Showing posts with label Gay. India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay. India. Show all posts

September 6, 2019

How Terrible A Thing How India Tried To 'erase' Their Third Gender in The Communities

          Image result for eunuch called Bhoorah

 She lived in what was then the North-West Provinces with two disciples and a male lover, performing and accepting gifts at "auspicious occasions" like births of children and at weddings and in public. She had left her lover for another man before she was killed. British judges were convinced that her former lover had killed her in a fit of rage.
During the trial they described eunuchs as cross-dressers, beggars and unnatural prostitutes.

'Moral panic'

One judge said the community was an "opprobrium upon colonial rule". Another claimed that their existence was a "reproach" to the British government. 
The reaction was strange considering that a eunuch was the victim of the crime. The killing, according to historian Jessica Hinchy, curiously triggered British "moral panic about eunuchs" or hijras as they are called in South Asia. 
"She was a victim of the crime but her death was interpreted as evidence of criminality and immorality of the eunuchs," Dr Hinchy told me. 
The Hijra community of Mumbai in Andheri (surbub of Mumbai), Indian hijras, or eunuchs, adopt a feminine gender identity, women's clothing and other feminine gender roles on March 15, 2012Image copyrightAFP
Image captionEunuchs describe themselves as being castrated or born that way
British officials began considering eunuchs "ungovernable". Commentators said they evoked images of "filth, disease, contagion and contamination". They were portrayed as people who were "addicted to sex with men". Colonial officials said they were not only a danger to "public morals", but also a "threat to colonial political authority".
For nearly a decade, Dr Hinchy, now assistant professor of history at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, trawled the colonial archives on eunuchs that provided unusually detailed insights into the impact of colonial laws on marginalised Indians. The result is Governing Gender and Sexuality in Colonial India, arguably the first in-depth history of eunuchs in colonial India. 
Eunuchs often dress up like women and describe themselves as being castrated or born that way. A disciple-based community, it has important roles in many cultures - from sexless people guarding harems to singing and dancing entertainers. 
In cultures in South Asia, they are thought to have the power to bless or curse fertility. They live with adopted children and male partners. Today, many consider eunuchs transgender, although the term also includes intersex people. In 2014, India's Supreme Court officially recognised a third gender - and eunuchs (or hijras) are seen as falling into this category. 
Eunuch handsImage copyrightAFP
Image captionEunuchs have important roles in many cultures
Bhoorah was among the 2,500 recorded eunuchs who lived in the North-West Provinces - now India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring Uttarakhand. 
Years after her murder, the provinces launched a campaign to reduce the number of eunuchs with the objective of gradually causing their "extinction". They were considered a "criminal tribe" under a controversial 1871 law which targeted caste groups considered to be hereditary criminals.
The law armed the police with power of increased surveillance of the community. Police compiled registers of eunuchs with their personal details, often defining "an eunuch as a criminal and sexually deviant person". "Registration was a means of surveillance and also a way to ensure that castration was stamped out and the hijra population was not reproduced," says Dr Hinchy.  
Eunuchs were not allowed to wear female clothing and jewellery or perform in public and were threatened with fines or thrown into prison if they did not comply. Police would even cut off their long hair and strip them if they wore female clothing and ornaments. They "experienced police intimidation and coercion, though the patterns of police violence are unclear", says Dr Hinchy.
The community reacted by petitioning for the right to dance and play in public, and perform at fairs. The petitions, says Dr Hinchy, point to the economic devastation caused by the ban on dances and performances. In the mid-1870s, the eunuchs of Ghazipur district complained that they were starving. 
An eunuch displays a placard during a silent protest in Bangalore, 23 June 2004.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionEunuchs have a visible presence in India
One of the most shocking moves of the authorities was to take away children who were living with eunuchs to "rescue them from a life of infamy". If eunuchs were living with a male child, they risked fines and jail. 
Many of these children were actually disciples. Others appeared to have been orphans, adopted or enslaved as children. There were also children of musicians who performed with eunuchs and appeared to have lived alongside them with their families. Some eunuchs even lived with widows who had children. British officials saw the children as "agents of contagion and a source of moral danger".
"Colonial anxieties about the threat that hijras posed to Indian boys overstated the actual number of children residing with the community," says Dr Hinchy. According to records, there were between 90 and 100 male children found living with registered eunuchs between 1860 and 1880. Very few of them had been emasculated and most of them were living with their biological parents.
"The short-term aim of the law included cultural elimination of the eunuchs through erasure of their public presence. The explicit, long-term ambition was limiting, and thus finally extinguishing, the number of eunuchs," says Dr Hinchy. "To many high-ranking colonial officials, the small eunuch community endangered the imperial enterprise and colonial authority."
Eunuchs embrace in a hotel room April 24, 1994 in Villupuram, India.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionIndia recognised transgender people as a third gender in 2014
The British also began policing other groups which didn't fit the binary gender categories - effeminate men who wore female clothing, performed in public and lived in kin-based households, men who performed female roles in theatre and male devotees who dressed as women. "The law," says Dr Hinchy, "was used to police a diverse range of gender non-confirming people."
In many ways, the attitudes of the British and the English-speaking Indian elites to eunuchs echo aspects of Hindu faith that colonial rulers found abhorrent. 
Indologist Wendy Doniger has written about the British rejection of the sensual strains of Hinduism as filthy paganism. However, religion was not a factor in the colonial rejection of eunuchs - it was more about "contamination", "filth", their sexual practices and public presence.
Yet, despite this dark history, eunuchs survived these attempts to eliminate them by evading the police, continuing to have a visible public presence and devising survival strategies. Dr Hinchy writes that they became skilful at law breaking, evading the police and keeping on the move. They also kept their cultural practices alive within their communities and in private places, which was not illegal. They also became adept at hiding property, so that police could not register it. 
Their success is clear by the fact that despite being often defined as deviant and disorderly, Dr Hinchy says eunuchs "remain a visible presence in public space, public culture, activism and politics in South Asia". 
In India, they continue to make a living by dancing at weddings and other ceremonies despite facing discrimination and living on the margins. Theirs is a stirring story of resilience and survival.

