Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Male, female and more

Happenings, Apr '14 (update 2)
Pawan Dhall and Madhuja Nandi report on the historic Supreme Court verdict on transgender identities and rights, and happenings around the verdict

Kolkata, April 16, 2014: Bengali New Year day on April 15, 2014 lived up to its ‘new’ factor in true spirit of the word when the Supreme Court of India declared that every citizen of India had the right to determine and express their gender, even if it was beyond the binary of man and woman. According to a media release issued by human rights agency Lawyers Collective, in a path-breaking judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional rights and freedoms of transgender persons, that is, those who identify with a gender different from their biological sex (for example, a person assigned male at birth who identifies as a woman or vice versa) as well as those who do not identify as either man or woman but as ‘third gender’ (for example, a Hijra person).

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Call for Submission: ‘My Queer Space’

Happenings, Apr '14 (update 1)
My Queer Space (working title): An anthology exploring the changing queer landscape of urban India in the context of the Indian queer movement

Note: This initiative has undergone several changes. Further information can be seen on the Anthologies page. If you have any queries, please write to us at vartablog@gmail.com.

OpenWord (publisher), Varta (non-profit agency focused on gender and sexuality education through publishing) and Queer Ink (publisher) have partnered to publish an anthology that will boldly visit, highlight and examine how Indian urban realities have shaped and facilitated the queer movement. We will recall synergies that have emerged from the gender and sexuality communities that have changed urban spaces in tone and texture and tell individual stories of success and failure behind the larger story of the Indian queer movement in the cities and towns.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

‘Jagah hai . . . sorry, vote hai kya?’

Vartanama, Apr '14
By Pawan Dhall

If memory serves me right, April 12, 2014 will be the 24th anniversary of my first ever ‘gay date’. This will be soon after the country will have started on nine-phase elections to constitute a new Lok Sabha – the 16th to be precise, but the first that will have seen the concerns of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other queer communities make an entry into the political rainbow of development issues in the run-up to its formation.

Psychiatry and homosexuality

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

On February 8, 2014, the West Bengal chapter of the Indian Psychiatric Society organized an interactive event in Kolkata to clarify their stand on homosexuality (see A Mental Boost! in the February 2014 issue of Varta). Among a host of issues debated, one was the use of reference books with outdated information on gender and sexuality by students of the MBBS course, the future doctors of India. Varta decided to delve deeper into the matter, and Dr. Tirthankar Guha Thakurta brings you the second and final in a series of articles that analyse the content of some standard reference books (the first article – The Homophobic Doctor – was published in the March 2014 issue of Varta).

Qatha: Love in Calcutta via Africa and UK (part 1)

People, Apr '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 first part of an interview with Pia and Kiki, both in their late 40s, who live together in Kolkata. Pia is a community volunteer and writer, while Kiki is associated with the education sector. They talk about the journeys which brought them together.

The interview was conducted by Pawan Dhall on May 10, 2013, and transcribed by freelancer Sukanya Roy Ghose.

Caring for the caregiver

My Story, Apr '14
Shikha Aleya, a founder member of Caregivers Link, writes about informal caregivers and care giving, arguably the most intimate aspect of health care and probably the least appreciated

The room fills up fast though many people participating in the meeting walk slowly, carefully, with the help of mobility aids and the encouragement of family and friends. Some walk alone. There are smiles of recognition and greeting amongst those who have been here before. There is questioning and apprehension on some faces. There is sadness in many, just barely below the surface and that sadness will suddenly hijack the owner, embarrassing and scaring them in an outpouring of tears, a burst of hyper-ventilation. Then smiling faces, concerned, understanding faces, will emerge like many suns from behind the one cloud, to hold, to help, to cajole the hijacked one back into coping. Sometimes this works, to some degree, and sometimes it doesn't.


Poetry, Apr '14
By Shaleen Rakesh


do you recognize it
from your past?

as your melted glacier?
your swollen sea?

coming down from her exile
in the heavens
removed from her history

coming down at once now
to strike you
and soothe your body.

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 The Lion and the Antler, the first collection of poems by Shaleen Rakesh (World View Publications, 2013). Limited number of copies available with Varta – please write to vartablog@gmail.com.

‘Rwituparno Ghosh’: A conversation

Theatre, Apr '14
By Aniruddha Dutta

On January 11, 2014, Dumdum Shabdomugdho Naatyakendra presented their play Rwituparno Ghosh at Gyan Manch in Central Kolkata, which had been premiered previously in the city in August 2013 (see theatre review 'Rwituparno Ghosh' in the September 2013 issue of Varta). The play, directed and scripted by Rakesh Ghosh, pays homage to the late filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh’s memory by reflecting on the quotidian forms of stigma, harassment and familial trouble faced by gender variant and transgender persons.

Pride in Manipur

Clickhappy! Apr '14
Rainbow pride walk in Imphal – another first for India’s queer community battling social and legal stigma! Kaushik Gupta reports

It was just another day, bright and sunny. And there I was, ready to be witness to history being created. It was the 15th day of the month of March 2014 and the state of Manipur was proudly out on the streets of capital city Imphal flying the rainbow flag as a symbol of pride. It was the day of the first ever rainbow pride walk in Manipur.

Curious about curative petitions

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

After the Supreme Court rejected in January this year all review petitions filed against its December 2013 verdict on Section 377, Indian Penal Code (IPC), it is the turn of curative petitions. As per the Supreme Court practice and procedure, even after the dismissal of a review petition, the Supreme Court may entertain a curative petition to reconsider its own judgment or order to cure a gross miscarriage of justice. Here’s a look at what the curative petitions in the matter of Section 377 say.