Youth and Sexuality

How often do we get to talk openly about sexuality? The Youth and Sexuality section forces you to think beyond the oblivion and think freely and talk openly about this “taboo”.

pride march

By Anju Anna John:

On the 26th of July, Kochi will see the largest gathering of Malayalee lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Members of the LGBT community living outside Kerala will also be coming down to Kochi on this occasion. This would be the 5th LGBT Pride March happening in Kerala. The march is being organized by the Queer Pride Keralam Group, which includes Queerala (a support group for the LGBT community, their friends and family) and Sahayathrika (a human rights organization for lesbian and bisexual women in Kerala) and others from the previous pride marches.

pride marchFor the last four pride marches, the venue was in Thrissur, the cultural capital of the state. When asked about the change in venue this year, Jijo Kuriakose (who is a part of the Queerala organization), responded by pointing out that the metro had a large youth support for the LGBT community.

Born into an orthodox Christian family, Jijo knew he was different from his fellow classmates even during his early teenage years. Although terms like gay and homosexual were alien to him, he knew he was attracted to men, the same way his friends were attracted to women. What ensued was many years’ worth of struggle to come to terms with his own identity. During this period, he turned to art as a creative outlet to express his individuality.

When Jijo came out of the closet, many of his friends from college and work stopped contacting him and deleted him from their ‘friend-list’ on social networking sites. It is not unusual for people in Kerala to equate homosexuals with cross-dressers and transsexuals. Jijo recounts that, “There are a few people who have referred to us as anti-social elements for not being part of procreation. Some others have gone to the extent of hating us for not engaging in ‘natural’ acts of sex”.

One of the things he laments about is the fact that the Malayam media generally uses local slangs to refer to homosexuals. It would really help the LGBT community, if the media were to take on initiatives to highlight the plight of the LGBT people. If nothing else, a more accurate depiction of homosexuality would help to clear some of the apprehensions about homosexuals in the minds of many viewers. Jijo goes on to cite Malayalam movies like English and Mumbai Police of recent times and yesteryear films like Rithu and Sancharam which portrayed homosexuals in a more precise manner.

It is heartening to know that there are various online support groups that help young queer individuals when they decide to come out about their sexuality. After the Supreme Court verdict regarding Article 377 last December, Jijo and his friends have been holding workshops and interacting with people in various campuses around Kerala. They have also organized support group meetings in which various professionals and human rights organisations have also participated.

In the run up to the pride march, the Queer Pride Keralam Group are conducting a string of promotional events to grab the attention of the public. The 1st promotional activity for this year’s pride march was the ‘Free Hugs campaign in support of LGBT,’ that took place on the 8th of June at Marine Drive. This was a campaign inspired from the Malayalam movie ‘Bangalore Days’ and was organized in association with the online group ‘Against Ignorance’. The campaign, in Jijo’s words, was aimed to spread the message that a hug costs nothing, and that love is beyond any gender and laws. The organizers aim to hold two more promotional activities before the 26th of July; a gay-themed movie screening and making graffiti art in Fort Kochi.

Through it all, Jijo remains hopeful that Keralites will stop judging the homosexual minority on the basis of their sexual behaviour and accept them as individuals first; highlighting that it is more of genetics at work than a ‘choice’. He is optimistic that the these activities will go a long way in curbing the incidents of bullying in colleges and work place, and that the LGBT community will gain state and legal acceptance and maybe, even the right to enter into civil partnerships one day. Let us hope that the diverse population of Kochi will move on to think progressively on the matter and accept the existence of the LGBT community in Kerala.

Post the pride event, Queerala aims to conduct year-long awareness programs and setting up a Queer resource centre (including a queer library) to bring political, societal and media attention for the cause.

akkai

Meet Akkai Padmashali, a male-to-female transgender who talks about a childhood of personal rejection, circumstances that forced her into sex work, and her transformation into a gender rights and human rights activist. This is a touching life story, one that inspires us to be inclusive. Akkai works at Sangama, an organisation that fights for the rights of the LGBT community and those in sex work.

UN gay rights

As a part of Free & Equal campaign, the United Nations presents the first-ever Bollywood music video for gay rights, featuring Bollywood star and former Miss India, Celina Jaitly. It’s a beautiful reminder that everyone should be warmly welcomed by family, no matter who they are or whom they love.

love

By Ojaswini Srivastava:

I have never come across a homosexual person, so I probably cannot understand how, what and why are they awkward to our homophobic country, or what their struggle is all about. But all that I know about them with whatever little understanding I have, I am sure it is not something that needs to be deemed illegal.

love

I was just scrolling down my Facebook page when I read many posts on this most recent law. Some people sympathized, some criticized while I kept trying to figure out what shall I write about it. I talked to my brother, because he is the most liberal minded person I know. I read some articles on homosexuality. And I thought a little. All I could conclude is what I write here.

India is one of those countries which has the richest culture in terms of people, diversity, language, ethnicity, beliefs and traditions. When we hear the term ‘Indian Culture’ a lot of things comes to our mind. It is a vast phenomenon. If we give some time thinking about it, we figure out that actually most of it has its roots in the ancient past. We have inherited them in every epoch over and over without questions and disagreements. But now we have fortunately reached a stage when the youth, with its educations and awareness is developing a different school of thought. This is preparing to challenge all those social customs, rather ‘social evils’ that have been carried along over ages. The demand for legalizing homosexuality is one of them.

According to the society, the foremost reason why homosexuality is not fit for our society is the fact that it does not adhere to our culture. But is this culture really worth carrying forward? This culture is clearly discriminatory, just like the culture which prescribes women being inferior. Isn’t it? Homosexuality cannot fit the old societal norms so it should be illegal is what the new law says. Well, resuming section 377 isn’t a good idea then. Can we speak logic please? What old traditions are we talking about? People not being given the right to live as equals? It reminds me of the caste discrimination in our country. Like in the primitive Indian society, (that is still there in many small towns and villages), where the lower castes were not fit to live and mingle with the upper caste. The homosexuals are similarly not considered to be fit to live in our society that is a propagator of only the ‘superior caste of heterosexuals’.

But what difference does it make if I being a woman, by nature am sexually inclined to a man and another woman by nature is sexually inclined to a woman? This is a natural process. Every individual has the right to make such a choice. Marriage and sex are the most personal things and one must be free to choose a partner for it.

