How I Ended Up At the Delhi Police Academy: A Reflection on LGBTQIA+ Sensitization

Katie Koppen, AIF Fellow (Photo courtesy of Katie Koppen)

Before leaving the United States, I never imagined visiting the New Delhi Police Academy as part of my AIF Banyan Impact Fellowship journey. However, my project and placement with the Naz Foundation (India) Trust eventually brought me there.

Even though homosexuality is no longer a criminal offense, the LGBTQIA+ community continues to experience mistreatment, discrimination, and violence.

In the short time that I’ve been at Naz, the need for institutionalized sensitization and training has been emphasized to me repeatedly. Though striking down Section 377 was a huge victory for LGBTQIA+ rights, it is not enough on its own. The problem will persist if there is no training, no knowledge of the community, and no understanding of current laws.

Naz conducts trainings aimed at sensitizing the greater Delhi community for a variety of industries. The New Delhi police are among those who receive LGBTQIA+ sensitivity training on a monthly basis.

This training is intended to educate and sensitize New Delhi Police officers about the nomenclature, gender, sex, sexual orientation, 377 ruling, laws, and other rights associated with the LGBTQIA+ community.

Delhi Police Academy. (All Picture credits: The Naz Foundation [India] Trust)
Since its start in 1994, Naz has been at the forefront of activism in India for LGBTQIA+ rights. Naz filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in 2001 to request the decriminalization of homosexuality under the colonial penal code 377. After a 17-year battle, consenting sex between same-sex partners became legal on September 6, 2018.

On this particular day, I was present at the training to take photographs and observe as two other members of Naz’s LGBTQIA+ team sensitized the police.

Upon entering the building, we were greeted by members of the academy’s staff. We were then brought into a room containing seventeen Delhi police officers. I took a seat in the back of the room and prepared to observe, absorb, make notes, and take photographs.

As my colleagues prepared to present, I began to survey the room. I observed that the majority of officers were men, while there were only three women in total. The ratio of men to women in the Delhi police force is about 6 to 1, so this was not a surprise.

Delhi Police participating in sensitization training.

As the session got started, the room became quieter, and I noticed that the participants’ level of enthusiasm was generally low. The LGBTQIA+ sensitization session concluded a ten-hour day of training for the police.

There was a large screen at the front of the room on which the training presentation was displayed. I observed officers taking notes while others listened quietly. There was initial hesitation, but eventually the officers opened up to respond to the facilitators’ questions. Police gradually felt at ease participating and started to interact more as time went on. The Naz staff presented the material in a manner that assessed the participants’ knowledge and prompted discussion. Overall, the session was a success, and the facilitators were pleased with the conclusion of this training.

During the session, one thing stood out to me in particular. A question that arose repeatedly caught my attention.

“What is the difference between being gay and being trans?”

This question was asked and answered not once, not twice, but three times throughout the session.

During the training, many questions were posed, but this one stuck with me because it was asked so frequently. At first, I didn’t understand why it was asked more than once during a session. I wondered if the response wasn’t clear or if one of the officers didn’t realize that this question had already been answered. Then, rather than questioning why the group was asking this question, I began to consider why I was surprised by it. The information required to answer this question was available to me early on. This was a time when I had to reflect on my education, past experiences, and background because the information I had taken for granted was not readily accessible to the officers serving the Delhi community. For many, the information about the LGBTQIA+ community, such as what LGBTQIA+ stands for, was new. It takes time, questioning, and great effort in order to fully grasp new concepts and information. The significance of sensitization was reinforced in my mind at this time.

Naz staff conducting sensitization training.

The establishment of a supportive environment for police to ask clarifying questions about LGBTQIA+ issues and to be surrounded by professionals with extensive knowledge of the community is crucial. Observing the training highlighted the significance of initiatives like Naz’s police sensitization sessions. To support a community, it is necessary to continue to learn, unlearn, and reflect; none of these, however, can be accomplished without adequate access to education and resources. Currently, small-scale sensitization occurs through organizations such as Naz. It is essential that sensitization be institutionalized and expanded across the nation. Without access to education on LGBTQIA+ topics, the community will continue to struggle with issues of understanding, acceptance, and equality.

Looking forward, I hope to continue expanding my knowledge of LGBTQIA+ sensitization and gaining a deeper understanding of the education and knowledge gaps surrounding LGBTQIA+ issues. This experience has served as a stepping stone for my fellowship journey, and it will influence me as I continue to work on initiatives pertaining to LGBTQIA+ programming.

About the Author:
Katie is serving as an American India Foundation (AIF) Banyan Impact Fellow (BIF) in New Delhi with the Naz Foundation. During her time as a fellow, Katie will be engaging in Naz’s verticals of partnership building, research & advocacy, and direct services & programs in order to create a range of communication materials that share the goals, progress, and achievements of the NAZ Foundation. Katie believes it is important to support the foundation’s vision “To create a just and equitable society by transforming individuals from socially and economically excluded communities into agents of change.” Growing up, Katie had an interest in maternal health which blossomed into a fascination of the intersection between women’s livelihood, public health, and maternal health. Born and Raised in Wisconsin, Katie continued her education at the University of Wisconsin and graduated in May of 2022 with a B.S in International Studies, politics and policy in the global economy with certificates in South Asian Studies and Global health. During her undergraduate studies, she had the opportunity to study in India through the Global Gateway scholarship and fellowship program and learned about modern politics and religion in South Asia. This experience sparked a deeper interest in South Asian history and culture with which she was eager to explore through the lens of public health. She continued to focus on South Asian studies by researching the garment industry in India, specifically health outcomes for women who are engaged in this industry as well as historical events which influence the modern garment industry. In 2020, Katie received a Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship which allowed her to continue her education in Hindi and South Asian studies. For her global health field experience during her senior year, Katie engaged in a two week long program that focused on community based health in Sri Lanka with the Non-profit Sarvodaya. During her undergraduate, Katie also pursued a student research position at the infant, early childhood, and family mental health research lab, a community engagement internship through the Morgridge Center of Public Service, and a student director position at the University’s union. In her free time, Katie likes to make pottery, play and hike with her cat, and cook new recipes. Katie is grateful for the opportunity to work with AIF and the Naz Foundation and is eager to develop her knowledge on public health initiatives in India while gaining insight into ways she can further contribute to the fields of U.S. and India relations, global health, and women’s health.



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