Sunday, January 19, 2014

No let up on Section 377 protests

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.

Friday, January 03, 2014

That ‘90s show!

Vartanama, Jan '14
By Pawan Dhall

That Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is draconian, colonial, archaic and unconstitutional has been said umpteen times over. More adjectives can be used, perhaps 377 of them or even more to condemn this law. Why, there could be a new alphabetical sequence for English learning inspired by this law – A for ‘ass’, B for ‘barbaric’ and so on.

Not on the margins

Insight, Jan '14
By Sayan Bhattacharya

On December 10, 2013, I went to sleep thinking about the celebrations the day after but I woke up on December 11 to my friend’s phone call. She was in tears, “My parents would rather have me married than arrested. They are constantly saying that even the Supreme Court thinks my ‘lifestyle’ is illegal.”

Qatha: A doctor’s story (part 2)

People, Jan '14
By Pawan Dhall and Sukanya Roy Ghose

Varta brings you the ‘Queer Kolkata Oral History Project’, an initiative to document five decades of queer lives in Kolkata (1960-2000). Our aim in this project is to go back in time and bring forward diverse queer voices through a series of interviews, which will provide a landmark to Kolkata city's queer history. Typically, the focus will be on the queer scenario in Kolkata during the growing up years of each interviewee – how it was to be queer in Kolkata in different decades since the 1960s till more recent times. The effort will be to bring forward a mix of the well known and the lesser known voices. Apart from the excerpts published here, the project also aims to publish a collection of the interviews in different formats. All interviews are based on informed consent and where requested, all markers of identity have been removed for reasons of confidentiality.

In this issue we bring you the second and final part of an interview with Dr. Tirthankar Guha Thakurta, a medical doctor, 30 years old, resident of Kolkata. In the first part of the interview (published in the December 2013 issue of Varta), he spoke about coming out as a gay person to his family and in the media, and taking up filmmaking on gay rights along with pursuing medicine as a career. In this part he dwells further on how the field of medicine should deal with the issue of sexuality and his thoughts on the universal pursuit of finding peace with oneself.

The interview was conducted by Pawan Dhall on August 6, 2013, and transcribed by freelancer Sukanya Roy Ghose.


Poetry, Jan '14
By Shaleen Rakesh

The wind was growing tired
slowing down with age

it said to the flower

A time will come too
when I will not have the strength
to kiss your petals
and inhale your perfume

The flower replied –

But what about me?
What will I be then?

Shaleen Rakesh is an author and activist based in New Delhi and has been at the forefront of the gender and sexuality movement in India for the last 20 years. He was the primary petitioner to challenge Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in 2001. He currently works as Director at India HIV/AIDS Alliance in New Delhi, and is Editor with independent publishing house OpenWord in New Delhi.

Poem sourced from soon to be published The Lion and the Antler, the first collection of poems by Shaleen Rakesh (World View Publications, 2013).

Desire unbound

From the Archives, Jan '14
Zaid Al Baset delves into the Counsel Club archives and finds a world of desire that no law can suppress or wish away. These series of articles intend to create an archive of the queer movement in Bengal and India – not a chronological narrative of the movement, rather anecdotal histories capturing the little voices that are often lost in general historical accounts – voices from thousands of letters received by Counsel Club, one of India’s earliest queer support groups (1993 to 2002), and from the group’s house journal Pravartak.

In October 1994, Mr. Mazumdar wrote to Pawan (a Counsel Club member), “Normally sometime, I sit quietly in the benches at Ballygunge Lake, near roadside benches, normally opposite the Menoka Cinema Hall / Lake Kali Temple grounds towards the lake side lawn, mostly evenings 5-8 pm (Monday to Friday), because after 8 pm police and CID officials patrol the areas to catch both male and female couples and gay couples to extract money and harass unnecessarily”. Mr. Mazumdar does not mention any instance of him being caught or any sexual encounter he may have had. In the letter, he appears as a lonely voyeur.

Homophobia – an emerging disorder

Advice - Mind, Body and Family, Jan '14
By Dr. Tirthankar Guha Thakurta

"I hate the word homophobia. It is not a phobia. You are not scared. You are an asshole" – an unconfirmed Twitter quote of 2012 attributed to Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman

Phobia refers to an irrational fear of an object or situation. There are many phobias we commonly hear of, like arachnophobia or fear of spiders, claustrophobia or fear of closed spaces. Homophobia is a new addition to this long list.

Homophobia refers to an irrational fear and hatred towards gay and lesbian people. In a broader sense it includes or relates to similar negative attitudes towards bisexual and transgender persons as well (biphobia and transphobia). The popular use of the term is new and with time it is being recognized as a specific psychological disorder.

Unleashing desires

Clickhappy! Jan '14
Pankaj Gupta presents a painting series titled Munthan – Mun Ki Uljhan (Surfing of Emotions).

This is a story of nameless relationships that form and disintegrate every day . . . of social acceptance that never seems to come forth . . . why do we compel a person to surrender before society and live only with the hope that in the next birth there will be no need to hide one’s love in a closet . . . why don’t we accept the fact that a same-sex relationship can be as complete as any other . . . why do we belittle such relationships as ‘a western influence’ . . . why can’t we see them as a matter of choice . . . if we can’t choose our life partner irrespective of their gender and sex, what is the meaning of Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution . . . can’t we imagine the pain in living a life of constant self-denial, of not being able to experience the rainbow colours of life . . . why do we bloody tender aspirations with cruel words and deeds . . . why do we burden them with mountains of guilt, with layers and layers of false persona . . . enough is enough, stop this mindless babble of the natural and unnatural . . . stop condemning people and making their lives a living hell . . . let a thousand flowers bloom . . . live and let live. – Pankaj Gupta

Section 377 in our lives

Advice - Rights and Laws, Jan '14
By Kaushik Gupta

The Supreme Court’s verdict on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code on December 11, 2013 turned many lives upside down. It created a situation of immense confusion about personal security among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other queer people. But rather than panic, it would be better to look at facts carefully and take informed decisions.