It may outrage more people to legalize homosexuality than it will to illegalize it, but what is right won’t change. The law must allow each and every individual to make an independent choice of choosing their partner. It is not a crime. A crime must involve things like killing, harassing, torturing, harming, offending, threatening, stealing, injuring etc. while being homosexual does not involve any of it. It only preaches love. I am sure no one can deny that love is not a crime. Or is it?

gay-locker-360x239

By Happily Anonymous:

My Country-men,

I’m not completely sure if the first time I felt ‘gay’ was when I was sexually abused at the age of 5 by a man who happened to be 3 times my age. Having me sleep on his stomach and jerk off probably gave him an elation which is beyond what could be described in simple words. On jerking off, he pushed me to the ground and did something so disgusting, that I continue to shudder with the thought of how I felt at that moment. When I was 9, I finally came to understand all what that shameless man did – he sexually abused me when I was on the verge of progressing from a toddler into a boy. As I grew older, I noticed that my body was slowly adapting itself to how a woman behaves. I promise when I tell you this, but none of that was intentional. Tell me, do you think, if I was in my sanest of senses, I would intentionally cat walk so that I could get bullied by my entire class? Or would I intentionally choose to develop an extremely sensitive threshold, which would lead me to tears every time someone called me a “Hijda”? I’m not too sure about how I felt when all the boys in school began to clap their hands every single time I passed their class — because — you have to give it to our humane society — I was a “Na Mard” and that’s how boys who sway have to be referred to if you choose to be in accordance with our oh-so-descriptive and conventional Indian traditional values.

I’ve made some scandalous mistakes too! I began to watch Fashion TV when I was in my 4th grade. Initially, looking at the women walk around with their transparent tops gave me a nice feeling of sorts. However, as I matured and puberty neared, I kind of figured out that I even liked looking at all the bare chested men walking the ramp. At the age of 13, if the justice of this country has to be believed, I should have technically, because of all the filth and perversion in my mind conscientiously chosen to identify myself as a homosexual man. As time progressed and I became an adult, not much had changed. People continued to judge me for who I was and no matter where I went, words such as chammiya, chakka, hijda, gay, homo so on and so forth continue to haunt my ears.

Justice is pretty weird. When on one hand it talks about upholding every person’s right keeping equality on the forefront and on another with such weird ideologies, it tries to discriminate a section. India, particularly has never been able to please what we call the “masses”, because year by year, December by December, there is either a woman out there getting gang raped in a bus with men stuffing rods up her vagina, or a little boy being asked to suck his 49 year old uncle’s penis. What the Supreme Court declared, though hurt my feelings and made me feel like I will never be able to identify myself as an individual, it also made me realize that what I’m living right now is a life of hell. I’m paying day in and day out for something I have no control over. I am being judged, looked down upon and being treated like an outcast by people of my own country and as a matter of fact by numerous other closeted homosexuals as well. But does all of this matter anymore? It doesn’t.

gay-locker-360x239

The question also remains — who is it to be blamed for what has happened of me today? Do I blame that man who masturbated on me when I was 5? Or do I blame the society which ridiculed my behaviour, possibly during every moment of my existence? Oh wait. I’m sorry, it is these people who are in need of having their ‘human rights’ protected. I’m just a pervert.

Tomorrow, as I step out and begin a new day I will do so with a smile, knowing that there’s not a single person who can tarnish what I think of myself any further. This judgment has made our lives easy. Each one of us; lesbians, homosexuals, trans-genders and bisexuals. The good news is, we’ve lost all dignity — there’s nothing more to lose. If things can change and if our rights can be recognized — there’s just one gain — an ounce of self-respect.

Happily,
One of your closeted-gay friends.

dearstraightpeople

In less than 4 minutes, she tells all straight people exactly what they need to hear.

homosexuality

By Kunal Arora:

I have heard of people coming out of the closet and declaring to their families that they are not the one their family is expecting them to be. I am a part of a community where people are afraid to come out to their parents and tell them about their sexuality.

homosexuality

Humiliation, exploitation and torture; that’s what most of the homosexuals have seen in their life. Those who dare to come out and speak clearly are tortured and forced to keep the secret to themselves. For all those who say that they are open minded and ready to accept whatever comes their way, why does everything change when the person involved is their friend or their family member? Why it becomes so difficult for the family to accept the person whom they love so much. Was the love they used to show, fake? And all that matters is the family reputation only?

Sex has always been a taboo in India and now when people are opening up their minds towards discussing these topics, some new topics arose that are not digestible to Indians. Homosexuality has been a hot topic in other countries since past few decades and it was introduced in India just few years back when people saw cases of a guy in love with another guy coming up.

At first they were being ignored but slowly many people started taking about it, it became the finest topic to talk and discuss and homosexuals became the victims. The biggest role has been played by movie makers who have always showcased the image of homosexual guys as a feminine man. They are pictured as the humorous characters and disparaging remarks are made against them.

World Health Organization first mentioned Homosexuality as a disease in 1960’s but later on, after few decades they removed it from the list of the mental diseases. But in our country, it is still mentioned as a disease in Medical text books; this shows the backwardness of our education system. Many psychiatrics throughout the world examined people who came up with such likings but in the end concluded that Homosexuality is not an act, not a desire, it’s not an option that one can choose; it’s a natural tendency for a guy to fall in love with other guy. But in India, still the doctors are unable to accept it as nature’s play and are working to find the treatment for it.

Even the leaders of our nation have mentioned in their comments that Homosexuals have caused a sharp increase in number of AIDS cases in India. The place where even leaders don’t have much knowledge and make such remarks about people of a community, how can the community people feel safe. One can say that the nation is homophobic and takes pride in it.

The scriptures and the Holy books define we people as the sinners, who are against the path of love and will be there in hell after death. God never distinguished humans based on their sexual orientation. It is completely the interpretation of the humans. How can God at one point say that I love everyone and at other place say that I hate homosexuals? Both are contradicting.

There are many who disclosed their identity and were accepted by people and the society but only when they were quite influencial and successful. There are many living a dual life and waiting for the right time to come when they will be able to move freely without any distinction and fear of rejection by family and friends. Being hidden is almost being dead.

We have put various labels on ourselves and want everybody to have the same label and live according to the way we want. It is because of this discrimination that such a large community is hidden and facing the problems and traumas alone. The nation hasn’t done much for us and still there is a lot of conflict between thoughts. Many countries this year legalized same sex marriage because they understood the need of freedom to love and freedom to marry. Modernization in just technology will not improve the status of this country; we need to grow in every aspect and first of all take into consideration the welfare of the society and each and every member of the country. Only then, people will be able to contribute and help the nation in growing.

Many homosexuals are forced to marry a girl/guy and at the end what happens is that the family breaks up and there is depression among people. Acceptance is the way of preventing many problems to enter the bowl of life; dropping all cultural and religious barriers, accepting others who have a different approach towards life.

god is gay

On April 6th, Elliot Darrow performed ‘God Is Gay’ on the finals stage of a poetry slam. It went viral with more than 70,000 views on YouTube; you have to watch him performing this immensely strong poem to know why exactly.

