care.
After five years of growth and support, Anjali recognized that the current facilities run by the foundation had to expand in order to have a greater reach in the communities. This has become her main concern up to today, and has always worked to ensure quality care of people who are suffering from HIV. From that time on, Anjali has established numerous care homes for HIV and AIDS infected women and children.
Anjali’s work in preventing HIV and AIDS and caring for the patients inevitably brought to her attention the social injustices that the women, children, and those in the third gender were experiencing. Issues such as discrimination and stigmatization of the marginalized soon became the focus of Anjali’s work, helping raise awareness about the social injustices rampant in the community. Initially, Anjali faced much opposition due to the religious orientation of the people in India, but through her persistent efforts, the movement soon began to gain followers.
Acknowledged by TIME and Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize
In 2001, Anjali received the Commonwealth Award as a means of recognizing her efforts in working with the marginalized communities. Two years later, in 2003, she was presented with the Sadguru Gnanananda Award by the Manava Seva Dharma Samvardhani group in Chennai. The award was given to Anjali to acknowledge her work in taking care and supporting the people who were suffering with HIV and AIDS.
Her work has become so widely-known not just in India but around the world that in 2005, she was nominated (and even shortlisted) for the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 2007, the Ministry of Women and Child Development honored Anjali along with nine other women as a Woman Achiever, in recognition of her efforts in taking care of the HIV/AIDS infected women and children, as well as for promoting the rights of the women in her country. Sri Somnath Chatterjee, the Speaker of the Lok Sahba, felicitated Anjali in the presence of Smt. Renuka Chaudhry, the Minister of State for Women and Child Development.
In 2012, Anjali was included in TIME Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World due to her work in promoting the rights of women, children, and people of the third gender. That same year, she inaugurated the Alan Turing Rainbow festival. Organized by Gopi Shankar, an advocate of Srishti Madurai, the Alan Turing Rainbow festival was the first Gay pride parade that was attended by Anjali.
Throughout her years of work with the NAZ Foundation Trust, Anjali has come against numerous religious ideals that caused certain groups in India to oppose her. In fact, during the early days of the NAZ Foundation, some groups threatened to forcibly close the organization if Anjali did not stop her work in promoting the awareness of HIV/AIDS and the social injustices in the society.
Anjali Remains in Contact with HIV and AIDS Victims
Through her persistence and relentless advocacy, the NAZ Foundation became a powerful voice for the oppressed and suffering, and has influenced the government to acknowledge the realities that these people are facing every day.
Through Anjali’s undying effort in promoting the awareness of the dangers that HIV and AIDS pose to the society, the government has enacted several policies which helped people living with these diseases to have access to care and treatment. The Indian government has also actively participated in ensuring the prevention of HIV and AIDS by establishing programs that would make people in various communities aware of the dangers posed by these diseases.
In more recent years, Anjali has devoted her life’s work in promoting equality and inclusiveness for the people of the third sex. She remains to be a powerful voice in defending the people of the third sex from discrimination and social injustice, and continues to further grow in her organization’s reach, caring for those who are affected by HIV and AIDS.
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- The Naz Foundation
- The Pet Animal Welfare Society
Awards and Achievements
- 2001: Received the Commonwealth Award
- 2003: Received the Sadguru Gnanananda Award for her work with those living with AIDS/HIV
- 2005: Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize
- 2007: Honored as a Woman Achiever by the Ministry of Women and Child Development
- 2012: Included in the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME Magazine