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Archives for : Lesbian

#India – Lesbian kills self, partner hospitalized #WTFnews

TNN | Jun 16, 2014, 03.09AM IST

Suicide

Techie allegedly kills woman colleague over unrequited love, attempts suicide in Chennai
RAIPUR: After two recent incidents of same sex love, now a 22-year-old girl who was in relation with a minor girl committed suicide at Pakhanjur tehsil of Kanker district on Saturday.
On seeing the deceased partner, the other girl also attempted suicide by consuming poison and is stated to be critical.
Police said that deceased Ritu had met the minor few months ago at a village function after which they developed a relationship and started living together. According to police, Ritu had pressurized her parents to allow the minor to stay at her home on June 13. Meanwhile, the minor’s parents started searching for her when her 8%father spotted the duo at a %market place.
A heated argument ensued and police was called after which the minor was asked to go with her parents.
Soon after the incident, a disturbed Ritu hanged herself on Saturday. As soon as the news reached the minor, she also attempted suicide .
Read more here-  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/raipur/Lesbian-kills-self-partner-hospitalized/articleshow/36625031.cms

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Supreme Court recognizes transgenders as ‘third gender’ #Goodnews

 

1. Recognition of third gender.
2. Recognition of people who identify in the opposite sex based on self-identification. Includes female identifying as male and male identifying as female.
3. Non-recognition of gender identity amounts to discrimination under Arts  14, 15 and 16.
4. Discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity amounts to discrimination on the ground of sex under Art  15.
5. No SRS required for recogntition of gender identity.
6. Persons gender identity based on their choice is protected under the constitution.
7. A series of directions have been given to the Centre and States based on the above.

 

lgbt1

lgbt1

,TNN | Apr 15, 2014,

NEW DELHI: In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court on Tuesday created the “third gender” status for hijras or transgenders. Earlier, they were forced to write male or female against their gender.The SC asked the Centre to treat transgender as socially and economically backward.The apex court said that transgenders will be allowed admission in educational institutions and given employment on the basis that they belonged to the third gender category.

The SC said absence of law recognizing hijras as third gender could not be continued as a ground to discriminate them in availing equal opportunities in education and employment.

This is for the first time that the third gender has got a formal recognition. The third gender people will be considered as OBCs, the SC said.

The SC said they will be given educational and employment reservation as OBCs.

The apex court also said states and the Centre will devise social welfare schemes for third gender community and run a public awareness campaign to erase social stigma.

The SC said the states must construct special public toilets and departments to look into their special medical issues.

The SC also added that if a person surgically changes his/her sex, then he or she is entitled to her changed sex and can not be discriminated.


“Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue,” the court said today, asking the Centre to treat transgenders as “socially and economically backward”, to enable them to get reservations in jobs and education.”Transgenders are also citizens of India. It is the right of every human being to choose their gender. The spirit of the Constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizens to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender,” the court said.The case was filed in 2012 by a group of petitioners including prominent eunuch and activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi seeking equal rights for the transgender population under the law.

The court expressed concern at the discrimination and said the Centre and states must work to raise awareness and end any perceived stigma. This ruling comes four months after the same court reinstated a colonial-era ban on gay sex, in a widely criticised decision.

Gay sex had been effectively legalised in 2009 when the Delhi High Court ruled that a section of the penal code prohibiting “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” was an infringement of fundamental rights.

Former Election Commission SY Quraishi said, “When the Election Commission recognised transgender as the ‘other’ gender besides male and female, one million of them got empowered. The Supreme Court has endorsed it.”

The Election Commission had issued voters’ cards for the first time to transgenders last year.

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#India – Homosexuality through ages ,The door was always open #Sec377 #LGBTQ

BY    DECEMBER 11, 2013, Kindle Magazine

untitled
  • Fact: Homosexuality is considered taboo in modern Indian civic society.
  • Fact: India is home to over 5 million LGBT members, registered and unregistered.
  • Fact: India is one of the earliest cultures to have recognized homosexuality in its mythology, religious texts and society in general.
  • Fact: This is not the same India anymore.

India is now a country of active right-wing politics, which has failed to acknowledge her very own history and culture. From the time of Vatsyayana, all of L, G, B and T themes and practices have been acknowledged in Indian (then just Hindu) society.

Hinduism was probably the most accepting of all the religions in the world of homosexuality but that isn’t what one would learn if one had to take a look at modern India. According to the Indian judiciary, homosexuality is punishable to the extent of ‘life imprisonment’, the same sentence as some murders and rape. This cannot be imposed on the fact that it stems from the cultural influence that the other religions in India have had on society because Buddhism and even Islam in India acknowledge homosexuality to varying degrees. Moreover, the saffron brigade is probably the forerunner of the so-called social pruning and social cleansing programme that is being extensively implemented nation-wide, unofficially.

Hindu Mythology and teachings have had many characters, concepts and practices that are on the lines of LGBT themes. Mohini, Sikhandi, Vrihannala, Bhagiratha and Chaitanya are a few of the people and characters that Hinduism has celebrated in the past but today these themes are not acknowledged very easily or are given a very right-wing explanation.