Complete Text:

What if I told you God is gay?
Do you think belligerent bible-belters
Would still holler hate speech to the hilltops
In His name?
Or do you think they would reread the scriptures
They say they swear and survive by
See, I’ve been reading the Bible again lately
And I think I’ve taken a leaf from their holy book,
Picking passages for my purpose
Which is in short
To let you know it’s very possible God is gay.
I mean think about the book of Genesis
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth
And it wasn’t just good, it was fabulous.
I mean what else is our planet but the pinnacle
Of exterior design, and I don’t mean to generalize
But it certainly seems like that the Garden of Eden
Was designed by queer, I mean divine eye for the straight guy
But some Christians would go as far as to call
God’s creations abominations
Heretics calling themselves faithful
When their faith is full of belief that only God may pass judgment
Matthew 7:1 Judge and you too shall be judged
Luke 6: 37 Condemn not and you shall not be condemned
Fred Phelps 2006: You’re going to hell! God hates fags!
A history lesson: A faggot is a bundle of sticks
Originally used as kindling for fires that engulfed gays
When they were burned at the stake, people were firewood
But Moses came across wood on fire and saw God in it,
What is a burning bush but bundles of branches
On fire, isn’t it funny how faggots and God can look the same sometimes?
Keep in mind Jesus had two dads and turned out just fine
In fact, Jesus had two dads and a surrogate mother
That never had sex with either of them,
Maybe Mary was a lesbian
And I remember the prayer going
“Hail Mary, full of grace”
Not full of sin,
“Pray for us sinners”
For we have become blinded by bigotry.
And forgotten that God gave us the rainbow
As a promise that we will never be flooded again
Either with rain or ignorance
And now all the homosexual Homo sapiens
Stand more united under God’s rainbow
Than all of his denominations do around the cross.
I was brought up believing that my Savior loved us all
And never had to specify “no homo”
But if you have hate in your heart
Say it don’t pray it
Don’t teach it and for the love of God don’t preach it
Because I am tired of these fire and brimstone sermons
Slinging slurs when they’re not firing brimstones
From voices that should be filled with love and praise
Instead of raised with hate and rage
I am a Christian, and I believe in saying the Christian thing.
Which used to sound like “Love thy neighbor as thyself”
But now sounds more like hate at the top of your picket signs
The closest thing to God being “Hell, is waiting for you”
They’re passing out damnation pamphlets
Filled with out-of-context Bible verses
Trying to define God
When his meaning is clear.
He is acceptance, He is pride, He is humility, He is just,
God is perfection, God is protection, God is love,
But most importantly
God is gay

video1

Graeme Taylor stood up for his teacher who had been suspended for taking action against anti gay comments in his classroom. This happened in 2010. But what he said, has and will always be, as he himself points out in this talk, a part of ‘history’. Halfway through his talk with Ellen DeGeneres, you’ll tend to forget his age. If a 14-year-old can be so clear about his thoughts and in his words, think how much wiser adults can be if we use our complete brains when thinking about homosexuality.

qradio

By Aditi thakker:

Section 377 of the Indian penal Code may have been repealed in favour of the LGBTQ population of India, but has the country really come to accept gays and lesbians? From what I have witnessed and heard, the LGBTQ community is still ostracized. The ‘gay’ talk is not only taboo in the Indian civil society, but also an issue that no mainstream political party in India has bothered to address. It is almost like being lesbian or gay, is a disease or a disorder; a foreign one. Let’s begin by saying that homosexuality is not a disease and one cannot choose to be homosexual. You are born that way; much like you cannot choose to be a girl or a boy, or fair or dark skinned. It is decided for you before your birth. Sure you can get surgery, but one still doesn’t choose these things at the time of their birth.

qradioHas repealing Article 377 done enough to protect the LGBTQ community in India? Well, it’s not illegal anymore. You cannot be arrested for being gay or lesbian. Undoubtedly, it is a step forward. But what is really required is awareness about this community. One of the most effective ways to have awareness for and about community could be the use of social media, LGBTQ websites, and magazines. One cannot even begin to imagine the plight of an individual who has recently discovered their sexual preference, and cannot share it with others fearing a backlash.

For the welfare of this community in India, it is absolutely necessary that there exists a common platform, popular, efficient and friendly enough for it to be the first step for newly ‘out of the closet’ LGBTQs. There are several NGOs working for the welfare of the LGBTQ community in India, and their help is availed by many in need. There are also several dating and friendship websites for LGBTQ individuals. But what has been lacking is a mainstream media platform that can reach out to millions at the same time. With India’s two millions strong LGBTQ population, they deserve greater media representation. Mind you, this is just an official figure and the actual might be much higher.

To fill the vacuum created by the lack of a common media platform, recently a radio station QRadio, has been set up in Bangalore especially for the LGBTQ community of the city. This radio station will not only be a bonding site for the LGBTQ, but can also be an eye opener for heterosexual people who may have deeply misinformed notions and misconceptions about the community.

Another aspect this radio channels seeks to address is that of sexual health and safety. Having information programs about sexual health are extremely important for the LGBTQ community, since there aren’t many doctors, specifically sexologists, in our country who are willing address this problem with their patients. They begin broadcasting in Hindi and English, and plan to expand their network into regional languages too. They wish to provide counselling services for their listeners, and address issues that LGBTQ individuals may face. This is a great platform to discuss alternate sexuality and will be an eye opener for many.

When our ancient scriptures talk about homosexuality and the third gender as well as depict the same in the form of sculptures in historic monuments, why is the LGBTQ community so side lined in our country? India, the land of different cultures and religions is famous for its tolerance. Really? A huge chunk of our population believes boys are superior to girls, fair skin to dark, tall boys to short ones, upper caste to lower, engineers to writers, English speakers to the rest and the list goes on. The LGBTQ community is fighting the same battle for recognition, respect and dignity, much like other marginalised communities in India.

sex education

By Neha Mayuri:

“Does sperm donation lead to infertility? Is it possible to get pregnant the first time you have sex?” A never ending list of unanswered questions goes on and on ceaselessly! These and several other questions aren’t just mundane queries, they are curiosities every youth deserves an answer to, through sex education!

“It can be awkward and clunky. A lot uncomfortable. May be even dreadful!” These and other similar thoughts revolve in the mind of parents when they imagine talking to their children about sex! But in reality- refusing to talk about it does more harm than good! When parents or guardians decide to talk about sex to their children, they need to understand the bigger picture. Talking about sex does not mean that one should make it a taboo, yes it’s about warning the youth about dangers of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections but it’s also about discussing the untouched subjects such as healthy relationships, self-worth, and knowing about one’s body!

sex education

Clearly, sex education is not a license to be sexually active. But, the silence around sexuality and the lack of sex education leads young people to seek information about their bodies and the sexual act from misinformed sources such as: peers, the media, badly written biology books and pornography! All one has to do is turn on television, surf the net, and one can become an easy spectator to sexual images and sexually themed media, unknowingly! When children are exposed to sexual imagery and language in their environment constantly through movies, society and other factors, it becomes naturally inevitable for them to be curious! Hence, the answers they receive about sexuality should clarify their doubts and not confuse them.

The phrase “Just Say No to Sex” does nothing except fuelling the fire! When you tell the young brigade not to do something without explaining why, they are going to do it anyway! This is basic human nature! It is far more justified, appropriate and sensible to inform them about sexuality and sex education so that they make judicious choices! It makes no sense leaving them in the dark with an ambiguous phrase “Just Say No”!

