Happenings, Jan '14 (update 1)
Kaushik Gupta and Madhuja Nandi file reports on two Kolkata events to highlight the injustice that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is
Kolkata, January 19, 2014: Reports of events centred on Section 377, Indian Penal Code and the Supreme Court verdict reinstating the law to recriminalize lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other queer communities continue to pour in. On January 16, 2014, the Press Club Kolkata saw an interaction titled ‘Heterosexuality and IPC 377’ organized by Civilian Welfare Foundation, Kolkata. The speakers included Protik Prokash Banerjee, Advocate and Junior Standing Counsel, Government of West Bengal, Calcutta High Court; Paromita Chakraborti, Director, School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University; Anitesh Chakraborty, Founder Member, Ardhek Akash; and Dhimoyee Debnath, Secretary, Civilian Welfare Foundation.
Protik Prokash Banerjee made it clear that Section 377 was not a ‘gay sex law’ as was projected in most of the media reports. He said it affected society as a whole, and warned that if the larger community did not protest or raise its voice against the law, then soon the State would creep into everyone’s private lives and begin to determine even what people should think about.
Paromita Chakraborti voiced her concern regarding the scope and ambit of the Supreme Court verdict. Since she taught gender studies which included discussion around same-sex romantic and sexual relations, she wondered if teaching the same could also be held to be illegal. She said that discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity was the sign of a fascist outlook adopted by the State.
While Anitesh Chakraborty expressed displeasure at the way the media had projected the matter and requested media persons to be sensitive to the issue, Dhimoyee Debnath wondered why the media published photographs of people, including her own, with captions such as 'lesbians and bisexuals' without ascertaining their actual sexual orientation. She said that the media should understand that to protest against a human rights violation, a person need not be a victim of the violation but could still actively participate in protests. Thus it was not necessary that all people protesting the Supreme Court verdict were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The event received considerable media coverage, including in Bengali and Hindi newspapers.
|Tista Das (right) in a scene from Arekti Jiboner Golpo|
Earlier, on January 11, 2014, the first monthly anniversary of the Supreme Court verdict on Section 377, a group of students from Jadavpur University organized a film festival called ‘Bioscope’ at Town Hall, Dum Dum in northern Kolkata. Among the films screened was Bengali film Arekti Jiboner Golpo (Just another Life Story), which was a biographical account of the story of actor, poet and trans woman activist Tista Das.
The film portrayed how stigma around being transgender or transsexual could impact personal romantic relationships of trans persons. Directed by Jagriti Bhadra, the film was a clear indicator that the Indian queer community’s struggle was not limited to Section 377 – while the most immediate battle was centred on legal proceedings around an outdated law, an equally important struggle would have to be simultaneously waged on the social front. The film was 50 minutes in duration and sub-titled in English.