Let us try to re-explore these themes:

Mohini is considered one of the 25 avatars of Lord Vishnu. Mohini took the female form of Vishnu and was the one who allured the ‘Daityas’ with her ‘bodily’ beauty and deceived them to seize the ‘amrita’ nectar for the Gods. Mohini is also the wife of Arjuna’s son Aarava and she chose to stay close to Arjuna’s bloodline from the time when she was in the male form of Lord Krishna. In other accounts, Mohini gave birth to ‘Shasta’ as a result of a union with Lord Shiva. However, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu have had another accounted union and this time Lord Vishnu was in the form of the male ‘Kurma’ (turtle) avatar; the creation from this union was Swami Ayappa.

Arjuna’s son Aarava has quite a following in Tamil Nadu and especially amongst a community called the Aaravanis, who celebrate the Koovagam festival. Aravanis are transgenders, feminine and masculine homosexuals. The transgenders of this sect do not practice castration.

In fact in 2008 as an outstanding exception, the Karunanidhi Government was the first in the country to issue ration cards to transgender citizens in Tamil Nadu. The Ration Card is the primary definitive proof of identity for citizens in India. No sooner than the first batch of 18 applications were cleared, that too, in less than a day, applications to seek identity as ‘Third Gender’ marked in the sex column as T, distinct from the usual M and F have started pouring in.

In Tamil Nadu alone 40,000 Aravanis are estimated to have benefitted by this move implemented under the leadership of social welfare minister Poongothai Aladi Aruna, a ‘gynecologist’.

Going back to the robust Arjuna, one would have to talk about his one whole year as the ‘kliba’ or ‘third-sex’ Vrihannala. Arjuna in this form became a master of music and dance but the most important point here is how Maharaja Virata addressed Vrihannala as a female, accepting her transgender status, and that he was familiar with people of the third sex within his Vedic kingdom. He did not ridicule or belittle her, and he most certainly did not have her sent away or arrested. He also did not suggest that Vrihannala change her dress and behave as an ordinary male. Rather, he accepted her nature and offered her shelter and employment within his royal palace.

Also in the Mahabharata, Shikhandi was born female, but raised as a boy. Shikhandi’s father, King Drupada, had begged the god Mahadeva to give him a son, to which Mahadeva replied: “Thou shalt have a child who will be a female and male. Desist, O king, it will not be otherwise.” When Shikhandi comes of age and marries, Shikhandi’s wife “soon came to know that (Shikhandi) was a woman like herself.” Fleeing from the unnamed wife’s enraged father, Sikhandi encounters a male Yaksha (nature spirit) in the forest, and they agree to swap sexes. Now in a male body, Shikhandi proves to his father-in-law that he is truly male, after the latter sends “a number of young ladies of great beauty” to Shikhandi to test him. They report back that he is “a powerful person of the masculine sex,” and Shikhandi becomes a skilled and famous warrior, playing a pivotal role in the war.

In the Ramayana, when the famous king of the Sun Dynasty, Maharaja Dilipa died, the demigods become concerned that he did not have a son to continue his line. Lord Shiva therefore appeared before the king’s two widowed queens and commanded them, “You two make love together and by my blessings you will bear a beautiful son.” The two wives, with great affection for each other, executed Shiva’s order until one of them conceived a child. Unfortunately, however, the child was born boneless, but by the blessings of a sage, Astavakra, the child was restored to full health and continued the dynasty. Astavakra accordingly named the child “Bhagiratha” – he who was born from two vulvas (bhaga). Bhagiratha later became one of the most famous kings of India and is credited with bringing the Ganges River down to earth through his austerities.

Even the concepts of ‘Ardhanarishwara’, ‘Harihara’ and ‘Shivanarayana’ do not adhere to the strict gender demarcations that the right-wing politicians of India preach today. Even the judiciary of India does not consider these ancient acceptances in our culture as legitimate in the eyes of law.

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What about the 1.2 million Indian ‘hijras’, who live in the outskirts of society and social acceptance? The third sex is unique to India but institutional and social acceptance is minimal even though there are more members of the third sex in India than there are Jews and Armenians, who are constitutionally recognized. Other than the hijras and the Aaravans, other third sex communities include the Jogappas and the Sakhi-Bekhis. The Jogappan, associated with crossdressing, homosexuality and male prostitution come from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The jogappa are connected with Yellamma-devi, a popular Hindu deity of Durga, and include both feminine transgenders dressed as women as well as masculine types. Both serve as dancers and male prostitutes, and they are usually in charge of the temple devadasis.

The sakhi-bekhis are prominent throughout Bengal, Orissa and Uttar. They typically dress themselves as women in order to reinforce their identity as sakhis or girlfriends of Krishna and to attain the esteemed spiritual emotion known as sakhi-bhava. Such men are not always transgender or homosexual but in most cases they are. They generally worship Sri Radha, the consort of Lord Krishna, although some specifically worship Lord Chaitanya (the incarnation of Radha and Krishna combined) and are known as gauranga-nagaris.