February 5, 2019

Dignity For Gay People in India Is Fought Every Day, Is 50 Million Deaths ok?


A Personal History of Outlawed Love and Sex 
By Siddharth Dube

In 1988, when Siddharth Dube was a deeply in love 26-year-old, the majority of gay men in India concealed their sexual orientation. A colonial-era law, Section 377, criminalized homosexuality, which was defined as an “unnatural” offense. To protect themselves from arrest, many gay men socialized in public parks and toilets under the cover of darkness. As an Americanized journalist just in from New York, Dube was often shielded from the accumulation of traumas that defined the lives of others. With his partner, a Parisian Bharatanatyam dancer, the cool Delhi nights passed in idyllic fashion. Until the night the police called them in.

“The man sitting behind the desk in the muddy-brown uniform of the Delhi police looked at me with such aggressive loathing,” Dube writes in “An Indefinite Sentence,” his heart-stopping memoir of being gay in India and the world. “I thought, momentarily, that he had mistaken me for someone else. … He burst out angrily, almost as if in a rage. ‘You are a homo! You have naked men dancing at your house, exposing themselves. Go back to America! If you want to live here, you will live as an Indian, not like an American!’”

Dube fled. A scholarship at Harvard put him on the path to a career in global health policy, with a special focus on AIDS. “In every way, this was a disease about me,” he explains. “This virus that was intertwined with our essential human longing for sex and love, and with being outlawed, shamed and persecuted.”

From that distance it was easier to assess the things — beautiful and terrible — that had defined life in India. There was the magical childhood in Calcutta with loving parents, private yoga lessons and bedtime stories. But then, from the age of 11, there were the seven years at the Doon School, the elite public school in the Himalayan foothills, where sexual abuse by older students flourished and headmasters cruelly advised victims to “become tougher.” It speaks to the author’s transcendental capacity for forgiveness that he was later able to harness the memories of his abuse into fighting for the human rights of others. “My own suffering seemed less random and unfair,” he writes, “now that I could see so many other people who had also been wrongfully cast out by society.” 

