Friday, December 9, 2016

16 Days of Activism | Entry 7

Untitled
Nishtha Vashishta 

You tell me not to wear
The Saree
You are ashamed you see me in? It’s taught me to walk
With dignity, with poise Unapologetic 
You tell me the red bindi Is for women alone?
It’s anger worn with pride For the world to see 
You tell me I am lost? I know
That I have
Just found myself.


(As part of 16 days of activism, we invited entries on Life of Sexual Minorities. We will be showcasing more in the days to come. Watch this space)

16 Days of Activism | Entry 6

I Did Ask You Nicely 
Sudeep Pagedar 

Sir,
I have nothing more to say –
at least not to you 
Would you kindly let me go? 
you will call my parents! wait,
how old 
do you think I am? 
Been around for a while now, not new to this place 
you don’t like me? I don’t need you to. 
Sir – I use this term very lightly –
if who I am offends, 
you need only close your eyes. 
will you please let me go? 
“Justice is Blind”?
I knew you’d say that!
but in my mind,
justice is blinded
a hot poker pushed through unbelieving eyes 
the blindfold is appropriate – you should wear one too, but I can see
you already are 
Now listen. 
I am not Kejri or Anna, there will be no dharna But when I tire of
this detention, 
I only hope you remember: I did ask you nicely. 
End Note: These are the words of an unnamed individual. Gender, age, religion unknown. Someone who is tired of oppression, and speaks with a politeness born of exhaustion. However, this is also the point at which we realise that this person’s resolve has not diminished, and from this point on, it can only keep getting stronger. It is, at worst, an idealist’s dream, and at best, a nightmare for an oppressive entity! 

(As part of 16 days of activism, we invited entries on Life of Sexual Minorities. We will be showcasing more in the days to come. Watch this space)

16 Days of Activism | Entry 5

Naga
by Richa Shivangi Gupta

You slither
On freshly slaughtered
Souls
Smearing the crimson
Of life
On your numbing scales

You slither
As your coarse
Skin rasps against their
Tangerine, healing 
Scars 

You slip
And hasten your
Pace when canopies
Of forbearance let the
Yellowed sun enter
Your darkness

You twine
Through the depths 
Of faultless green leaves
Who got caught in the
Wild wild wind
And were orphaned
For good

You fancy
Of flying above
The cobalt blue you
Touch in the lake you
Queered

You coil 
Into burrows
Of repression when
Children dressed in shades
Of violet, knock at your
Unwelcoming door looking
For the love you
Looted from their cradle


(As part of 16 days of activism, we invited entries on Life of Sexual Minorities. We will be showcasing more in the days to come. Watch this space)

16 Days of Activism | Entry 4

Melted
By Harnidh Kaur

I burnt my hand today, and my
mother clutched it, careful not
to touch my melting skin, eyes
wild with fear and borrowed
pain, as she mumbled about
how my happiness left me
open to hurt- my smiles just
evoked fear in her, because
the way my skin slipped off
my flesh was a sign of how
fragile I was in my construction,
how easy it would be to break
me in half, easy to bite off bits
till I'm left lying like a moth eaten
blanket, shivering under myself,
craving warmth but afraid of
being singed again- maybe that's
why I refuse to let my skin nestle
next to yours, that's why I refuse
to let our curves meet, preferring
to press against straight lines
that feel lukewarm at best, and
terrifying at least, this is why
I cannot allow myself to be
consumed by your softness, or
give myself some space to breathe-
what if the burns you leave on
me leave ugly scars that tell of
how I burned, of how I revelled in
your flames and watched them
consume all I had ever known?
what if I never find myself again
without that heat? What if the
passions that bloomed in as you
held my palm against your
breast all that I could ever need?
What if I was only kindling, and
would be left to ash? What if
these 'what if's are all I was
ever truly meant to have?