In his book, ‘Tritiya-Prakriti: People of the Third Sex’, Vaishnava monk Amara Das Wilhelm demonstrates how ancient expressions of Hinduism accommodated homosexual and transgender persons much more positively than we see in India today:

“Early Vedic teachings stressed responsible family life and asceticism but also tolerated different types of sexualities within general society.” The tritya prakriti was also well-accepted and adequately described in Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra.

This article aims at drawing a clear & definite line, charting the presence, acceptance & the relevance of the “other” or the transgender in our nation’s history & philosophy.
Will that inspire a change in the conformist mind-set? Or will it alter the stiff, ruthless version of Hinduism preached by the right-wing? The answer is lies in the hearts and mind of the people who choose to read this piece.
As the Mahatma had once said, “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people”, if all the people of India have the acceptance that they once, did then India would reach a new ‘state’ of ‘love’.

Read more here- http://kindlemag.in/door-open-homosexuality-ages/

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#India – #LGBTQ have Made More than #377 Contributions

Garam Masala

They have Made More than 377 Contributions to All Sections in India!

VIKRAM DOCTOR MUMBAI , ET

It seems like any other sandwich in the café’s display case until you notice the small label: LGBT sandwich. What’s in it, you ask. Lettuce, Gouda cheese, Basil oil and Tomato, says the person behind the counter, deadpan. LGBT also stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, a group of people that a Supreme Court bench recently dismissed as a ‘minuscule minority’ whose rights were not worth protecting. Someone at this café, part of a national chain, seems to be more supportive. I won’t name the chain to prevent this quiet gesture from gaining controversy, but if you ever see the sandwich, consider ordering it in tasty solidarity (though I wish instead of boring iceberg lettuce they had used lively, peppery arugula which would better suit the lesbians I know). Fashion is the stereotypical gay profession, but food isn’t far behind, and rather more inclusive of the rest of the alternate sexuality spectrum. LGBT people have long found sustenance, salaries and solace from all parts of the food business — as chefs, wait staff, food writers, farmers, food entrepreneurs and just cooking up multitudes of delicious meals. The Alice B Toklas Cookbook, which famously first popularised a recipe for hash brownies, is as much a memoir of Toklas’ life with her life partner, the writer Gertrude Stein. MFK Fisher, the best, most luminous of American food writers, lived for years with another woman. Lots of LGBT People in Indian Food Biz 
In one of her memoirs, she has a memorable chapter on the lusts and appetites (for oysters as much as sex) that pervaded Miss Huntington’s School for Girls where she studied in 1924.
James Beard, the guru of American gastronomy was gay, though he had to be discreet about it for most of his life. James Villas, a much younger food writer, writes in his memoirs of taking the massive Beard to a gay club for the first time, which he enjoyed, though he felt everyone there was too thin: “They just need to put some meat on their bones.” Craig Claiborne, long-time food critic for the New York Times, and one of the first to popularise Indian food in the US, was gay, as was Richard Olney, a reclusive, but influential expert on French food.Today, sexuality hardly seems an issue in the food business in the US. Anthony Bourdain in Kitchen Confidential, his entertaining exposé of high-stress restaurant life admits that kitchen swearing is often homophobic and racist, but doesn’t mean it: “We spend too much time together as an extended, dysfunctional family to care about sex, gender, preference, race or national origin.”
Several Indian-American LGBT people have made their names with food, like Preeti Mistry, who is openly lesbian, and was a chef on the Google campus before taking part in the Top Chef show. Raghavan Iyer, whose 660 Curries is one of the best written and presented big books of Indian recipes dedicated it to his late mother, to Terry Erickson, his partner of 25 years and to their son Robert who “tasted all of the recipes in this book (extraordinarily commendable when I tell you the testing happened during the fourth, fifth and sixth years of his life).”
In India, LGBT people in the food business may be less open, and this regressive ruling might force them to be even more discreet. Yet there have always been lots of LGBT people involved in Indian food, like a well-known food writer who multiple reliable sources have told me was gay, but since he lived well before the relative openness of recent years, never really came out. One of the first really stylish small restaurants I encountered in Bangalore was run by a gay couple and a lesbian chef runs some of the best restaurants in the country. I haven’t been to Salem in a while, but if I do go, I’ll make sure to eat at the Menmai Arusuvai Idli Kadai which has been set up by a transgender community group and has been such a hit they plan to start a chain.
Lathika George, in her book The Suriani Kitchen, writes about Missy, an Anglo-Indian lady famous in the Syrian-Christian community in Kerala in the 1940s for her cooking skills. She travelled, teaching how to make her delicacies and usually stayed in the local convent, since she was a devout Christian. One night when she didn’t respond to knocking at her door, a young nun peeped through the keyhole and “spied Missy hurriedly pulling a dress over her head, turning then to reveal she was actually a man.” What happened to Missy isn’t told, but her memory survives in her recipes which George passes on, like for instance Molaga Chertha Mooriyerchi Chops, steaks marinated in tamarind, jaggery and pepper.
Since many LGBT people live with families and can’t bring partners or friends home, restaurants and cafes become particularly important as places to meet. The Gaybombay support group started off 14 years back with a group of men meeting informally in McDonald’s, which had just opened in the city. It wasn’t the fast food that was the attraction, but the fact that it was cheap, easy to access and even had a nice family vibe, that mattered for a group that wanted to show that being gay wasn’t something sleazy, but just as regular as anything else.
Over the years, many restaurants, cafes and bars have hosted LGBT meetings – United Coffee House in Delhi was one of the very first – and it was heartening to hear how one Mumbai bar, after the Supreme Court decision, waived some charges that a LGBT group owed them for the event as a sign of support. Another supportive brand was Amul which did a congratulatory hoarding after the positive Delhi High Court ruling in 2009 and a commiserating one now. But as always for LGBT people, it’s the food cooked and eaten at home that has been the most important. ‘Feeding Lesbigay Families’ is a fascinating study by Christopher Carrington that studies food interactions of gay and lesbian couples in the US to show not just how similar they are to straight couples, but also to illuminate aspects of straight relationships, like the often unexpressed inequalities in food shopping, cooking and consumption. And at the start of the essay he quotes an epigram he found in the kitchen of a lesbian family: “Life’s riches other rooms adorn. But in a kitchen, home is born.”
vikram.doctor@timesgroup.com

