Monday, November 17, 2014

To print or not to print?

Vartanama, Nov '14
By Pawan Dhall

With this issue of Varta, we complete 16 months of publication. All along, right from the start, we have deliberated extensively on publishing also a monthly print (tabloid) version of Varta newspaper. In the process, varying views have come up in our discussions, including if indeed we publish the tabloid, what frequency should it have – monthly, quarterly or some other frequency? Alternately, should we just stick to an online version (this blog) and rather focus on improving its content, looks, user-friendliness and reach? Additionally, what languages other than English should we publish the newspaper in?

If women gain, men don't lose

Insight, Nov '14
By Pawan Dhall

Only men with 56 inch chests welcome! When this becomes the criteria for the top job in the political leadership of a country, where is the space for the sentiment behind a statement like “When women gain, men don’t lose”? Are men pre-occupied with large chest sizes and other aggressive forms of manhood likely to let go off power, share it and invest in women and children’s gains? Are they likely to do so for supposed ‘social misfits’ like transgender, gay, lesbian or bisexual people; or people not from their religion, race, class or caste? Maybe they will, provided they are honoured with larger-than-life and hero-like adjectives such as ‘protectors’ and ‘providers’. But protectors and providers also tend to be ‘controllers’ of freedoms and choices!
So back to square one?

Hijras as home guards?

Happenings, Nov '14
Hijra community leaders advocate for livelihood options with the police in Bhubaneswar. Pawan Dhall reports

Bhubaneswar, October 18, 2014: “If we don’t get jobs, what other option do we have to earn our bread and butter?” Hijra and other trans women's community leaders posed this question to Dr. R. P. Sharma, Police Commissioner for Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, at a meeting in Bhubaneswar today. A key representative of SAKHA, a support forum for trans women in Odisha, informed Varta that the police officials had expressed concerns about a month earlier that several trans women broke the law and operated as sex workers on different roads of Bhubaneswar at night. In the process, they attracted drunken men who created a nuisance and disturbed other residents in neighbouring localities. Today’s meeting was organized to address the concerns of both sides.

Where to look for minuscule minorities

From the Archives, Nov '14
A random flipping through Counsel Club’s archives takes Pawan Dhall to the world of a few queer men writing in to the support group from small-town India in 1998 – a world where loneliness, anxiety, aspirations and courage all took on the hue of a yellow light bulb, quite removed from the arc lights and neon of metropolitan cities. 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 (1993-2002), and from the group’s house journal Naya Pravartak.

“I can’t figure out why, but life seems so miserable today. Is this frustration? Tomorrow, Saturday, our weekly newspaper will be published and yet I didn’t go to work today. Instead I went to see the evening show of Satya. I quite liked it, but do you know how far the cinema hall is from home . . . six km! And there are no buses after 8.30 pm. I decided to walk back home, but somebody gave me a lift on his scooter . . . I wanted to talk to you all on the phone today, but wasn’t sure if I would get anyone . . . You know, these days I see people on the road and think they may well be one of us, but I never get down to talking to any of them. You guys have formed such a nice ‘group’ there, people get to meet each other, talk to each other . . . but I am all alone here. Please help me, for I am gradually losing heart . . .”

Queer in Chhath Puja

Clickhappy! Nov '14
Madhuja Nandi records Kolkata Rista’s campaign against gender-based violence during Chhath Puja celebrations in Kolkata on October 29-30, 2014

Film screening during Kolkata Rista’s ‘Zero Tolerance Campaign on Rape and Gender
Discrimination’ at Kadapara, near Swabhumi in Central Kolkata. A community-based
organization of trans women and other queer people, Kolkata Rista has been
organizing public sensitization events on gender-based violence every year since
the last six years during Chhath Puja, a Hindu festival dedicated to Sun God Surya
and Goddess Chhathi Maiya.

Act now for child protection

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

Reader queries

My neighbours have employed a very young Nepali girl as a maid. She seems sad all the time and cries a lot. I suspect something wrong. Could it be that she has been forced or tricked into this job? If so, what can one do about it legally?
AB, West Bengal