In 2009, a parliamentary committee rejected petitions on sex education in Indian schools, saying it is against “social and cultural ethos” of India! Many are intensely worried that providing too much information to youth on sex will encourage them to have sex! However, a study conducted back in 1993 by The World Health Organization of 35 sex education programs from around the world stated that there was no evidence that programs which were comprehensive when it came to sex education encouraged kids to be sexually active; it did not encourage them to have sex at an early age. It also stated that programs that taught abstinence only were less effective than the comprehensive sex education programs!

Furthermore, the WHO published a review of 1050 scientific articles on sex education programs. Researchers found “no support for the contention that sex education encourages sexual experimentation or increased activity. If any effect is observed, almost without exception, it is in the direction of postponed initiation of sexual intercourse and/or effective use of contraception.” Failure to provide appropriate and timely information “misses the opportunity of reducing the unwanted outcomes of unintended pregnancy and transmission of STDs, and is therefore, in the disservice of our youth,” This report was commissioned by the Youth and General Public Unit, Office of Intervention and Development and Support, Global Programme on AIDS and the WHO.

Let’s talk about ancient India — don’t we easily recall “sex was never a taboo subject”! India created the Kama Sutra around 400 BC, ancient Indian temples such as Khajuraho and Vedic scriptures have discussed and explored sexuality in detail!

Deeming sex education unnecessary is downright dangerous and redundant! India is a democracy and each one has sexual rights. Yes, sexual rights! The current sex education classes in school are plainly focused on the biological aspects of sex which is simply superficial.

Sexuality is broader than sexual activity! It includes “all things” that defines us as girls, boys, men, and women. Shaped by culture, history, values, education as well as experience — our sexuality influences our views of individuality and everything in between! Sex education not only teaches someone about sexual intimacy but it also enlightens them about their reproductive systems, sexually transmitted diseases, birth control and so on! After all, we do have a right to know our body, isn’t it? Sex education broadens our horizons to gender identity, gender role, body images, sexual expression and so on! It needs to be integrated into the lives of the youth in a very mature way by parents, teachers, and society, as they grow up.

Then, why is there a constant denial of right to knowledge about our own bodies? Why are we as a society, so afraid to talk about sex? Silencing not only leads to ignorance but also leads to sexism, misogyny, gender discrimination, chauvinism, patriarchal attitudes, sexual harassments, sexual assaults, and rape culture! Then, why is there a constant silencing of valuable information about sex and sexuality?

Macklemore

By Sameera Khurana:

For those of you who watched MTV Video Music Awards 2013, you will downright agree that it wasn’t just about Miley Cyrus, the so-called ‘Queen of Twerking’. That night, celebrated an indispensable achievement in the hip-hop culture. In one of the ‘poignant’ moments of the evening, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ gay rights anthem— ‘Same Love’ won the award for the “Best Video with a Social Message”.

Macklemore

Before proceeding, it is of utmost importance to establish this fact: Macklemore got engaged to his girlfriend of seven years in the beginning of this year.

As I am writing this article, the video has probably crossed over 7,39,56,052 views on YouTube. But why? Why is this song so exceptional that it is consuming this space? The fourth single released by the rapper and producer Ryan Lewis from their album, The Heist, talks about legalizing same-sex marriage and was recorded during the campaign for Washington Referendum 74, which upon approval in 2012, legalized same-sex marriages in Washington.

“When I was in the third grade I thought that I was gay,
‘Cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight.”

The music video blinds you with the bright light of a hospital lamp, and then immediately jumps to images of children playing happily—climbing trees, riding their bikes, gazing at the creek. The camera shifts to an adorable little girl receiving flowers from her shy lover. As the story builds up, you’re made uncomfortable by a young boy who is extremely tense in his surroundings, almost like an outsider. Suddenly, the scene changes to the boy kissing another boy, consciously. And that’s when you understand his internal conflict. He ‘comes out of the closet’ and announces his sexual orientation. Extremely angry, the parents leave the dinner table. However, what proceeds is almost magical. The couple is having the time of their life and ceremoniously gets married (not in a church, obviously). And the video closes with the hospital scene, our main guy lying on the bed and his husband holding his hand, with pure tenderness and care.

“If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments lately?
“Man, that’s gay” gets dropped on the daily
We become so numb to what we’re saying.”

So, why is this song so incredible again? Misogyny and homophobia are the two acceptable means of oppression in hip hop culture. It is 2013! Don’t you think there needs to be some accountability? As a society, we are evolving, and hip-hop has always been a representation of what’s going on in the world right now. Not only did the rapper condemn homophobia in mainstream hip-hop, society and mass media but he also managed to produce an anthem for the LGBT community when others of his kind are busy making songs that reek of misogyny and homophobia.

“A word rooted in hate, yet our genre still ignores it
Gay is synonymous with the lesser.”

A scathing critique of homophobia and hetero-normativity, Macklemore’s rap conveys that hate is behind denying gay marriage. This is the same hate that was behind the oppression of religion and races; we are denying people the right to marry by calling them ‘lesser’. While accepting the award, the rapper said that “Gay rights are human rights, there is no separation.” This song has been called as socially relevant, since equality is at the forefront of what’s going on in politics right now. Even today, in India, same-sex marriage isn’t legal.

“And a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start
No law is gonna change us
We have to change us.”

Countless number of people from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community face discrimination on a daily basis. Macklemore isn’t gay, but it takes tremendous courage to openly support such a controversial topic and wreck havoc in the hip-hop world. The song begins with Macklemore’s candid reflection on his third grade fear of being gay, because of a ‘buncha stereotypes all in my head’ at such a young age, and moves to challenging religious hypocrisy, gay conversion therapy, mainstream hip hop, bullying in schools…and the list goes on and on. I hope that we, the youth, are able to stop discrimination on the ground of gender in terms of love.

Maybe there’s more than one way to express that civilization, but as of now, we might need music videos.

LGBTQ

By Lakshya Kalra:

The last few years have seen the rise of the LGBTQ — the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-sexual and queer — community. New age freedom of thought and expression has given birth to various movements for the rights of the LGBTQ. People, cutting across economic and social classes, have joined together in their fight for their fundamental rights. India too has not been left unaffected by this world wide fervour. The striking down of the 377 was an important landmark in the fight for equal rights in our country. Several organizations and NGOs have come up to take this fight forward. Some of the important ones are:

LGBTQ

The Humsafar trust:
The Humsafar Trust was set up in April 1994 by the leading gay activist Ashok Row Kavi along with two more self-identified homosexual men who desired to reach out to the gay population in Mumbai and surrounding areas. The trust offers a unique workshop which deals with coming out to self and family, dealing with relationships, with legal issues of gay men, tackling problems with cheaters and hustlers, health and human rights related issues.

Trikone (India):
The organization was founded in 1986. It is a non-profit, social and political organization and claims to be the oldest of its kind in the world. Trikone publishes an eponymous magazine with an international base of subscribers several times a year.