  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.kractivist.org/india-supreme-khaap-and-the-sec377-its-about-basic-human-rights-lgbtq/" target="_blank"> #India – Supreme Khaap and the #Sec377: it’s about basic human rights #LGBTQ
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Press Release-Sangama wins Lesbian case in Kerala High Court

English: The Bisexual flag and Gay flag put to...

English: The Bisexual flag and Gay flag put together (Alphabetical order, “Bisexual” before “Homosexual”.) with heterosexual symbol over it. It is for straight people who very proudly support gay, lesbian, and bisexual rights and issues. I really hope this gets popular. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Press Release

Bangalore, 13 Aug 2013:  The Kerala High Court today dismissed a writ petition against a Lesbian represented by Sangama, after the honourable court inquired and proved false the allegations made by her mother and Sruthi was set free to make her own decision. In a stunning judgment, Justice Anthony Dominic said: “She is free to go anywhere she wants,’’ a freedom denied to many adult women who struggle to get out of their `parents’ protection’.

On Tuesday, the honourable High court of Kerala dismissed the case of Habeas Corpus petition filed by the mother of Sruthi, alleging that the Bangalore based well-known NGO Sangama had detained her against her will. She also further alleged that her daughter would be subjected to prostitution and the honourable high court in the presence of Sruthi and her parents, and representatives of Sangama including its Director Gurukiran Kamath, heard the case. Sruthi interacted with her family and gave them confidence that she is pursuing education at Bangalore and wish to be responsible for her own life and asked them not to worry about her.

When questioned by the court on the allegations made against Sangama and of her alleged detention by Sangama, Sruthi informed Justice Anthony Dominic that all the allegations were false and that she is at Bangalore on her own will and that she has moved to Bangalore to pursue her education and employment. The court then dismissed the writ petition.

Prominent city lawyer and human rights activist, Mr BT Venkatesh and advocate Ms Asha of Thrissur represented Sruthi. “The practice in Habeas Corpus cases in Kerala against women was always against the Constitutionally guaranteed Fundamental Rights. The courts are supposed to be the guardian of these Fundamental Rights. But unfortunately Judicial Intimidation has happened in Saranya’s case where the girl was forced to return to her parents. Fortunately, in this case, the alleged detenue Sruthi came up to the standards of the courageous women and was not overtaken or overwhelmed by the unfriendly atmosphere of the court hall which emphasizes that only courageous and empowered women can have their freedom like that of men”.

A beaming Sruthi, who was at the centre of the case, said after coming out of the court: “I had voluntarily moved out of my native place along with my partner and friend Saranya as our families were opposed to our relationship.’’ She also added: “Saranya’s father made wild allegations against me stating that I had kidnapped and taken away Saranya for illegal and immoral activities. He also deliberately supressed the facts and indulged in emotional blackmail to take back Saranya away from me clandestinely. I am also pursuing to secure the release of Saranya from the detention of her parents.’’

Sruthi also stated that Sangama is one of the finest organisations providing protection and security to give member like me from the marginalised communities, the confidence to lead a free and independent life. The allegations made against Sangama were made with an intention to compel me to go back to my parents and to discourage me to pursue my career in Bangalore.

She also said that she loves and respect her parents and that allegations made against her and Sangama were made forced on my mother by some persons to misled my mother to file this petition. “My mother has been very supportive of me and I know that it is not my mother’s intention to file a petition against me,’’ she felt.

