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Feature in Infochange india July 15, 2007

Posted by qmediawatch in English, Online/New Media.
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http://www.infochangeindia.org/features433.jsp

In Kolkata, a city known to provide space to the marginalised, the LGBT community celebrated its sexuality and publicly declared its alternative sexual preferences

They brought songs and laughter on a heavy, rain-cast, monsoon weekend. A large group of people, representatives of more than a dozen organisations, carrying colourful placards and festoons, walked down the main streets of Kolkata on the evening of July 1, 2007, singing. Some, dressed in women’s attire and stunning accessories, walked gracefully and confidently, ignoring the curious glances and bewildered looks of the crowds on the streets. A few passersby gasped in disbelief, some swore and laughed, while the brave reached out to take the leaflets that were being distributed.

The merry group, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender community
(LGBT), sang and shouted, not in protest or in anger against the routine discrimination and violence, but as a ‘coming out’ in pride of their sexual identities. Said Agniva Lahiri, development consultant, “The pride march is in celebration of our sexuality. To walk on the streets is a political move, to declare publicly our different sexual preferences.”

The Rainbow Pride Walk in Kolkata, the only one of its kind in the country, is part of a week-long celebration of cultural events. Every year diverse human rights movements working in the city and nationally come together to organise film shows, art exhibitions, discussions and dance performances to create spaces for dialogue and understanding devoid of hate, stigma and harassment. Worldwide, the LGBT community has adopted the ‘rainbow’ as a symbol of their sexual diversity and pride. “The public march on the streets reflects our confidence.
It also demonstrates a more tolerant Kolkata,” said Agniva after a pause.“While people’s sexuality is not their only identity, it’s often used to deny them their rights to equality before the law, to security and freedom,” said Pawan Dhall of SAATHII. Though the LGBT communities in India have made considerable strides in asserting their rights, Section 377, which criminalises same-sex relationships among men, and incidents of homophobic and transphobic violence, are widely prevalent. Many activists like Agniva feel it is more important to seriously address issues of gender construct and socialisation
which stereotype both men and women than to focus on the ban of 377  which has partly sapped the energy of the movement.

The first LGBT Pride March was organised in Kolkata in 1999 by support forums for sexual minorities to mark the landmark event of the Stonewall Riots in the USA . Years ago, on June 27, 1969, LGBT people had publicly protested police harassment in New York, a daily routine in their lives at the time. “As a result of the riots and protests, the new movement for LGBT rights emerged. Activists in India took inspiration from the Stonewall Riots and took the first steps,” said Dhall.

The celebrations this year began on June 24 with the Siddhartha Gautam Film Festival in memory of Gautam, a young lawyer and civil rights activist who died young of cancer. He was one of the first in India in the late-’80s to talk about sexuality and HIV and AIDS as a human rights issue. Today, the film festival has become a platform to screen films on human rights issues that Siddhartha worked and fought for.

According to Agniva, the pride walk is possible in the city only because people in West Bengal are more tolerant of the LGBT community. He and his friends would however like to see more active participation in their programmes. “People do not interfere or create obstacles in our work; in fact they are quite supportive,” said Agniva. For instance, the municipal employees of Bidhannagar are not only friendly towards them, they cooperate by offering the LGBT members space to meet and conduct their work. Many feel that the state’s ideological leanings towards Marxism aid this tolerance. Many of the LGBTs are themselves supporters of the Marxist political parties, which gives them easier access to
the leadership and promotes dialogue on related issues.

“It’s the younger generation of Marxists who are more sympathetic and progressive in their attitude towards the cause,” asserts Vikram Ghosh of Amitie. He should know. In 2005, during a book fair in Hoogly district, some senior members of the ruling Marxist party had abused and beaten up their members, forcibly closed down their bookstall, destroyed the posters and damaged the books. In protest, the group appealed to the Calcutta High Court . The Court ruled that the LGBT community had the right to express themselves.

The most active support to the LGBTs, not unexpectedly, has been from women’s groups in the city. At every platform, meeting and programme organised by the women’s network Maitree, the lesbian group Sappho has been encouraged to express and voice its concerns. “We have participated in various Maitree programmes as equal partners, with our distinct sexual identity, organisation placards and issues. We have never faced any ridicule, hassles or indignities,” said Abir of Sappho. Incidentally, Saphho does not participate in the Pride Walk because it disagrees politically with the need for a public declaration of one’s sexuality.

Since the last one year, the LGBT community has received an unexpected push
from an unlikely quarter. Academia, known for its prudish correctness, broke social boundaries when the English Department of Jadavpur University introduced
Queer Studies in the post-graduate course. The six-month course got an overwhelming response from the students, with more than 50 registering for it. “Queer Studies is a new but growing discipline,” said Paromita Charavorty, convenor of the course. “Students are curious about sexual politics, for some it is fashionable to be radical, many others understand that it emerges out of gay politics.”