Udaan trust:
Udaan Trust, founded in 1992, is an Indian non-governmental organization operating in the state of Maharashtra. It focuses on issues of sexual health within the homosexual and transgender communities and provides services such as condom distribution, sex education, counselling, and medical services to at-risk populations. The trust also attempts to increase awareness of issues relevant to the rights of homosexual and transgender individuals.

Naz Foundation (India):
The Naz Foundation made a place for itself in the Indian history books when it successfully petitioned against the unjust section 377 of the IPC in the historic Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi court case. This foundation has been one of the leading NGOs in the fight for the fundamental rights of the LGBTQ community.

Adhikaar:
Adhikaar is an advocacy and activist organisation that works for securing equal citizenship rights for all LGBTQ persons. Based in New Delhi, India, it works in direct partnership with 13 grassroots LGBTQ community organisations from different parts of the country.

Bharosa trust:
Bharosa trust aims to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among vulnerable communities in Lucknow through organisational development and capacity building of Bharosa implementing and managing a male sexual health program in Lucknow (U.P.), India.

Sangama:
Sangama is a sexuality minority, sex workers, and PLHIV, human rights organization for individuals oppressed due to their sexual preference or occupation. Sexuality minorities include, but are not limited to, hijras, kothis, double-deckers, jogappas, lesbians, bisexuals, homosexuals, gays, Female-to-male/male-to-female transsexuals and other transgender. They aim to help live their lives with self-acceptance, self-respect and dignity. Sangama aims to bring sexuality, sexual preference and gender identity into the realm of public discourse and link it to gender, human rights development and other social movements. They campaign for the changes in the existing laws, which discriminate against sexuality minorities, including sex workers and people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA).

Sangini (India) trust:
Sangini strives towards enabling and creating spaces for/by individuals dealing with issues around their sexuality, i.e. women attracted to women, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. Formed in 1997 in New Delhi, it is the oldest community support program for LBT individuals, women attracted to women in India.

Sappho:
Sappho is a support group for lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. With its base in Kolkata, West Bengal, it is the only group of its kind in the whole of eastern India, founded on 20th June 1999. The primary goal of the organization was to provide safe space for women with same sex preference but gradually it moved into a rights oriented movement to fight discrimination and hatred against marginalized women with same sex preference.

Maan foundation:
Maan Foundation is a national NGO dedicated to the empowerment of the LGBT community, providing support in the areas of sexual health, human rights, social equality and overall well-being. It is based in Lucknow, UP.

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By Sanchita Srivastava:

A lot has been said and written about homosexuality, a subject that more often than not meets with vehement opposition, especially in our country. I believe one of the arguments put forth by our ‘moral guardians’ is that it is against our culture. This homophobia leads to severe verbal and physical resistance from families and subsequent ostracization from the society. Not to mention the fact that there is still no legal acceptance of homosexual couples here, which leads to a lot of difficulty in matters of property, adoption etc. One can get a fair idea regarding the reaction of most Indian parents when they are informed about their child’s alternative sexuality from that of Mrs. Kirron Kher’s character when she discovered that her onscreen son is in a same-sex relationship in the movie ‘Dostana’! But the wedding of Seema and Shannon that took place in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago provided a refreshing change. Not only was the wedding conducted in a completely traditional Indian manner but also the couple received full support of their families.

There is so much we can learn from the fact that an Indian family happily accepted their daughter’s decision and participated in her wedding. In a country where homosexuals have to deal with immense social stigma, emotional and psychological agony, outright rejection of their sexual identities by their families, physical torture and a compulsion to marry people of the opposite sex, it was indeed heart warming to see Seema’s parents partake in the wedding celebrations . Their gesture is nothing but a mature understanding of the fact that even though they may seem different from heterosexual couples, homosexuals share similar values, hopes and dreams. From this and all other homosexual nuptials, the least we can do is to drive home the point that as long as there is companionship between two men or two women, it should be enough to grant the couple societal acceptance.

seema and shannon

The episode has made me wonder about how long will it take for us to replicate such instances in our land; perhaps not till the time we continue to recognize a person’s sexual orientation as some ‘disease’ to be cured. We need to understand the difference between one’s sex and gender, the latter being nothing but a social construct and take steps towards redefining what are largely considered as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ attributes. And for anyone who believes that homosexuality is against our ‘culture’ (which, by the way is as pluralistic as it can get) primarily because the scriptures contain no such reference; let me inform you that we have numerous references to the same in Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra itself and that the traditions of representing same-sex desire in literature and art continued in medieval Hinduism as well as Indian Islam. It was firmly established by Saleem Kidwai and Ruth Vanita in Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History.

seema and shannon 1

It is high time that we realize that the days of creating outcastes are long over. Other than homophobia, bigotry or sheer ignorance, there is nothing that can possibly explain the disdain for homosexual marriages. Isn’t it plain absurdity on our part that even though the Supreme Court of India has decriminalized homosexuality in 2009, we have not yet been able to incorporate the spirit of equality and inclusiveness that formed the backbone of this landmark decision while dealing with homosexual couples? I believe that if two people, irrespective of their gender, decide to live their lives together with love and commitment, the least we can do as a society is to give them our best wishes and not death threats.

Photo Credits and more wedding photographs here

religion

By Lata Jha:

While religion and specific religious views might condemn homosexuality and same sex marriage, it is interesting to know what the relatively non vocal LGBT community has to say about religion.

Ahead of expected Supreme Court decisions on the Defence of Marriage Act and California’s gay marriage ban, a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre has shed light on the religious views of homosexuals in America. The findings state that about 48 per cent of them say they have no religion at all. This is much larger a share than people among the general population who think so. The 51 per cent who do follow a religion, are mostly Protestant or Catholic. 17 per cent in fact say religion is “very important” in their lives.

religionA third of the LGBT community however felt there was a conflict between their religious views and sexual orientation or gender identity. This sentiment is even more prevalent among the general public. About three-quarters (74 percent) of white evangelical Protestants and a majority (55 percent) of all U.S. adults who believe in religion say that homosexuality conflicts with their traditional religious beliefs.

Most of those surveyed felt religious institutions and places were unfriendly and unwelcoming to the LGBT community. About eight in ten cited Islam, Mormonism and the Catholic Church as examples of such spaces. Nearly three-fourths named evangelical churches. Fewer people said they found Judaism and non-evangelical churches unfriendly, but they said they are usually more unfriendly than friendly. About three-in-ten of the respondents added that they have “been made to feel unwelcome at a place of worship or religious organization.”

The survey did not ask about friendliness or unfriendliness among religious groups apart from Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, evangelicals, Jews and non-evangelical Protestants. Previous surveys from Pew and other organizations have actually shown that despite their church’s official stand against same-sex marriage, Catholic Americans are one of the most liberal religious groups when it comes to gay rights.