As the AIDS epidemic gathered ferocious momentum in the United States, the activist and author Paul Monette observed, “Death by AIDS is everywhere around me, seething through the streets of this broken land.” Dube responded by living a life of virtual abstinence. Over the next few years he poured himself into work for the United Nations, the World Bank and then Unicef. He published two books, including a deeply reported account of one impoverished family’s life in India.

And so, although this is a personal memoir, it is also a memoir of work. Work helped Dube find himself. And work allowed him to live a life he could be proud of. It’s in combining his personal story with the ravages of AIDS he witnessed that Dube advances the genre of queer memoirs in India. 

The book has precursors. Firdaus Kanga’s novelized account of his life in Bombay, “Trying to Grow” (1991), is one important example. Another is “Because I Have a Voice” (2005), in which the editors Arvind Narrain and Gautam Bhan brought together an indelible set of essays and personal narratives from across the country. At the opposite end of the class spectrum, A. Revathi’s gut-wrenching “The Truth About Me” (2010) recounted the normalized violence facing the country’s hijras — a term for a variety of third gender. But Dube’s return to India in the 1990s, at the height of its AIDS crisis, equipped him to chronicle another vital story. His critical and vivid reporting of the time brings to mind the achievements of David France in “How to Survive a Plague.”

In 1996, doctors in India told The New York Times that the death toll from AIDS could reach 20 million, or even 50 million, by the end of the century. That year, after a group of prostitutes in the southern city of Madras were arrested for solicitation, a researcher working for Dr. Suniti Solomon, the microbiologist credited with pioneering AIDS research in India, drew samples of their blood. The women didn’t know what they had consented to. The six who tested positive for H.I.V. were immediately transported to a government-run reformatory where they were confined to a tiny room. They were refused legal and medical aid and access to their families.

A pattern was set in place. “Forever after in India,” Dube writes, “AIDS was thought of as a disease of women prostitutes merely because the first indigenous cases were detected among them. They were accused of spreading the sexual infection to hapless men, who then spread it to their innocent wives and babies.” On the pretext of protecting the public, human rights abuses became rampant.
Some doctors didn’t just refuse to treat victims; they leaked their status to the media. Prostitutes were imprisoned in such large numbers, the government had to set up makeshift camps to house them. And Hindu supremacist politicians censored any public conversation about sex and sexuality. In 1996, vigilante groups empowered by such politicians burned down movie theaters that screened Deepa Mehta’s film “Fire,” because it focused on a lesbian relationship. The idea that homosexuality is a disease brought to India by Islamic invaders is popular even today. Last September, after the Supreme Court overturned Section 377, a politician from the prime minister’s Bharatiya Janata Party called homosexuality “a genetic disorder, like having six fingers.”

Such statements betray an ignorance of traditional values. “Hindu mythology,” the author Devdutt Pattanaik writes in “Shikhandi,” his retelling of popular myths, “makes constant references to queerness.” A key character in the war epic Mahabharata was born a woman and becomes a man. A great king experiences life as both a man and a woman. And, in an oral retelling of the story of Lord Ram, the Hindu god is so moved by the steadfast devotion of his hijra subjects that he promises, “Never again shall you be invisible.” In the literary history “Same-Sex Love in India” the academic Ruth Vanita reminds us that pre-Islamic texts feature “men and boy prostitutes and dancers who service men … in descriptive, nonjudgmental terms, as normally present in court and in daily life.”

Nationalist politicians, more so than anyone else, should by now be aware that it was the British, with their Victorian prudery, and their fear and distaste of Indians, who criminalized homosexuality. They empowered the police to arrest hijras without a warrant for merely “appearing” to be “dressed or ornamented like a woman.”

By the time of the AIDS crisis, these forms of persecution were widely embedded in Indian society; they forced vulnerable groups to take the lead in the campaign to spread awareness. In Madras, one of the H.I.V.-positive prostitutes isolated at the start of the epidemic started working as a peer educator. In the coastal state of Goa, Dominic D’Souza, a young gay man, fought to dissolve the law that had allowed the state to isolate him in a TB sanitarium after he fell ill. Collectives of prostitutes mushroomed across the country. On one memorable occasion a protest outside Parliament shut down the main streets of the Indian capital. In the time they had, many victims catalyzed transformative change in how the public approached the unprecedented crisis.