(As part of 16 days of activism, we invited entries on Life of Sexual Minorities. We will be showcasing more in the days to come. Watch this space)

16 Days of Activism - Entry 3

Asexuality for Dummies
By Indian Aces

Setting: A regular pub. A girl is sitting at the bar alone, munching on cheese sticks, looking at people casually. She is asexual, a sexual minority so unheard of, that even the LGBT community doesn’t talk about it. During the course of the poem, we try to bust a number of myths that usually surround the topic of asexuality.
A heteronormative boy, largely unaware of such minorities, approaches...
Boy: Hi,
I noticed,

you were checking me out dancing.
Girl: Sorry,
You’re good,
But I was just glancing.
Boy: So I
just wonder,

you waiting for someone here?
G: Nah,
I’m solo,
for a chat, I’d lend an ear.
B: A pretty girl, like you,
with a charmer like me...
G: Haha,
we’d make
quite a pair, I agree!
B: So, where,
do you think,

is this night going to take us?
*The cake slice she had ordered appears, taking all her attention*
(It’s an inside joke within the global asexual community that we prefer cake to sex)
B: Umm, so I
was wondering,

where’s tonight taking us?
G: Don’t know about you,
but I’ll be catching a bus.
B: Let’s change those plans,
I’d love to be that cake.
G: While,
I’m flattered,
What’s the point you’re trying to make?
B: See,
look at us,

the time couldn’t be more right, I feel,
we could
really utilize this night.
G: *coughs* Ahm Well no,
I’m not sleeping with any men.
B: Oh sorry,
I usually

Easily spot a lesbian!
G: mm no,
Well
I don’t
swing either way to be true.
B: Umm,
not homo?

then what exactly are you?
G: There’s more
beyond that spectrum,
ever heard of the term ‘ace’?
B: You mean,
A sexuality,

apart from straights and gays?
G: Well,
we have zero

sexuality, not even a trace, On this
hetero-homo scale,
we can’t really be placed.
B: Oh god,
A millennial,

trying to be a special snowflake.
G: I saw,
that coming,

I’ll go enjoy my cake >.>
B: Woah!
I’m sorry,
Didn’t mean to offend you maam, I’d love,
to learn more
if you believe that I can?

G: Like you,
Can be attracted

to genders one or many,
We,
the asexuals,

we just aren’t to any.
B: So then,
you mean,

like having no libido?
G: mm well,
Some infact

have drawers full of dildos!
B: Okay,
But no,

I guess I’m confused much, You mean,
Some fap
And some like to be touched? Wait,
what’s even
the real difference then? I mean how,
Exactly
Are they not like average women?
G: Ok,
I’ll tell you
how I feel about food. Say,
I see a pizza,
that looks real good, I drool
And I feel
an urge to go get a slice,
My twin,
she doesn’t,
though she eats to survive.
B: Okay,
I get that

That example, it’s simple, but does
that really,
translate even to people?
G: Yes, like, when you
come across an attractive person, do you
feel an urge
to do something with them?
B: Hmm,
there’s lust.
So that don’t happen to aces? They won’t,
ever even,
you know, suck faces?
G: Right!
no attraction,

and it’s a spectrum on its own, The behavior’s,
On a separate scale,
some are repulsed, but some bone.

B: Ah,
but you aces,

so you don’t do relationships?

G: Some don’t,
some do,
we can still be romantics!
B: Aha!
I believe
I’ve a friend he’s just like that!
G: I guess
you should


(As part of 16 days of activism, we invited entries on Life of Sexual Minorities. We will be showcasing more in the days to come. Watch this space)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

16 Days of Activism | Entry 2

Poem
by Minakshi

That September twilight,
When the town was still drowsy
From the day’s humdrum
And I had just woken from that same dream
Her red silk drape still lay on the wooden floor
A studded brooch and a bottle of French perfume on the mirror table
Some sexy G-string lingerie in dark blue carelessly dropped near the stairway.

I can still smell the coffee,
The red lipstick mark on the mug in which she sipped
And the stain of dark chocolate on the pastel blue linen in bed
The chocolate we used to make love from last night
Still lingered on…. 

While I caressed her bosoms and she caressed mine
The red lipstick now leaving its mark not just on the mug
But my breasts, lips and parts of my skinny thighs
I was panting as she moved her hands across my neck to my lower back
Glistening in the red dim shade of the lamp
her imperfect bodyline was simply too perfect

From her swollen heel from the new pair of stilettos,
to the droplets of sweat on her curves, 
From the warmth of her unwaxed body,
to the soft touch of her dark black nipples  
From the red bite on my left bosom,
to the touch of her firm hand on my neck as she untied my rough unkempt hair  
There was only and only
….nothing, but longing for more 

I could hear,
Those chatters
some that mocked
many that scoffed
and others that sneered 
That September twilight
Amidst the cacophony 
It was our world of infinity


(As part of 16 days of activism, we invited entries on Life of Sexual Minorities. We will be showcasing more in the days to come. Watch this space)

Monday, December 5, 2016

16 days of activism | Entry 1

This powerful piece is our first featured entry.