While experiences show that a lot of attitudes towards the LGBT community are changing, their history is too painful to ever be completely forgotten. We might have come a long way, but we have an even longer way to go.

trans

By Mahitha Kasireddi:

The first question we usually ask new parents is: “Is it a boy or a girl?” There is a great answer to that one going around: “We don’t know; it hasn’t told us yet.”’ – Kate Bornstein, 1995

Identity is one prerequisite because of which you could belong to a society or you could be ostracized. One’s life could be just thrown into darkness for not possessing definite attributes distinct enough to categorize. One such form of identity is Gender.

What are all the myths we carry about the transgender? They live crazy lives, they are confused, they do not know their gender, they hate their bodies, they are gay, they are mentally disturbed, they are radical liberals, they perform drag shows and so on. Reality is that they live quite normally as anyone else would. Well, it is not totally our fault to believe in dogmas; we were conditioned in such a way. Lack of scientific information is also a reason. Transsexual children start identifying their sexuality at quite an early age. They start feeling uncomfortable in their bodies. A boy may like to dress like a girl and play with dolls and a girl may want to look like a boy. Gender identity is what one feels from inside and sexual orientation is to whom one is attracted to. Transsexual persons may not necessarily be gay; they may turn out to be lesbian, gay or bisexual later.

transgender

Countries and governments are unable to rise above their stereotypes about gender. Such rigid opinions lead to marginalization of a few who are 1 in 1000. Apparently, 1 in 1000 is being deprived of the right to live the way they like just for who they are. It is the orientation of the brain with which they recognise themselves as either man or woman. Calling this abnormal and telling them they are wrong is just absurd. It is nature induced. No medical treatment, therapy or surgery can alter someone’s biological lineament.

Families undergo an odyssey when their children tend to reject the sex they have been assigned based on genitals. Eventually, they give up to the societal norms and abandon them. Today, they all live in communities, transgender women and men all live like a family. They live their real selves away from family and the society in which they were brought up. But, it is an everyday ordeal for them to stand rejection where ever they go.

They have no resources to sustain their lives as nobody treats them like fellow human beings and vehemently refuse to employ them. A high percentage of population in our country do not have any social security, above all ‘hijras’ (Transgender) stand the most marginalized in every society, suffer grave abuse of human rights and vulnerable to violence and sexual abuse. They have similar dreams like everyone, a good education, a lucrative job and career and a family. They are rightfully entitled to live a respectable life. Most of the time they are forced either to beg or get into demeaning jobs like sex work to make their ends meet.

There are yet a number of success stories. Kalki from Chennai, a transgender woman reveals how she had managed to complete her education despite all odds thrown out by parents and society. Away from home she was subjected to sexual and verbal abuse multiple times. Like all transgender children she was judged and insulted at the schools and colleges where she studied. She completed her B.A. in English followed by an M.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication. Presently, she is pursuing her second M.A. in International Relations. Kalki stands out as an inspiration to many others discriminated.

A ray of hope had emerged out when the chief secretary of Maharashtra held talks on improving social conditions of sex workers, transgender and MSM people. He asked the officials to expedite the process of issuing identification cards such as voter ids, ration cards and Aadhar cards. Tamil Nadu on the other hand has recognised them as ‘third sex’. A transgender welfare board was formed in 2008. They are now entitled to all government services equally with all. They are being readily incorporated to mainstream media and film industry. A local Tamil TV channel has broken all taboos with their talk show being hosted by a trans woman called Rose.

Despite all efforts they are still dubbed as a minority and not accepted in social circles. Recently a transgender woman, Swapna from Madurai had appealed to the government through an RTI to open the prestigious Civil Services exam to the third sex. How does sexuality measure somebody’s calibre to be a good administrator? Hopefully the government should treat them equally in order to help many such aspirants to realize their dreams. The feminists of our country have an extended responsibility to put the transgender women in mainstream society by fight for their right to dignity and advocating their personal freedom. The public needs to be educated about the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation, encouraged to leave behind dogmas, accept all kinds of sexualities and respect their rights. This would solve all issues surrounding the transgender, only then we will be a successful democracy.

sex education

By Jocelyn Jose:

My decision to conduct a research study on HIV and female sex workers (FSWs) for my dissertation in Delhi two years ago provided me with some unforgettable experiences. These experiences taught me so much about ignorance, not just others but also my own.

Having completed my MA degree in social work, I got the opportunity to work in a variety of settings and places that left my friends and family stunned. When I decided to work with FSWs I saw a horrid reaction on my mother’s face. Her first question was “why?” Why did I decide on this topic of all the others I could’ve chosen to examine? I worked really hard to explain my reasoning and after the initial concerns, I made up my mind to pursue this field of research no matter what opposition I would face in my community and family. For me, this topic was not just to fetch marks and get my degree. I wanted to step into a world I would otherwise never have access to.

sex education

During my visits to the brothels, I had a variety of experiences and reactions from the FSWs, their clients, as well as the pimps. I had to present a brave, serious face even when I was asked my own “rate” by the clients. I was scared in the beginning but after a few visits I was completely at ease being the inquisitive visitor or simply being referred to as “madam ji.”
The data collection was the most difficult task to conquer and doing so using an interview schedule was anything but easy. To make the women answer my questions, especially about their condom usage, health status, etc. was the most time consuming component of the research. What struck me the most was their awareness levels about HIV/AIDS and safe sex. I had always been under the impression that it was ignorance about the disease and lack of safe sex options that led to the rapid spread of this pandemic. However, I came to know that it is the public who are the most ignorant about many aspects of sex and sexuality, safe sex, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

When discussing sex and safe practices with my peers, I was disturbed by the lack of awareness and education. I, myself, admit that I used to be quite naïve and unaware about sex education. The prevalent taboos within our society about sex and masturbation deprive people like me from knowing about even our own bodies. Topics like premarital sex are considered so unmentionable that parents today are just not willing to accept that whether they like it or not some children will become sexually active before marrying.

A friend of mine once told me that when she turned eighteen, the only thing her mother told her was to always practice safe sex. She was never told her not to have sex. And it amazed me that this type of parenting also existed in India. It shows that you can gain your child’s trust, as well as teach them to be safe.

Parents today have become a lot more open and liberal about explaining sex to their children. Depriving them of knowledge just because it could be embarrassing is a mindset that needs changing.

I was way past my teenage years when I began to question sex and sexuality. Even today I admit that I lack a thorough understanding of my own body and sexuality. I am not opposed to learning and discussing these sensitive issues but I feel I need someone open-minded enough to teach me everything that I missed during my adolescence.

As my research concluded, I realized that I had learned so much more from the FSWs than I could have ever taught them. They knew so much and were so confident that I wished I could bring them to my college to give a lecture for all of the ignorant students like me. I wanted everyone to know that there is nothing “bad” in knowing and discussing what is true and what is so relevant to us all.

The need for workshops and other learning platforms to teach children and youth about sex and sexuality and to promote safe sex is needed at all levels in this country. I have begun my sexual education and I hope that other students find teachers who are willing to shed all of the inhibitions and dogmas that Indian society preaches about the dreaded word “sex!”

This article has also been published here.