By reminding us of their achievements, Dube gives his readers the substantial gift of hope. The sentiment is, in fact, the spine of his memoir. “The impoverished, the reviled and the outcast — whether black or untouchable, whether girly boy, faggot, hijra or whore — never stop fighting for dignity and justice,” he writes. “There is hope in this — undying hope. It makes bearable the most indefinite of sentences.” 


November 15, 2018

Shedding The Closet, Straight Feathers and Talk About Non Existent Girl Friends Gay India Awakens to Freedom

On September 6, a historic victory left India bathed in rainbows when the country's Supreme Court finally overturned an archaic British-era law that pronounced gay sex illegal. While even same sex marriage has been recognized in the United Kingdom for a number of years at this point, homosexuality remained illegal and a crime in India where the colonial era law still stood. 
Following the verdict, Indian stylist Kshitij Kankaria and photographer Ashish Shah decided to shoot a series of brave members of the Indian LGBTQIA community.
In a country where nudity is neither commonplace nor commodity, the act of stripping publicly is often a political one — the same way the act of kissing, of hand holding, of laying in bed together has been political for the community we see here. Their nakedness, one needn't really point out, is a triumph — a dare, and a declaration of freedom. 
The shoot marks their bodies as proudly part of the country, rather than of just one community. Here they stand strong, and look to the future, face their fears even in the wake of this judgement, question, and begin to dream bigger. India might have been hiding her LGBTQIA community, but the queer Indian community has not been bothered about hiding. Even if in the shadows, it has thrived — and here, they celebrate with pride. 
Below, meet eight queer Indians, who reflect on what their country's gay decriminalization means to them. 

Rohan Agnani

"I wonder if this judgement passed by a panel of privileged and aware individuals will actually filter down into society. It will be a true victory the day we are accepted by the masses. A high school boy in rural India probably doesn't know the law is now on his side, so I think acceptance from one's own people, from your own family — that's the battle." – Rohan Agnani 

Photography: Ashish Shah
Styling: Kshitij Kankaria
Hair & Makeup: Saher Ahmed Gandhi
Photography Assistant: Shubham Lodha
Fashion Assistants: Ruhani Singh & Nayanika Kapoor

September 8, 2018

One Thing is to be Gay in Delhi India But in Rural India is Another World

This story was posted on BBC News, Delhi by By Vikas Pandey
The Supreme Court's decision to make gay sex legal in India has been hailed as historic.
But the reality for members of the LGBT community in rural India is different. They believe it will take a long time to change regressive attitudes towards them.
Here three gay people from rural India tell their stories.

Arun Kumar, 28, northern state of Uttar Pradesh

I am really happy with the court's decision. It will help people in cities express themselves without fearing the law. 

Rainbow flag of the LGBT community

But sadly, it's different for people like me who live in villages. 
It's not the law that we fear - what troubles us is people's perception. I hope that the media's coverage of the verdict will help people understand that homosexuality is normal. 
But LGBT people have a long battle ahead of them before they can live without fear. I have lived my whole life in fear and this may not change in the near future.
I was 14 when I realised I was attracted to boys. I was initially confused. I tried not to think about it. But the feeling kept troubling me, so I decided to talk to a friend about it. 
His reaction shocked me. He told me it was disgusting to even think about homosexuality. He started to avoid me and, soon, we barely spoke to each other. For years after that, I never spoke about my sexuality.  
When I felt sad, I would go to the fields and talk to trees and plants. I didn't feel judged and they became my friends. I still talk to them. I was 18 when I moved to a nearby town to go to college. But things didn't change. I was depressed and the world didn't make sense to me.
I always felt guilty but I didn't understand why. I wasn't doing anything bad. I eventually mustered enough courage to tell a teacher, who seemed friendly. But that was a mistake. 
The teacher called my parents and they took me back home. My father was furious. He thought it was a disease that could be cured. He took me to quacks and shamans. They gave me all sorts of concoctions - one of them said I should be locked up in a room for a week. And my father did that. 
I still live in my village but I have been offered a job in a big city. Hopefully, things will change. I want a partner. I want to love and be loved.