P.S.

By Ira Sanyal

When the cool girls I was becoming friends with said the word, I pretended to understand and imitated their smirks.
Quickly making a mental note to google it later.
Of course I forgot to look it up.

Many make outs in college toilets later, the day we were alone together in a room with a bed for the first time, you said I had promised you one and started begging.

Before I'd process where I'd heard that word before, you pushed me down with those strong arms on those strong broad shoulders till I couldn't move myself anymore and was choking on your cock as you held my head and moved it like you wanted.

It was then that I learnt the meaning of the word. Blowjob.

I gagged and almost cried, but you let me go just in time, for me to fix my expression back. While you lay there eyes shut mouth open.
I learnt this was something you liked, and something that made me feel terrible.

All that time that we were together thereon I went down on you not because I enjoyed it at all, but because I was trying to learn to bear it.
All that time that we were together thereon I didn't let you go down on me because I didn't want you to feel what I did, especially since so many places in my body already disgusted you so much.
I decided my dark pungent cunt didn't have to be one of them.

I was sparing myself the pain of being not-enough yet again,
while telling myself I was sparing you the trauma of having a mouth reeking of me.

Took me years to peel off your words from my skin.
Took me years to rub the roses off my eyes and see the red flags as they were.
Took me years to learn oral sex isn't terrible, rape is. And that is what it was.

It saddened me that I didn't understand this back then.
It saddened me that could not tell this to anyone back then.
It saddened me that I ended up locking doors to MY pleasure.
It saddened me that you never apologized.

And it saddens me that you might not even acknowledge this if confronted.

P.S. I love giving head now.


(As part of 16 days of activism, we invited entries on Life of Sexual Minorities. We will be showcasing more in the days to come. Watch this space)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Queering books

Stories are a powerful medium to talk about unchartered territories. Many of us forget the path-breaking story written in 1941 by Ismat Chugtai. Lihaaf was a controversial story that shook society out of its stupor by making bold suggestions of a same-sex relationship. The story was even challenged in court. Ismat Chugati won the case.
Compared to the backlash then, one must admit that the publishing industry and readers have both embraced diverse stories. There are several books we could suggest and this list is a mere starting point.

1.      Queering India: Same-Sex Love and Eroticism in Indian Culture and Society edited by Ruth Vanita
Queering India provides an understanding of same-sex love and eroticism in Indian culture and society. The topics are wide-ranging and look at films, literature, popular culture among others.

2.      Because I Have a Voice: Queer Politics in India edited by Gautam Bhan and Arvind Narrain
This book expands the scope of queer politics in India. It has essays as well as personal stories.

3.      The Truth About Me: A Hijra Life Story by A. Revathi
An autobiography of a Hijra, this book is courageous and a must-read for all of us. Revathi speaks about her childhood, the violence she experienced and her emotions with a deep honesty. 

4.      Shikhandi and Other Stories They Don’t Tell You by Devdutt Pattanaik
Devdutt Pattanaik has several books that lend a queer eye to mythology. Shikhandi coupled with Pregnant King are a good window for us to see how homosexuality exists within Indian Mythology.

5.      Gaysi Zine – Queer Graphic Anthology
Not much of a reader? Looking for some fantastic art? This anthology is for you. Full of powerful, concise storytelling, the Gaysi Zine was the first of its kind in India. The book is put together by straight, queer, young and old artists with a story they are waiting to share!

Share your thoughts if you have read any of these books. Comment on our blog, Tweet, Facebook comment books you may have read and enjoyed that we have left out!


Happy Reading!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Moving on

Advertisements, films and other media when studied over a period of time show society's shift in thought. They in many ways are a mirror to our society, thoughts and expressions. This obviously means we would love for them to be diverse in their representation and inclusive in their approach. But is this always possible? When it comes to queer lives, do we have more options for diversities in genders and sexualities on screen? Have advertisements in our country changed the way they portray queer lives?

We look through a few advertisements that we found interesting over the past few years.