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Submitted anonymously:

We live in a world today where people still feel shy to go buy a condom, where a woman has to think a thousand times before freely buying a contraceptive pill, where if you get pregnant and you’re not married you’ll have to run to another city to get an abortion or “people” might find out.

People might find out you’re sexually active, that you chose to have sex with a man and even worse, you chose to have sexual desires while you were unmarried. Come on! You’re a woman! You’re not allowed to think like that! All those men walking around flaunting the number of women they’ve been with, is fine, that’s acceptable, they’re men, sex is their thing! But you, woman, having any inclination towards accepting your sexual desires is not right.

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We live in a world today that’s talking about gender equality, sexual education, the fight against AIDS, but this is the same world that denies a woman the right to “want” sex, to express her desires, her wants. It’s a man’s world where porn objectifies women, where we are led to believe by our society, by every other person around us that sex isn’t for a woman’s pleasure, it’s something that satisfies a man and a woman gives into, if not by pressure then just to please the man. Look around and you’ll find a billion examples of this.

How did a woman’s sexual needs become desperation and a man’s their birthright?

I want to live in a world where its fine for me to want an orgasm, I want to live in a world where I can sit on a table with men and women and discuss my sex life if I want to, I want to live in a world where how many men is it okay to sleep with is my prerogative and not anyone else’s’, I want to live in a world where I can carry a condom and ask him if he’ll come home with me.

And no, this does not mean I’m a slut, neither does it make me someone who will sleep with just anybody. I want to live in a world where sex isn’t a power game, where it isn’t about making a man feel happy, where it isn’t an activity that makes him ejaculate. I want to live in a world where I can enjoy sex and say it in just those many words.

I want to live in a world where I have sexual freedom. Do you?

Photo Credit: kelsey_lovefusionphoto via Compfight cc

SEXUAL-FREEDOM

By Rini Sinha: “Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ultimately, it is rule by the people”.

SEXUAL-FREEDOM

Rule by the people‘, this is the only phrase which strikes me from my seven year old rote-learnt definition, whenever I come across the term democracy. While there’s no consensus on how to define democracy, equality and freedom have both been identified as foundational premises of democracy since ancient times. And when we talk about freedom, being able to have an open debate about anything and everything becomes an important precondition for the same. Ultimately, debates and discussions spread and raise awareness about the challenges being faced by the members of the society.The possibility of having such discussions is a sign of maturity in any given society. And in the contemporary times, the litmus test to prove the genuineness of this maturity is inextricably linked to debates on sexual freedom. It is a fact well known and acknowledged, that debates about sex are highly volatile and stir deep emotions. However, sexual orientation has long figured prominently in the denial of equality and discrimination. Though significant progress has been made with nine countries officially declaring no heterosexist discrimination over the last century, much remains to be done. This is testified by the very fact that homosexuality continues to be illegal in 76 countries and is even punishable by execution in seven countries in the world.

Sexual freedom is certainly a definite indicator of a successful democratic nation. However, even in countries which have a republican government or have constitutional monarchy instated, individuals have the right to choose their sexual orientation, as it ultimately is a personal choice. In fact, sexual orientation and gender identity rights relate to the expression of sexual orientation and gender identity based on the right to respect for private life, as per the basic Human Rights guaranteed to individuals.

In India, in a historic judgement by the High Court of Delhi on 2nd July 2009, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was read down to decriminalise same-sex behaviour among consenting adults. It was originally introduced during the British rule in India to criminalise sexual activity “against the order of nature.” However, there are no laws to protect it from discrimination.

Clearly, in a country where a sexuality different from the normative is seen as ‘bigadna’, as goes the popular song, “Maa Da Ladla Bigad Gaya”, despite the revision of Section 377, we still have a long way to go to seal our position as a wholesomely democratic country!

no strings attached

By Nidhi Sinha:

“Hey do you wanna do this?”
“What?”
“Use each other for sex at all hours of the day, nothing else!”

Yes you are right. These are the words of Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher from the movie ‘No Strings Attached’. But to think of it, they are only a reflection of the pop culture of today. This conversation could’ve taken place between any girl and boy who are attracted to each other but “not ready to commit” to each other. Undoubtedly, the ‘friends with benefits’ concept is famously rooted in our popular culture. Movies, songs and books inevitably feature such relationships without moralizing over them, in keeping with the post-modern tradition.

no strings attached

People, however, tend to moralize. The older generation’s utopian romance seems to be the yardstick that the current generation desperately fails to meet. In fact, that utopian concept of ‘transcendental love’ has been replaced by the equally utopian concept of ‘no strings attached’ relationships.

You might wonder why I’ve labelled it as utopian, when it is very much prevalent in the real world. It is prevalent, no doubt. But let us pause here and examine the recesses and genesis of this concept. The 21st century is characterized by its fast-paced life and the so called ‘warped’ existence. Ambition is the key word for the youth of today, not romance. They lack the mental space and time that romance requires and demands, and this in a way gives rise to increasing preference given to a no strings attached relationship. The individual is so caught up with himself and his surroundings that the presence of another person, their emotions and their surroundings becomes unbearably cumbersome after a point. Not as heroic as unrequited and selfless (often self-destructive) love, we might say. But things have got to change to ultimately evolve, haven’t they?

So, getting back to the utopia argument, here is why it has been called so. This seemingly ‘emotion-less’ attitude is very much an idyll, because no normal human being is bereft of emotions. Pleasure without emotional burdens is certainly desired by some individuals today, but for the most part, it is impossible to accomplish. Emotions creep in before you know it, as in the movies, and people end up falling in love. People who have experienced intensely emotional relationships in the past are all the more bound to run away from them, for the simple reason that it is too taxing to the mind. Since sexual pleasure is desired within or without relationships, the idea of sex without emotions would seem like the perfect alternative. Except people underestimate themselves, and delude themselves into thinking that they are made of such baser stuff as requires meaningless physical pleasure to keep their spirit alive. On the contrary, it dampens the spirit, damaging it in some cases. Each one of us wants to be loved at the end of the day. It is just a matter of finding a way to that love.

Time has changed the outlook towards love and relationships, and people adopt various methods to explore and exploit their proclivity, but the fascination with ‘the one’ right person will be relentless. It is human nature; no era can change it.

gay and god

By Kritika Pramod Kulshrestha:

In November 2012, French President Francois Hollande took one step ahead towards ushering in change into French society, with his liberal-thinking plans to introduce gay marriage and adoption rights. With the gay marriage bill set to be debated in parliament in January, Hollande’s support for gay rights, subsequently led to anti-gay street demonstrations, creating a rift within French society. Thousands of people, including Catholic and other religious groups, descended onto the streets of Lyon, Marseille, and Toulouse to protest against the bill which legalizes same-sex marriages and allows gay couples to adopt, giving them full parenting rights.

gay and god

Despite fierce opposition from mayors and the Catholic Church, Hollande’s socialist government approved the bill in November, 2012. Hollande’s reform is an extension of existing gay rights, which will allow gay couples in civil unions to marry, since marriage is mandatory for legally adopting in France.