Kiran Yadav, 30, eastern state of Bihar

I didn't know anything about section 377 until Thursday. I didn't even know that being homosexual was criminal. I just knew that in rural Bihar, where I come from, I would never be allowed to live as a lesbian woman. 
I am happy with the ruling, but it doesn't help me. I can only hope that it starts a conversation that reaches rural India.
I was 15 when I realised I was a lesbian. Since I was a little girl, I never liked girly clothes. I liked to wear trousers and a shirt - like the boys in my village. 

Illustration of gay person

My parents didn't object. I didn't have a brother, so they thought of me as a son and didn't mind if I dressed up as one. 
But they did not know about my sexual orientation.
To be honest, I didn't know much either. I knew that I was attracted to girls but I also knew that it was not right. So I never told my parents. They still don't know. Nobody close to me knows. During weddings, I often find women attractive but I have never had the courage to speak to them. 
When I turned 20, I had to find a way to express myself. I couldn't discuss these feelings with anyone in the village. But mobile phones came to my rescue. I would dial random numbers and tell strangers my story - anyone at all who cared to listen. When one girl I called told me that she liked my voice, I was elated. It was the first time I had got a compliment from a girl.
These were fleeting moments of happiness. Deep down, I was sad. 
I tried to kill myself when I was 24. My parents thought that I was depressed because I wasn't married. They got me married a few weeks later but it was doomed. Within a year, I was divorced. 
By this time, I had no will to live. Every day was difficult. I have lived 30 years of my life without meeting a partner. Now I just want a job to survive. I have no hope of meeting a partner because I can never openly talk about being a lesbian.

Rahul Singh, 32, Bihar

I welcome the ruling. But section 377 has never been a problem for me. In my village, the police have never harassed anybody because of it. It's society that troubles us.
I knew I was gay when I turned 16. Two years later, I got married. I just couldn't tell my parents or my wife and pretended to be normal. I have two sons now. 

Illustration of gay person

But I deeply regret not telling my wife. She now knows that I am gay but continues to live with me for the children's sake. 
It's hard to find partners. Unlike big cities, there are no gay clubs here. I know a few gay people but they all live in fear of being ostracised if they were to come out. 
People believe that a gay person doesn't have the right to be respected or loved.
It's a difficult life. No matter how nice I am or how much I help people, once they find out I am gay, they run from me.
Some people sympathise with us but they still think it's a disease that needs to treated. Nobody seems to understand why we feel the way we do.  
Living like this can break you. I am always looking over my shoulder. I keep thinking that somebody will walk up to me and slap me or do something nasty because I am gay. 
It's suffocating to be a gay person in rural India.
I fear that my children will be bullied when they grow up. I have already moved once because of this fear. Sometimes, I want to give up but then I think of my children.
When I look back, I wish I had the courage to tell my parents the truth. I wish I hadn't got married. I wish I had access to groups that would have counselled me. 
Names have been changed to protect identities. Illustrations by Puneet Kumar

September 6, 2018

A Landmark Court Decision in India "By Decriminalizing Gay Sex"

New Delhi (CNN)
India's Supreme Court has struck down a colonial-era law criminalizing consensual gay sex, overturning more than 150 years of anti-LGBT legislation.
The court announced the landmark verdict in Delhi on Thursday, as jubilant crowds cheered and rights activists hugged one another, overcome with emotion. 
Section 377, an archaic law imposed during British rule that penalized intercourse "against the order of nature," had carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. 
The decision to repeal the law is a major victory for India's LGBT activists and supporters after years of determined struggle.
    Crowds in Mumbai cheer the Supreme Court announcement.
    "I can't even explain how I am feeling right now. The long battle has been won. Finally we have been recognized by this country," said Bismaya Kumar Raula, wiping away tears outside the court. 
    Others gathered said that, while they had anticipated a positive outcome, the result still came as a shock.  
    "It's an emotional day for me. It's a mix of feelings, it's been a long fight," said rights campaigner Rituparna Borah. "There was not enough media or society support earlier but we have it now. People will not be seen as criminals anymore." 
    Though the law was rarely enforced in full, lawyers argued that it helped perpetuate a culture of fear and repression within the LGBT community. 
    A change in legislation will "create a space of freedom where you can start expecting justice," Danish Sheikh, a law professor at Jindal Global Law School and LGBT advocate, told CNN. 