Gurukiran Kamath, Director of Sangama, stated that it is unfortunate that such false allegations were made against Sangama, an organisation that is striving to protect the human rights of sexual minorities, sex workers and other marginalised sections of society for over a decade. He said despite the best efforts to bring down the name of our organisation by such wild allegations, Sangama would never waver from its commitment to these communities. He said the order of the honorable High Court re-affirms their belief that right of choice is a fundamental right that can never be violated by anyone including the state agencies. “Sangama has supported many lesbians and transgenders who migrated from Kerala to Bangalore in the past 10 years and will continue to support them in future as well,’’ he declared.

Manohar Elavarthi, Joint Secretary of Praja Rajakiya Vedike expressed his happiness at the judgement. He said: “the rights of lesbians are routinely violated in different parts of India and there is a need for all human rights groups to extend their support. PRV extends its full support to Sruthi in getting the release of Saranya.’’ He appealed to all human rights and progressive groups to extend support to Sruthi’s struggle and struggles of millions of sexual minorities in India. “The brave efforts of Sruthi will help many more in future in creating a society free from homophobia,’’ Manohar, who is also the founder of Sangama, concluded.

For details call Gurukiran 98803 65692 or Manohar 963222 3460On Tuesday, the honourable High court of Kerala dismissed the case of Habeas Corpus petition filed by the mother of Sruthi, alleging that the Bangalore based well-known NGO Sangama had detained her against her will. She also further alleged that her daughter would be subjected to prostitution and the honourable high court in the presence of Sruthi and her parents, and representatives of Sangama including its Director Gurukiran Kamath, heard the case. Sruthi interacted with her family and gave them confidence that she is pursuing education at Bangalore and wish to be responsible for her own life and asked them not to worry about her.

When questioned by the court on the allegations made against Sangama and of her alleged detention by Sangama, Sruthi informed Justice Anthony Dominic that all the allegations were false and that she is at Bangalore on her own will and that she has moved to Bangalore to pursue her education and employment. The court then dismissed the writ petition.

Prominent city lawyer and human rights activist, Mr BT Venkatesh and advocate Ms Asha of Thrissur represented Sruthi. “The practice in Habeas Corpus cases in Kerala against women was always against the Constitutionally guaranteed Fundamental Rights. The courts are supposed to be the guardian of these Fundamental Rights. But unfortunately Judicial Intimidation has happened in Saranya’s case where the girl was forced to return to her parents. Fortunately, in this case, the alleged detenue Sruthi came up to the standards of the courageous women and was not overtaken or overwhelmed by the unfriendly atmosphere of the court hall which emphasizes that only courageous and empowered women can have their freedom like that of men”.

A beaming Sruthi, who was at the centre of the case, said after coming out of the court: “I had voluntarily moved out of my native place along with my partner and friend Saranya as our families were opposed to our relationship.’’ She also added: “Saranya’s father made wild allegations against me stating that I had kidnapped and taken away Saranya for illegal and immoral activities. He also deliberately supressed the facts and indulged in emotional blackmail to take back Saranya away from me clandestinely. I am also pursuing to secure the release of Saranya from the detention of her parents.’’

Sruthi also stated that Sangama is one of the finest organisations providing protection and security to give member like me from the marginalised communities, the confidence to lead a free and independent life. The allegations made against Sangama were made with an intention to compel me to go back to my parents and to discourage me to pursue my career in Bangalore.

She also said that she loves and respect her parents and that allegations made against her and Sangama were made forced on my mother by some persons to misled my mother to file this petition. “My mother has been very supportive of me and I know that it is not my mother’s intention to file a petition against me,’’ she felt.

Gurukiran Kamath, Director of Sangama, stated that it is unfortunate that such false allegations were made against Sangama, an organisation that is striving to protect the human rights of sexual minorities, sex workers and other marginalised sections of society for over a decade. He said despite the best efforts to bring down the name of our organisation by such wild allegations, Sangama would never waver from its commitment to these communities. He said the order of the honorable High Court re-affirms their belief that right of choice is a fundamental right that can never be violated by anyone including the state agencies. “Sangama has supported many lesbians and transgenders who migrated from Kerala to Bangalore in the past 10 years and will continue to support them in future as well,’’ he declared.

Manohar Elavarthi, Joint Secretary of Praja Rajakiya Vedike expressed his happiness at the judgement. He said: “the rights of lesbians are routinely violated in different parts of India and there is a need for all human rights groups to extend their support. PRV extends its full support to Sruthi in getting the release of Saranya.’’ He appealed to all human rights and progressive groups to extend support to Sruthi’s struggle and struggles of millions of sexual minorities in India. “The brave efforts of Sruthi will help many more in future in creating a society free from homophobia,’’ Manohar, who is also the founder of Sangama, concluded.

