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HomeNews ReportsMultiple resignations rock Mumbai-based LGBT Feminist group LABIA after sex assault allegations against mental...

Multiple resignations rock Mumbai-based LGBT Feminist group LABIA after sex assault allegations against mental health therapist

According to the allegation, in November 2019, queer feminist Aanchal Narang physically forced herself upon another member of LABIA, which according to the victim was sexual in nature.

On April 2, a now-deleted thread from a Twitter user named Chitra accused Aanchal Narang, a fellow member of the LGBT group LABIA (founded in 1995 as Stree Sangam), of sexual assault on behalf of another member of this collective. Chitra, whose Twitter account @That_Tall_Dyke has now been deactivated, made the accusations public through posting images containing a detailed account of the allegation and the apparent failure of LABIA in regard to dealing with this credible and serious allegation.

According to the allegation, in November 2019, queer feminist Aanchal Narang physically forced herself upon another member of LABIA, which according to the victim was sexual in nature. Chitra affirms multiple times in the detailed allegation that she has the “survivor’s explicit consent” to share the allegation. Chitra also reveals that she became privy to details of the alleged sexual assault through an email from the victim dated June 13, 2020.

In her tweet exposing this allegation to the wider public, Chitra also accused some high-level, senior members of LABIA of attempting to cover up the allegation in order to protect Aanchal. Chitra accused senior LABIA members of acting as “Enablers” of Aanchal’s behavior and making excuses for her, despite all of them claiming to be queer feminists, including Aanchal. Chitra names two of these senior members in her tweet, Chayanika Shah and Shals Mahajan.

Ever since the allegation became public, three senior members of LABIA have resigned. Two of them are Chayanika Shah and Shals Mahajan, both long-time members of LABIA. Both of them expressed a sentiment of telling their own version of the events someday in the future. Another person, Mridul Dudeja, a transgender man, who was part of the internal LABIA committee working on the sexual assault complaint against Aanchal, also resigned from LABIA. All three of them resigned from LABIA on the same day of April 4, 2021.

Chayanika’s resignation
Mridul’s resignation
Shals Mahajan’s resignation

The allegation says that after some members of the LABIA collective received an email from the victim detailing her sexual abuse at the hands of Aanchal Narang on June 13 of 2020, the victim’s consent was obtained to forward the allegation to the entire collective group on July 21, 2020. Following all of this, an internal LABIA committee was constituted to look into the victim’s complaint.

According to the report of this committee, not only the victim’s story was validated, but it also revealed that both Chayanika Shah and Shals Mahajan knew of the sexual assault incident merely weeks after it occurred. Another unnamed member of LABIA knew about the incident the day after it happened. Another senior member was aware of the incident a few months after it happened. According to Chitra, all such people were “Enablers” of Aanchal who didn’t do anything to reach out to the victim and ensure justice.

According to the allegation, the “Enablers” which include Chayanika Shah and Shals Mahajan “actively tried to silence anyone speaking out against Aanchal’s or their actions, or anyone trying to warn any other young queer vulnerable people about Aanchal.”

In order to justify this allegation, Chitra provided an example of an email dated October 19, 2020, sent by Chayanika and Shals. In this email, the “Enablers” were “disturbed to hear” that one of their members i.e. a fellow member of LABIA “contacted persons in Aanchal’s professional sphere and told them that by inviting Aanchal they are supporting a sexual abuser.”

Aanchal Narang is a self-described “Queer Puppy” and is also a trained mental health therapist specializing in gender, trauma, and sexuality. The allegation against Aanchal accuses her of “pinning the survivor and using force against them” i.e. pinning down the victim and forcing herself upon her sexually. Aanchal responded to the allegations on Twitter, affirming the validity of the allegation and confirming that she “violated her physical boundaries”.

On Twitter, Aanchal Narang gave her own timeline of the events, admitting to forcing herself upon a woman on November 3, 2019, matching up with the timeline of the allegation. According to Aanchal, she had a “few drinks” and “needed comfort”, which made her sexually force herself on another person. In her statement, Aanchal admits that there is “no justification for my actions” and that her actions have “violated the complainant”.

However, Aanchal claims that she has faced the consequences of her actions in her professional life, with multiple organizations black-listing her due to this allegation. Aanchal also claims that people are spreading false allegations about her, saying that she has three POCSO cases against her, which Aanchal says is “baseless”.

Aanchal also says that she has “taken steps to remedy” her behavior by being “more conscious” of her gestures, verbal and non-verbal cues etc. She also claims that all of her colleagues, close friends, and family are aware of this incident. She also rubbished any allegations of “grooming” i.e. contacting the victim in order to manipulate them, which Aanchal claims she has never done. Aanchal also mentions that her friends and therapy clients feel safe around her.

Queer Feminist Aanchal Narang ended her statement responding to sexual assault allegations against her by apologizing to the victim and expressing regret for her actions. She also apologized to all the people she “triggered” by the virtue of them hearing/reading/talking about this sexual assault incident.

After going through the allegation and Aanchal’s response, it becomes clear that on November 3, 2019, Aanchal Narang sexually assaulted a fellow member of the LGBT collective group LABIA, by pinning her down and forcing herself upon her. Senior members of LABIA like Chayanika Shah and Shals Mahajan became aware of this just a few weeks after the incident.

However, it took almost a year for an internal LABIA committee to form in order to investigate the allegation against Aanchal Narang. This attributed by Chitra in the allegation to delays by the “Enablers” of Aanchal which include Chayanika Shah and Shals Mahajan. Now the future of LABIA itself is in question, with both of the senior members resigning along with Mridul Dudeja who was part of the committee looking into the sexual assault allegation.

But, according to Chitra, the majority of the members of LABIA support the victim and wants justice for her. In the face of these allegations and resignations, the future of this more than quarter century old LGBT collective based in Mumbai is seriously threatened.

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