Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Wow, what a month!

Vartanama, Feb '16
By Pawan Dhall

WOW felicitation ceremony. Photo credit: Prosenjit Pal
It is Valentine’s Day eve and Saraswati Puja (often considered Bengal’s homegrown Valentine’s Day). Just back from an inspiring launch of the Women on Wheels (WOW) programme in Kolkata and it is the time to pen down these thoughts – lest the ‘wow moment’ writers swear by passes away!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Some murders ‘more foul’ than others?

Insight, Feb '16
Terror attacks in Paris last year set Aude Vincent thinking about the ‘hierarchy’ of genders, races, aggressors and violence in France

Posters in support of Jacqueline Sauvage: "Before rapists and aggressors all
our answers are legitimate!" and "It's never too late to end domestic violence!
We're not alone!" Photo provided by Aude Vincent

In 2015 in France, 147 people were killed in terror attacks by Islamist extremists. In 2014 in France, 134 women were killed by their partners or ex-partners (all males) – numbers for 2015 are yet to be communicated. If you include suicides by victims of domestic violence, you can add around 200 women to the figure for 2014.

The first number of 147 is supposed to be an ‘historical record’, a ‘premiere’ and a ‘shock’, widely reported and commented on by the media. The second number of 134 is just ‘business as usual’. Since as long as these deaths have been counted (at least since 20-30 years), on an average in France a woman is killed by her partner every two or three days. Information about it does exist, and more now than a few years ago, but certainly not as massively as for the terrorist killings.

Homophobia has no place in Sikhism

Happenings, Feb '16
We share excerpts from a thought-provoking article by Sukhdeep Singh that first appeared in Gaylaxy webzine on February 4, 2016

Personal bias should not be passed off as Sikh ethics by SGPC

On 26th January, India’s first transgender band launched their second song along with Sonu Nigam. The song titled Sab Rab De Bande was derived from a famous shabad from Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs, also worshipped as the living Guru by the Sikh community. Written by Saint Kabir, it has been included in Guru Granth Sahib and signifies the amount of importance Sikh Gurus placed on the fact that all human beings are a creation of God and are equal.

Golden Temple, Amritsar. Photo credit: Sukhdeep Singh

Star quest: Gulabo's story

Clickhappy! Star Quest, Feb '16
By Aakash

Star of the month: Gulabo
(all photographs courtesy
Gulabo and Aakash)
The third (October 2013) and fourth (November 2013) issues of Varta carried a column called Star Quest, a series of photo-stories of individuals who may not be public figures like politicians, artistes, social activists or media persons, but have in their own way contributed to social equity and empowerment around gender, sexuality and related issues. For a variety of reasons, including priority given to other interview and photography based columns, Star Quest was discontinued. With the October 2015 issue of Varta, we revived the column to continue sharing innumerable untold stories twinkling with inspiration!

The contribution of the ‘stars’ we zoom in on may be in an intimate arena – among friends and neighbours, their local community, a village or slum school, their own work place and so on. It may not have attracted any media attention, yet the importance of their efforts cannot be underscored enough. Varta is happy to bring to light such hidden ‘stars’ and focus on endeavours that generate hope for a better present and future.

Varta welcomes its readers to contribute to Star Quest by sending information about individuals living anywhere in India who can be portrayed in the column. Please send a brief description of the individual and their work in about 100 words to vartablog@gmail.com, and also include three to five high quality photographs of the individual depicting their day-to-day life.

Please note that no individual will be portrayed in this column through text or photographs till the Varta team has interacted with them and obtained their informed consent. Therefore it is vital that readers also obtain the consent of the individuals concerned before sending information about them to Varta.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Next step in Section 377 challenge

Advice - Rights and Laws, Feb '16
By Kaushik Gupta

Reader queries

When the Honourable Supreme Court of India took up the Section 377, Indian Penal Code curative petition on February 2, 2016, why couldn't they hear out the arguments of the petitioners on that day itself? Why did they have to defer it again?
MN, Barasat

Monday, February 08, 2016

Twist in Section 377 saga!

My Story, Feb '16
Vivek Divan on his mood swings as the Honourable Supreme Court of India decided not to reject the curative petitions against its December 2013 verdict on Section 377, Indian Penal Code and referred them to a Constitution Bench for possible reconsideration

At a gathering of queer people and allies at the Academy of Fine Arts,
Kolkata on February 1, 2016 evening. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

I’ve become a poor predictor of these things. As one of the core team at Lawyers Collective who strategized and filed the Naz Foundation (India) Trust’s petition against Section 377 in 2001, I was full of optimism about its outcome then though I knew it would take a while. I got more pessimistic as time passed and the case went through the quirks of the justice system. But lo and behold! We got a great bench of judges in the Delhi High Court in 2008, and won. When the judgment was appealed to the Supreme Court of India, I was convinced we couldn’t lose given the great praise that was heaped on the Delhi High Court judgment by law schools and legal experts in India and around the world. And, even after witnessing the way in which the Supreme Court heard the case in 2012 (gingerly, with evident discomfort) I couldn’t imagine we would lose; the Delhi High Court judgment might be watered down, but we would remain decriminalised, I thought. After all, apart from the celebrated High Court ruling we also had a very strong legal case, a government that had no objection to the decision, and a bunch of opponents who had religious bigotry, and arguments based on hypocritical morality and bogus ‘data’ on their side, but little in terms of legal arguments. And, of course, we lost.