For details call Gurukiran 98803 65692 or Manohar 963222 3460

 

 

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Men, Women and Other People: Understanding Sexualities #Sundayreading

breaking1

From left to right  ( Nine members of the research team ) – Hasina Khan , Kranti  ,  Shruti, Shalini Mahajan, Smriti Nevatia , Raj, Sabla , Meenu pandey, and Chayanika shah

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Women Feature Service 

The concept of gender needs to be transformed. That was the central thrust of a recent study entitled, ‘Breaking The Binary’, released by the queer feminist collective, Labia, at an event organised in Mumbai’s well–known SNDT University.

Questioning the male–female binary, the study concluded that there can be no uniformity within these identities. Even when people use the same term like ‘man’, ‘woman’, ’transgender’ to define themselves, their lived realities may differ greatly. Such categories, therefore, should necessarily be less rigid because when the boundaries between them get blurred, individuals are enabled to exert greater agency and choice in moving across them. According to the study, gender needs to be consensual; it needs to get transformed from a hierarchical discrete, binary system to a porous, multiple–gender one.

‘Breaking The Binary’ was based on 50 life history narratives that explored the circumstances and situations of queer PAGFB (Persons Assigned Gender Female at Birth), who were made to, or were expected to, conform to existing social norms pertaining to gender and sexuality.

The research team for the study comprised 11 members, with Chayanika, Raj, Shalini and Smriti from Labia anchoring the work. Explained Chayanika, “Through this study, we looked at the experiences of our subjects within their natal families and while at school. We charted their journeys through intimate relationships and we attempted to understand what happened to them in public spaces, how they were treated by various state agencies, what were their sources of support and refuge when they came under the threat of violence or faced discrimination.”

The people interviewed came from a wide cross–section of society in terms of location, age, caste, class, and religion. These variations were critical, according to Chayanika, as the intention was to reach those living at the intersections of many marginalised identities. But achieving this was difficult, even impossible. As she put it, “The silence and invisibility around individuals who continually transgress gender norms meant that we were able to approach only those individuals who have some contact with queer groups.”

The 50 respondents were spread across north, east, west and south India – living in cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi, Pune and Thrissur. The representation of individuals living in rural areas was low, but two persons – one from rural Maharashtra and the other from rural Jharkhand – were interviewed, and 11 of the respondents had grown up in rural settings. Of the 50 individuals who participated in the study, 30 were from the dominant castes, 11 people were from the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes/Special Backward Classes, three were from Other Backward Classes (OBC) and six identified themselves as Others.

‘Woman’ as a biological category was one of the subjects that figured in the interviews. Persons whose biological sex did not correspond with their psychological sex, were branded as gender “variants”, even though women do not constitute a homogenous category and could belong to many different categories – including a category as unfamiliar as ‘working class lesbian’ or ‘dalit lesbian’.

According to Raj, a member of Labia, “We found that being from an upper class background was no guarantee of privilege. There was a 20–year–old from a business family. Because of family dynamics, she was unable to get the education she had wanted and was forced to support herself by earning small sums of money playing cricket. Another respondent, identified as upper class, was also deprived of a meaningful education.” Clearly, a privileged, upper class background does not protect queer persons, especially if they happen to challenge gender and/or sexuality norms.

The study identified three levels of violence the respondents had faced. The first is at the individual level, where harmful acts are perpetrated against people and property. This can range from taunts to forced marriage and even murder. The second is at the institutional level, where damaging consequences are perpetrated by social institutions with the idea of obstructing the spontaneous expression of human potential – as, for example, when an office denies promotion to an employee on account of sexual orientation. The third is at the structural – cultural – level as, for instance, when religious or political beliefs rule that homosexuality is immoral or illegal.

A woman’s sexual orientation can, among other things, determine her access to resources as well as her social status, according to the study. Women suffer severe material loss when their families desert them and many experience emotional and psychological trauma in their struggle against discrimination and ostracism. Mis–recognition and non–recognition can become a very perverse form of violence as it seeks to naturalise the power enjoyed by dominant groups over non–dominant ones.

For instance, families, friends and teachers could refuse to recognise the need of lesbians to be acknowledged as they are and treated with dignity, leading them to experience a severe loss of self–esteem. This constitutes a form of violence imposed by the majority on a minority. As Shalini, one of study team members, put it, “Every society has its own notion of what is normal and what is assumed to be normal. Going beyond that construct could invite violence on the individual. Many of the respondents felt that the gay rights movement was crucial precisely because people cannot hide behind identities that are not their own. Therefore, just as women defied patriarchy through the women’s rights movement, queer persons defy heteronormativity through the queer rights movement.”

This study, the first of its kind, has helped shed light on how queer persons have addressed the challenges of life and how they continue to search, negotiate, and challenge multiple boundaries. It has attempted to answer some important questions. Where, for instance, are the points at which gender binaries rupture? How are the normative gender lines being reinforced? What situations help to create varied gender identities? Most important of all, the study has helped to capture the experiences of Persons Assigned Gender Female at Birth and their negotiations with families, friends, communities, social structures, as well as the health and legal systems.