    Long battle

    Thursday's historic ruling is the culmination of a lengthy and often fraught legal battle for equality in a country where homosexuality remains taboo.
    In 2009, the Delhi High Court ruled that the ban on consensual gay sex violated fundamental rights. The decision, which only applied to the Delhi region, was quickly overruled by the Supreme Court in 2013, following a petition launched by a loose coalition of Christian, Hindu and Muslim groups.
    In its 2013 ruling, the Supreme Court said that only a "minuscule fraction of the country's population constitute lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgenders" and it was therefore "legally unsustainable" to repeal the act. 
    During the latest hearings, lawyers representing more than a dozen gay and lesbian Indians questioned the constitutional basis of that earlier ruling. 
    LGBT Indians gear up for possible U-turn on anti-gay laws
    LGBT Indians gear up for possible U-turn on anti-gay laws
    "It was a wrong judgment. It was not legal and it was based wrongly on the tenets of the constitution," said Colin Gonsalves, one of the lawyers representing the current group of petitioners.
    That case was strengthened last year, when the Supreme Court moved to uphold the constitutional right to privacy
    The ruling, which declared sexual orientation to be an "essential attribute of privacy," helped galvanize campaigners. 
    "Last year's ruling eviscerated the 2013 judgment," said Gonsalves. "There is no issue now. There is not much left to argue," he added. Opposition to moves to overturn Section 377 had rested predominately on religious and moral objections. In an interview earlier this year, lawmaker Subramanian Swamy, a prominent member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), described the legalization of gay sex as a "danger to national security" and "against Hindutva."
    Hinduism has traditionally maintained a flexible, non-prescriptive view of sexuality. However, in recent years hardline Hindu groups have taken a more conservative approach.
    In the run up to the judgment, the BJP refrained from taking a public stand, deferring instead to the court.

    Dehumanizing colonial law

    Out of the estimated 48 former British colonies that criminalize homosexuality, 30 still have laws based on the original colonial anti-LGBT legislation, according to Lucas Mendos, co-author of the 2017 International LGBTI Association "State-Sponsored Homophobia" report.
    In the case of India, the original British law had remained in place more or less unchanged since it was introduced by British colonizers in the 1860s. 
    According to India's National Record Bureau, more than 2,100 cases were registered under the law in 2016. India did not maintain a separate database of prosecution under section 377 until 2014.
    Arif Jafar, one of the current group of petitioners whose case the Supreme Court ruled on, was arrested in 2001 under Section 377 and spent 49 days in jail. 
    Supporters in Mumbai react to the Supreme Court ruling that gay sex is no longer a criminal offense.
    Jafar now runs an informal support group in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. The group, named "Trust," provides counseling, support and sexual health services to gay and transgender persons.
    In his petition, Jafar described the experience as dehumanizing and a violation of his fundamental rights. He also alleged that he was beaten and humiliated every day because of his sexuality. 
    Campaigners in India pointed out that the law didn't only trap members of the LGBT community in the closet, it also invited other forms of discrimination, providing a cover for blackmail and harassment. 
    Members of India's LGBT community dance in celebration after the ruling was announced in Bangalore on Thursday.
    "The constant fear of 377 we have felt will not be there for the coming generation," said Yashwinder Singh, of Mumbai-based LGBT rights group The Humsafar Trust. 
    "Laws getting passed is one thing but changing the society is a big challenge," said Singh of the court's decision, Thursday. 
    "Our work has started multifold now. We have to go and talk to people and change their mindset so that they accept every human as one." 
    Following the announcement Thursday, the Congress Party, the country's main opposition, posted a message of congratulations on social media, welcoming the "progressive and decisive verdict" from the Supreme Court.
    As supporters celebrate the decision, activists will now be shifting focus to the broader issue of equality. 
    People celebrate the decision in Bangalore on September 6.
    "The next step is to start looking at issues of rights. Right now, it is just decriminalizing," Anjali Gopalan, founder of the Naz Foundation, which has spearheaded the fight against Section 377, told CNN.
    "The right that every citizen of the country should have access to and should not be taken for granted. Like the right to marry, the right to adopt, the right to inherit. Things that no one questions and that are clearly denied to a certain section of citizens."

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