Back in 2013, Fasttrack released it's advertisement with the catchy tagline "Come out of the closet". There were reasons to cheer even as important questions jumped out of the closet. Campaign India in this piece (http://www.campaignindia.in/video/fastrack-gets-bolder-urges-youth-to-come-out-of-the-closet/418476) looks at the motive behind the campaign. Fasttrack made a bold choice to take on societal taboos, urging all of us to break out of our own boxes and come out.

Recently, another advertisement released by Anouk (https://youtu.be/Ef27m5ocK6Q) looked at a lesbian relationship. It lends a gentle, nuanced eye to an intimate relationship between women who are meeting the parents. The advertisement itself is longer than usual ads and challenges us to look beyond the heterosexual norm. A giant leap forward for us all!

While the argument stands for greater representation on media, many activists and LGBT+ community are weary about the way this representation takes place. Advertisers themselves function within boxes of their target audience aka consumers and the product they are selling. They toe the line of selling an idea in a unique way while not losing their market entirely.

Amul has some of the best print advertisements. They have always made smart, quirky moves that questioned the norm with a bold touch.



This advertisement was featured on hoardings as well as in papers. This was in fact right after the 2009 judgment around Sec 377 which shows their interest in reaching out to marginalised communities. When this was overturned in 2013, they put out another advertisement which expressed their emotions on the decision. (https://twitter.com/Amul_Coop/status/411090126119268353)

We might agree these advertisements are fantastic. We might find them infuriating and misleading. Both these thoughts can co-exist in our world. But we have to agree that these advertisements are great starting points to understand and build conversation on LGBT+ lives, even as we create more spaces for diverse representation within media.

(These are some of our thoughts on the advertisements. Share your thoughts in the comments or tweet or FB us. You can also share other advertisements that you felt were great!)

Friday, October 7, 2016

Expanding abortion rights for women


Abortions are legal in India. Terms and conditions apply, of course. Married women have had access to abortions since the conception of Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. Back then, and even now, it stands as a progressive legislation.

On September 19, The Bombay High Court ruled that imprisoned pregnant women have a right to make motherhood choices. It added that they should not be treated differently from other pregnant women.

There is a lot to cheer for in this judgment as the bench consisting of Justice V.K. Tahilramani and Justice Mridula Bhatkar state in several places that women have a right over their bodies and thus abortion is a right. The common piece of information being circulated from the judgment in the media is: Women in different situations have to go for termination of pregnancy. She may be a working woman or homemaker or she may be a prisoner, however, they all form one common category that they are pregnant women. They all have the same rights in relation to termination of pregnancy.

The court after considering the Rules in the Maharashtra Prisons Manual went on to examine the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP). The Court while doing so has differentiated between women suggesting that married women (who as per MTP can undergo abortions) can even be expanded to include women in live-in relationships. However, in the same judgment the Court also suggests: A woman irrespective of her marital status can be pregnant either by choice or it can be an unwanted pregnancy.

It is unclear if the decision of the court was limited to married women because the MTP only deals with abortions for married women. In this reading, one can see the negotiation to expand the right to abortions to all women but couching it within our understanding of pregnancy being relevant only to married women or women in long-term relationships. This patriarchal idea is echoed in the newly passed legislation with respect to surrogacy as well.

Though the judgment helps us progress towards better abortion laws, we still need to advocate for a legislation that accords abortion rights to women irrespective of their marital status.


Additional reading:-
http://www.livelaw.in/pregnant-prisoners-enjoy-equal-right-making-motherhood-choices-bombay-hc-issues-guidelines/

Gautam Bhatia on a few unanswered questions: http://www.livelaw.in/bombay-high-courts-abortion-judgment-unanswered-questions/

Nandita Saikia voices concerns on the law: http://coldsnapdragon.blogspot.in/2016/09/the-expansion-of-abortion-rights.html

Monday, July 25, 2016

When Actions Speak Louder Than Words



The most challenging time for our field staff is when we encounter deep-seated cynicism of the service providers, be it the health workers, anganwadi workers or the school teachers. With the school teachers the cynicism arises from a) a perception that the students are dumb and are not interested in studies b) from disenchantment that nothing can be done better than what is being done currently in the circumstances c) distrust of the NGOs and corporates who are seen as coming and doing something for a day or two with no long term association or impact.