The team hopes to take the study forward to highlight areas of concern and conceptualise effective interventions. As one of the team members put it, “We are aiming to convey its insights to the more general category of people, at least those who are interested in taking proactive steps in addressing violence against any human being in any form and also for those who would like to understand the root causes of homophobia. We also want to take it to educational and governmental institutions, so that they can also help usher in change.”

The study was released not just in Mumbai, but in Kolkata, Delhi, Bangalore, Thrissur and Chennai as well. A Hindi translation of it is also on the cards. (WFS)

 

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#India- The Criminal Law Ordinance on Sexual Assault – Cut, Paste and Shock #Vaw #womenrights

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FEBRUARY 5, 2013

Guest post by PRATIKSHA BAXI 

Once the Criminal Law Ordinance 2013 was uploaded, circulated and read many times, an overwhelming desire to mark the ordinance to all one’s students as an example on how not to frame laws has grown. Yet, explain one must, why the current law on sexual assault is so bizarre, even if we do not bring in the so-called controversial elements and keep to the text of the ordinance.

The Criminal Law Ordinance 2013 begins with the definition of sexual assault as a gender-neutral offence. It does not make an exception to state that women do not rape men in everyday contexts under s. 375. Since such an exception is not added, and the ordinance specifies that ‘sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under sixteen years of age, is not sexual assault’, we are faced with a confounding and deeply misogynist legal consequence. Wives, we are told cannot prosecute husbands for sexually assaulting them. But since sexual assault is gender neutral without any exceptions and the marital rape exemption is not extended to husbands, now husbands can accuse wives of sexual assault but wives can never prosecute husbands for sexual assault!

To retain the marital rape exemption strikes at the heart of women’s bodily autonomy and integrity. However, to limit the exemption to wives, and allow husbands the legal remedy to file criminal complaints against their wives on the ground of sexual assault is absolutely absurd, if not totally misogynist.

The Justice Verma Committee (JVC) report had come up with a clear formulation of rape and sexual assault. Rape in everyday contexts was not gender-neutral viz., perpetrators. It specified perpetrators of rape as men, and identified victims as gender plural (any person irrespective of gender or sexual orientation). In the instance of sexual assault, gangrape and aggravated rape [under s. 376 (1) & (2)], were constructed as gender-neutral offencesviz, perpetrators and victims. Furthermore, the marital rape exemption was deleted and it was recommended that marriage should neither be the basis for presuming consent nor should any third person than wife be allowed to lodge such a complaint (to address the misuse issue). In everyday contexts, especially in intimate relationships and marriages, this definition is sensitive to the power dynamics between men and women; while recognising that in prisons, police stations, custodial homes, hospitals, in fiduciary relationships and gang rape women may be perpetrators. It is critical to understand why this definition is important breakthrough in the debates on gender neutrality so far. This definition not only recognises the bodily autonomy of women but also recognises the bodily integrity of men (irrespective of sexual orientation or gendered identity) and transgendered persons. It does not split the victims into distinct categories based on identity and therefore avoids the medicalization of sexual identity. Given the heated debates on gender neutrality, the JVC managed to define rape as a crime of patriarchy, which is not limited to women as victims, although women have predominantly the target of sexual violence.

Some may argue that this definition still leaves out certain forms of violence, which find place in intimacy of a same sex relationship, or essentializes women. But remember, the JVC does not recommend the deletion of s. 377 IPC, nor do other forms of criminalisation of same sex relationships find redress. For instance, Modi (2011) describes lesbianism as tribadism and says “lesbian women can be so morbidly jealous of such woman with who they are inverted in love, that they are sometimes incited to commit even murder” (Modi 2011:684). These are statements of prejudice, which construct lesbians as a “criminal type”. And these find no redress.

The Criminal Law Ordinance 2013also juxtaposes gender neutrality with the retention of s. 377 IPC. To retain unnatural sexual offences in the IPC means to blur the distinction between consent and lack of consent, to validate the damning judicial discourse on sodomy and validate heterosexist bias against sexual minorities. Not to include the repeal of s. 377 in the ordinance, just because the JVC does not do so, and even though the 172nd Law Commission recommended such a deletion in 2000 is a scandal. It is unintelligible since s. 377 IPC characterises sexual assault as unnatural sex and does not allow any person to consent to “unnatural” sex. If the prime concern is with expanding the definition of consent; and ensuring bodily autonomy or providing protection from sexual assault to all persons, naming the experience of sexual violence as unnatural sex, or calling consensual sex, unnatural is illogical, if not ideologically violent.

Further, sexual assault is defined without any gradation of different offences, in terms of severity of violence or the nature of violence. Section 375 (a-c) defines as sexual assault as the penetration of bodily parts or other objects into bodily orifices without consent. Section 375 (d) holds that a person commits sexual assault if s/he ‘applies his mouth to the penis, vagina, anus, urethra of another person or makes such person to do so with him or any other person’ without consent. Section 375 (e) holds that when any person ‘touches the vagina, penis, anus or breast of the person or makes the person touch the vagina, penis, anus or breast of that person or any other person’ without consent, it amounts to sexual assault[note that the cut and paste job, evident from the word “he” to designate the perpetrator]. These are all forms of sexual assault “except where such penetration or touching is carried out for proper hygienic or medical purposes”.

