Harish Iyer is a well-known equal rights activist who works for a number of socio-cultural issues. He is widely appreciated for his contribution to campaigns that support the interests of the LGBT community, women, children, and survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA).

In a recent interview with Humans of Bombay, he recounted a dark phase from his past that changed his entire course of life.

He said:

“My uncle was giving me a bath when I was 7 years old, and that’s when it first happened. He forced me to give him a blow job and proceeded to have anal sex with me, multiple times. At that point, I didn’t know what was happening to me, whether it was ok, whether it was normal. I got so used to it, I would enter his house and lie down on the bed, just wanting it to get over as soon as possible. At 12, I began to get gang-raped by his friends, and I would bleed but keep quite…because what if I wasn’t considered ‘man enough’ to not bear pain?

“My childhood went by having two worlds where I would not remember the rape until something triggered it off and then I would cry endlessly.

“I would not enter a male washroom because I was scared that I would be raped again…I grew up having no self esteem.

Harmless Hugs was started as an online secret LGBT group and took shape of a young collective which is working for LGBT rights in India


It was when I was 17 or 18 that I began to understand that what had been happening to me for so many years was wrong – so one day when he came to jump on me, I kicked him and said no. For the first time in 11 years, I said no to being raped. When I told my mother, she was in shock – she asked me why I hadn’t told her. I told her I had given her signs, that I had tried but she never picked up on it. She said, ‘I never knew such things could happen with boys’ and that was the time I realised that boys and men are the forgotten gender.

“We get abused, but we have no right to voice it because we’re supposed to be the protectors. The victims of ‘masculinity’ are men themselves.

“I have been bullied for many years for my sexual orientation as well, but when I told my story the same classmates who laughed at me became my biggest strength and helped me to cope with my childhood. A part of me believed that I’m gay because of the abuse I went through and it devastated me, but I know now that that isn’t true.

“We tried to get some legal help but we realised that there’s no law against child sexual abuse for boys in the country. By the time I was 18, no laws applied to my case – so there was no justice.

“That’s when I decided that I would make the motto of my life to protect other children from sexual abuse.

“So I’ve been through 11 years of hell but I don’t think the world is a bad place. I thank my bullies, because they got me here – where I have the opportunity to touch other’s lives. I believe that hate only destroys the hater, not the hated – so I don’t think I hate my uncle. To me, he doesn’t exist. In fact If I could, I would send a therapist to help him. I’m not going to spend the rest of my life waiting for him to suffer – I can never get those 11 years back, but I do have a lifetime ahead of me to protect the rights of children, women or the LGBT community and that’s the path I’ve proudly chosen.”

Iyer didn’t let his troubled childhood empower him. Instead, he decided to use it as a foundation from which he helped everyone wronged branch out, find their rightful place in the world, and grasp their claim to justice.

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As long as injustice & inequality persist, none of us can truly rest. It doesn’t take much to change a life, Let us start making the difference.