Many countries across the globe, including, South Africa, Canada, Spain, and the Netherlands have legalized gay marriages and France is set to become the 12th. Despite the Roman Catholic’s stronghold in the Spanish society, since 2005 more than 21,000 gay couples have been legally married.

While the flag-bearers of religious sentiments condemn gay rights and still consider homosexuality a taboo, and others define marriage as a “legal union between a man and a woman” only, the truth is that gays have the right to lead a life of dignity. We need to show greater tolerance towards their sexuality.

Recently, in India, hundreds of gay rights activists participated in a protest march in New Delhi where they openly demonstrated their angst at being discriminated against. Although, a 2009 Delhi High Court order decriminalized homosexuality and “recognized sexual orientation as a human right”, the taboo still remains in the remotest corners of the country.

In India, where religion and tradition command our actions and our thoughts, it is difficult to make people realize that homosexuality is not a crime; that religious sentiments cannot be hurt if one is gay. Every person has the right to live with dignity and freedom and we, as educated, thinking individuals have to be more accepting of people’s sexual preferences. As Indians, we need to take an assertive stand on the issue of gay rights in India. Opening our minds will ensure progress not just for us but also for society as a whole. We need to revolt against the conservative oppression that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community is subjected to.

Gays should not feel the need to wear masks and scarves to hide their faces. Hate crimes against homosexuals have to be dealt with rapid and strict action. While the pace of change will be slow people have to realize that HIV/AIDS is not exclusively a gay disease and homosexuals can make responsible parents too.

Our traditional concept of the family as being a father, mother, and child will have to undergo reform and consider the new possibilities of co-mothers or co-fathers taking care of their legally adopted children. It will be quite some time before the tussle between religious sentiments and traditions and sexual freedom will come to an end in India and in many other countries. Until then, we have to seize every opportunity to shun our dogmatic values and embrace with care the new changes in society.

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By Divish Gupta:

इस देश के लाखों लोग अपने फ़ैसले खुद नहीं लेते, उनके फ़ैसले ग़रीबी लेती है|

One among those millions is a lady living with her 20-25 co-workers in a workplace situated very close to New Delhi Railway Station. She is 41, working hard for the past 26 years to earn a living. Like any other mother, her dream is to ensure a better future for her children. She earns enough to provide good education to them but somehow, this is not enough. She has to constantly make efforts to keep her shadow away from them. The day she fails, all her efforts will turn into dust. Do you know why?

Because she is a sex worker at one of the brothels in G.B. Road. We call her prostitute, or a whore but she finds them objectionable. We portray her as immoral, unchaste or obscene but she disagrees. We say that such women ruin our social values but she feels that the society is responsible for ruining her past, present and future. She was married at an age of 14. Within a year, her husband sold her to a brothel for a meagre amount because her parents were not able to meet the dowry demands. Her husband told her parents that she died. They believed him. At an age when children used to play in open grounds, she was locked in a small room to serve customers.

When she was 19, she took a brave decision. With two small girls born during her time at the brothel, she decided to go back to her parents. It was not easy for her to tell truth to the parents, but she said it. To support her poor family, she started working in a farmland. In our society, powerful dominates the weak and the weak has no choice but to remain content under the suppression. It was too obvious for the farm owner that a 19 year old girl coming from Delhi with two little fatherless babies could only be a prostitute. For him, she was not a labour; she was an opportunity. He raped her. She remained silent. She had to choose between selling her body to a client and losing out her soul to this rapist. She chose the less undesirable option and came back to brothel.

She is not the only one who decides to leave the brothel but eventually comes back. In 105 brothels located at G.B. Road, there are around 5,000 sex workers who are facing the consequences of hypocrisy prevailing in our society. Once a prostitute, always a prostitute. They never had a choice. Neither to enter the sex industry nor to leave it. We put a stamp on their face and do not accept them in our society even if they are willing to keep their past behind. But why don’t we accept them? It’s not the morality. It’s our fear. Because brothels can show the true picture of the so-called social and moral values of our society. We visit those brothels in night to satisfy our needs but we can’t accept it in the daylight. Also, if you think that only uneducated labourers or such farm owners go to brothels, you are living in a utopian world. G.B. Road has plenty of customers during the lunch timings of offices in the vicinity which shows the duplicity and inequality prevailing in our society.

After coming to brothel, she gave birth to a boy. She didn’t want her children to have the same childhood as hers. She worked hard to earn money and sent her children to hostels, far away from the dark life of G. B. Road. Today, both of her daughters are married and her son is about to finish his schooling. Her daughters’ parents-in-law are unaware of her profession. The day they get to know about her work, her daughter will be facing the same situation which she did 26 years ago.

Adding to their woes, our government has done almost nothing to bring these workers out of their situation. There is a law since 1956, ITPA, to prevent trafficking. In the act, sex work is not prohibited but it penalizes specific activities related to sex work. Brothels are made illegal because they lead to trafficking but even two sex workers are not allowed to live and work together. It is obvious that a woman who is in such a vulnerable situation that she has to force herself into prostitution can never perform it individually. She is left with no other option but to enter a brothel to feed herself and her children. The laws are not encouraging her to leave the profession but to do it illegally. A sex worker is forced to hide her activities and seek security under the organization of brothels as our legal system has failed to protect her rights. This leads to more cases of sexually transmitted diseases among them and acts of unreported criminal violence.

To curb trafficking, government has made it difficult to execute sex work. But instead of keeping a check on trafficking, it has made the life of sex workers even worse. Prostitution has grown 17 times in the past 15 years. G.B. Road is completely illegal but still it runs in front of our eyes. Brothels at G.B. Road give a bribe of more than 1 million rupees to allow them to function. Traffickers are selling girls at even higher prices, buyers are still buying them, pockets of police is getting heavier in the process but no one is giving attention to 3 million sex workers in India living a life of negligence.

We gave them no rights to raise their voice against the exploitation they face. We gave them no rights to leave prostitution. We gave them no rights to demand for better working conditions. We are completely correct at our stand and we will not allow them to spread filth and dirt among us. Because they are not humans, they are prostitutes. And who are we?

हम समाज हैं| एक सभ्य समाज| जिस दिन आईने में झाँक के देखेंगे, उस दिन खुद पे शर्म आएगी| लेकिन हम आँखों पे पर्दा डालके आराम से बैठे रहेंगे| आख़िर हम समाज हैं|

 

This article is based on the interviews that the writer had during his research internship in Centre for Civil Society on economics of sex workers at G.B. Road. He is thankful to the organization for bringing him closer to the reality and to the sex workers and brothel owners for greeting him so well.

P.S.: Everything is grey in this world. Upcoming posts will expose you to different colours of their life.

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author: Divish Gupta is a student of Electrical Engineering in IIT Delhi. He is passionate about travelling, meeting strangers, photography and dramatics. He has keen interest in sustainable socio-economic development of underprivileged communities and sees his future in it. He strongly believes in the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” .[/box]

 

 

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