The use of the word hygienic is totally mysterious, and dangerous—since it allows a crafty defence lawyer to convert the experience of sexual assault into a sanitized lesson in hygiene. Further, to allow penetration for medical purposes and not even minimally mention that a doctor must take the informed consent of the person prior to penetrating or touching is violative of elementary medical ethics. Nor does the ordinance delete the two-finger test. Therefore what it does is, it permits the insertion of two fingers in the survivor’s anus or vagina for medical purposes without seeking the consent of the survivor, which even Modi’s first volume on medical jurisprudence and toxicology would not advocate. The JVC recommends the prohibition on the two-finger test and introduces a whole new chapter on what kind of medical protocol should be introduced to deal with rape survivors sensitively. Rather than moving towards a therapeutic jurisprudence, the ordinance re-inscribes the two-finger as a medical procedure, disregarding what Modi says in the early days of colonial medicine, that a doctor should never insert two fingers in the vagina without consent lest he be accused of sexual assault!

To unravel the costs of cut and paste jurisprudence, we must note that the consequences of clubbing together different forms of sexual assault in the same sentencing structure. Hypothetically speaking, if a person is convicted of an offence under section 375 (e) which holds that when any person ‘touches the vagina, penis, anus or breast of the person or makes the person touch the vagina, penis, anus or breast of that person or any other person’ without consent twice, then such a person could be sentenced to life (natural life) or even death. Assuming such an accused is tried by a “hanging” judge, you have a situation where there is no gradation made between different kinds of sexual assault in relation to severity and nature, viz., sentencing. What is to prevent more severe punishment to a hijra, found to be a repeat offender, given the colonial legacy of charactering certain kinds of bodies as “criminal types”? There are no provisions to provide fair treatment to, and prevent stereotyping of sexual minorities or women in the sentencing structure.

The only instance where such gradation viz., sentencing is maintained is in relation to marital rape. Hence, section 376B IPC holds that ‘whoever commits sexual assault on his own wife, … shall be punished with imprisonment of either description, for a term which shall not be less than two years but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine’. The ordinance is clearly protection of husbands, even those husbands who rape their ex-wives. This is also evident in the section,describing repeat offenders, which clearly excludes husbands.

Section 376E holds ‘whoever has been previously convicted of an offence punishable under section 376 or section 376 A or section 376 C or section 376 D and is subsequently convicted of an offence punishable under any of the said sections shall be punished with imprisonment for life, which shall mean the remainder of that person’s natural life or with death’. So the ordinance is clear that whoever else may get life imprisonment till s/he dies in prison or is hanged by the state, a husband should never be jailed for life or hanged. But the irony is, if a man accuses his wife of sexual assault, and if she is found to be a repeat offender by a court, she is liable to life or death penalty. One may argue that this is far fetched for why would a woman live with a man who has accused her of sexual assault but technically what this ordinance does, it makes wives vulnerable to sexual assault charges by their husbands and exposes them to prison sentences, if not death.

The cut and paste job gets even more bizarre for the JVC recommendations are added to s. 354 IPC rather than displacing the colonial law on outraging modesty. Section 354 (a) describes sexual harassment (gender neutral offence), section 354 (b) describes any person forcibly disrobing a woman, section 354 (c) describes voyeurism (victim is woman here) and section 354 (d) describes stalking (gender neutral). And section 509 IPC, which should be made redundant is retained.

It does not make sense to retain the idea that something amounts to violence only when the modesty of women is outraged, and not the bodily integrity of all women, irrespective of modesty. This is the point behind deleting the past sexual history clause and fighting against the characterisation of survivors as habitués: please do not judge women by whether or not they are modest. What we wear, who we sleep with, where we go, what work we do—is not relevant to proving sexual assault.

And then mistakes of an exhausted and overwrought JVC find their way into the ordinance, yet another cut and paste jurisprudential disaster. In s. 370, which describes trafficking, we are told that:

“The expression “exploitation” shall include, prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the forced removal of organs.”

The JVC possibly forgot to add the words “exploitation of” prostitution, while mistakenly dictating the UN protocol 2000, going against the UN Protocol signed in 2011. The trafficking clause, due to exhausted dictating, criminalises all forms of sex work, including in trafficking voluntary and consenting sex workers who are now unionised and been fighting for right to live with dignity. This provision has been enacted in the name of fighting sexual assault—and is totally unacceptable. Perhaps the JVC should issue an erratum—and re-publish its 650 pages after careful proof reading!

What may one say about the absences—those are too many to list! We wanted radical jurisprudence, to emerge from our protests and unending hard work (and unlike others, we don’t need anyone to applaud us). Instead, what we got is amortifying cut and paste jurisprudential disaster. We cannot sleep tonight, wonder how the Ministry of Law finds sleep tonight!

Pratiksha Baxi is Assistant Professor, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University

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