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Here Is What We Need To Learn From The Wedding Of Seema And Shannon

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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

You must be to comment.
  1. Manak

    Totally with the sentiment of this article. The right to live the way you want should not come with limitations on the basis of sexuality. marriage is a tenuous debate though, specially in india, because the marriage right argument tends to come with the long term romantic love ideal which might not be a reality for many people, homosexual or heterosexual. So the right to live and express one’s sexuality shouldn’t always go hand in hand with the idea of monogamy, marriage and other “respectable” behavior.

    Also, the supreme court is yet to rule.. the Delhi high court decriminalized homosexuality in 2009. 🙂

  2. yssubramanyam

    there are many such category behind the screen. desire has no gender. perverted is the opposite of majority. we must consider the cases of all kind. marriage is a forced social system if individual is homosexual. there are many tragic families suffering due to lack of identity in society.

  3. Keerti

    It is so uplifting to see parents accept the decisions their children take. In a society that taboos almost everything that falls out of the ‘usual’, such people bring hope for a better tomorrow.

  4. Raj

    What we should learn is that marriage is a religious institution and must not be defined by the Govt. People should be free to associate in what ever manner they want.

  5. Jaiman

    How We can accept such wedding of same sex … Sannon and Seema .which is against any religion and Gods plan for the humanity and entire Universe.Can we think of any thing good comes out of such marriages except selfish pleasure.To be honest such people should be counseled and treated for such sexual deviations which is psychological disorders.Parents instead of supporting their weakness they should have been helped to come out of such unnatural life style of sexual orientation..Over and above the ceremony was of Indian traditional wedding..was it not a mockery of religious ceremony which is meant for hetero sexual marriages.If people have same sex sexual deviation the should seek help.If do not want why do they do a fake wedding….

    1. Raj

      How about I suggest you go and masturbate? If you don’t like me interfering in your personal life, then keep off others’

  6. Sneha Roychoudhury

    Most times we let bias and prejudice colour the opinions on our social canvas with a gaudy shade that resplendently overrides all humanity and consideration for individual decisions. Our society has been designed on such lines, modeled on such principles. The article has particularly touched me since, under its intensively researched account lies a soft but distinct voice of understanding. It urges us, as a generation to shirk off the stigma of unjustifiable homophobia, broaden our horizons and tell all those who think they are entitled to judge and set the social paradigms of our community that the world is a better place to live in for those who chose to be different, for those who are looked upon as different, but aren’t really so, for it is we, we who set them apart, who separate them and ostracize them, never once considering the turmoil within them. As far as religion is concerned, the article rightly points out that homosexuality, as naturally (if not more) is mentioned in religious texts all over the world. The very religious text our moral guardians swear by. So all those who mark homosexuality as “sin” might want to recheck their facts as I see their argument falling on its face. It is not a psychological or physical disorder to be Gay. It is a choice (whether mental or biological is not ours to judge) to spend and share their lives with people they have chosen. In fact I would want to end by pointing out that Homosexuality isn’t the disorder you’re looking at. Homophobia is.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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