Bade Sir of Zilla Parishad School Vehlonde, epitomised such cynicism and refused to permit the Population First (PF) team to conduct the five-day School In Development (SID) programme in the school. This was despite the fact that we were invited by the village education committee members and other teachers of the school, Waghire Sir and Jadhav Sir to conduct the SID programme in the school. They got to know about the initiative at the orientation programme conducted by PF for the service providers. It was unanimously agreed by the committee members and teachers that the SID programme would help promote better hygiene and sanitation practices in the village.

It was only on the intervention of Mrs. Jatal, the Kendra Pramukh, that Bade Sir allowed the team to interact with the students. Forty students from class V, VI, and VII were selected to be trained as Vikasdoots or Messengers of Development.

The five-day SID programme was always transformational for the children who were given hygiene and sanitation messages through a number of group and fun activities. For instance, all the children were asked to clip the nails of their family, friends, and neighbours and bring the nails so collected to the session. All the nails were then soaked in a transparent bowl to demonstrate how much mud they carried. An equally interesting activity was the hand washing demonstration with only water and then with water and soap. The activities are full of fun and make the children realise the importance of good hygiene practices for good health. 


Students running their election campaign seen with their symbols for election in Bal Panchayat.
The village and school mapping exercises for identifying areas which are insanitary like garbage dumps, stagnant water pools, slushy surroundings of the wells etc. helps the students mark out  the trouble spots for action.

Live demonstration of water treatment with Medichlore and good water use practices helps them promote the same in their villages and houses. Each child, thereafter, takes the responsibility of monitoring hygiene, sanitation and water use practices in five households. 

The group of Vikas Doots cheers at the end of the training.  They are set to take action on sanitation and hygiene conditions.
Identifying the emerging leaders and giving them on a rotation basis the responsibility to ensure timely attendance in the class, cleaning and decorating the class room and documenting the activities of the day helps them over come their fears and inhibitions and take proactive role, be it cleaning the class rooms and school premises, or the approach road to the school and their neighbourhood.

Helping them understand the local self government system, the role of the village committees and also enabling them to contest and participate in the formation of a Bal Panchayat – a cabinet of elected students. The Bal Panchayat is constituted through an election process where they file their nominations, canvass for votes and win elections to become office bearers of various ministries builds immensely their leadership and communication skills making them the real messengers of inclusive and people-centric village development.

It is this transformation in children, of this school in a remote tribal village, which changed Mr. Bade into a supporter of AMCHI and its village level initiatives.

While he did not come even once to see the training on the first day, from second day on he started making rounds to the training hall and by fourth day, when the election process was explained and conducted in the school, he was completely drawn into the training. He was amazed to see the students fully involved in the training and enjoying it so much. They were learning and demonstrating what they had learnt.

Bade Sir expressed his opinion on the last day. He said that PF team conducted the training with a lot of involvement and considered each student as its own. The students too reciprocated with involvement, creativity and enthusiasm. Such trainings should happen again and again. He was very happy with the initiative. That is the reward we cherish as it reflects hope, positivity and a desire to change and that we can bring about change if only we know how to be in a sharing and nurturing mode.

The students were equally generous in their praise of AMCHI team and shared their plans to work on sanitation, hygiene and health of the community. The teachers were touched by their enthusiasm and energy.

Later, when PF organized an educational tour to Mumbai for the students in February 2016, Bade Sir took the lead and guided students to be in groups and manage all the tasks required to be done during the trip. He appreciated the planning and execution of the trip by PF.

Now the students are getting involved in planning and executing hygiene and sanitation projects in the community and in the school.  Till April 2016, the students have constructed nine soak pits and five compost pits in the villages.


Vikas Doots have cleaned the area around the common tap and  made provision  for waste water disposal.
They regularly organise the Bal Panchayat meetings in which teachers also participate. They water the plants in the school premises and clean the premises regularly. They organise rallies to spread hygiene and sanitation messages in the community. Constructing a vermi-compost pit in the school is being planned and the Teachers have promised to guide them in their activities.
The SID programme changes the way children perceive hygiene and sanitation issues and reduces their tolerance to unhygienic and insanitary behaviours. By providing them the required skills in leadership, communication and team work they are being transformed into Vikasdoots and their activities really speak louder than any endorsement by us.

 

Soak-pit constructed by the students keeps the area free of waste water.