Kolkata is known to be a city with a tradition of tolerance, providing space to marginalised people. If the Rainbow Pride Week, culminating in the Pride Walk, can become a regular part of the city landscape, the city certainly has something to be proud of. (Rajashri Dasgupta is an independent writer and researcher based in Kolkata)

InfoChange News & Features, July 2007

Pink Pride July 8, 2007

Posted by qmediawatch in English, Indian Express.
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http://www.indianexpress.com/sunday/story/203999._.html

As small pockets of urban India shed straitjackets and stray from straight, narrow paths, a growing community…

Queer things can happen over coffee. Lovers smoulder, friends fall out and every Sunday morning, at a coffee shop in south Delhi, a group of 10-15 men get together–to steer clear of straight talk. They are a motley bunch: young, bleary-eyed call centre workers and shy undergraduate students, middle-aged bankers and photographers, corporate executives and NGO members. They are also gay. The banter, over cups of bitter brew and stacks of crusty sandwiches, is lively as they talk about Tendulkar’s return to form, the knotty politics of a corporate office, the lack of a love life, the pressure to get hitched and the
sullen walls of silence they run into in homes. This is the Gay Delhi Sunday Social, a gathering of a handful of urban, middle-class and upper middle-class homosexual and bisexual men of the capital that every week stakes a claim–to visibility, to a social space.
“When we decided to start the Socials about a year ago, it was a conscious decision to be visible, to hold our gatherings in the day in a coffee shop. It was our way of pushing for a bit of public space,” says 41-year-old Ranjan, who works for an NGO. Last Sunday, as Ranjan and his friends sipped on dark cappuccinos and creamy lattes, in Kolkata–the city has been organising a annual Gay Pride March since 2003 to mark the homophobic Stonewall Riots in New York of 1969 –a file of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, was curling itself around the lush-green Maidan. They were on their way to the Rabindra Sadan-Nandan complex, the hub of the state government’s intellectual
and cultural activities in an annual ritual of affirmation. Some wore masks; others looked onlookers straight in the eye. In an earlier edition of the walk, a soccer match was disrupted when players stopped to ogle and yell out a gibes. Last Sunday, the play stopped, but momentarily. Families on a weekend outing stopped digging into their lunch packs to look up, before resuming again. Two bikers, who were harassing some of the participants, were chased away by accompanying cops, with whom the marchers exchanged jokes. Says Pawan Dhall, country director of Saathii, an NGO which works in the area of HIV-AIDS and LGBT issues, “Possibly, people, including the footballers, by now know who we are and why we march.” In defiance of a law (section 377 of the Indian Penal Code) that shoves same-sex love into shadows of illegitimacy and crime, a small section of people of alternative sexuality–mostly urban, English-speaking and privileged–is standing up to tell the world who they are and pushing the margins of the spaces available to them. Browse through TimeOut Delhi, a fortnightly lifestyle magazine launched three months ago, and you findbetween movie listings and the kids’ section another assertion–a page blazoned with the masthead: Gay & Lesbian. Apart from a regular column, it also has a listings section that features events ranging from the screening of a film on alternative sexuality to gatherings like the Sunday Socials. If that is
a threshold crossed, the Nigah QueerFest, held in Delhi from May 25 to June 3, was another landmark. Hundreds of gay men and women from across the country celebrated their sexuality in full media glare as they watched feature, documentary and short films covering gay, lesbian and bi-sexual to transgender and hijra experiences in India. “It was an affirmation of their lives and choices that people were desperate to see,” says 53-year-old photographer Sunil Gupta, whose film India Postcard on gay life in India in the 1980s showed at the fest.If niche films are mirroring silenced loves, straight and narrow Bollywood plotlines are bending to allow the gay experience into multiplexes. Much of it is still crassly homophobic (Page 3 and Life in a Metro). But a film like Honeymoon Travels Pvt Limited allows a gay sub-plot to blow up on a multiple narrative on heterosexual marriages. The ensuing confusion of sexual identity is addressed with humour and sensitivity. 
In an earlier edition of the walk, a soccer match was disrupted when players stopped to ogle and yell out a gibes. Last Sunday, the play stopped, but momentarily. Families on a weekend outing stopped digging into their lunch packs to look up, before resuming again. Two bikers, who were harassing some of the participants, were chased away by accompanying cops, with whom the marchers exchanged jokes. Says Pawan Dhall, country director of Saathii, an NGO which works in the area of HIV-AIDS and LGBT issues, “Possibly, people, including the footballers, by now know who we are and why we march.”
In defiance of a law (section 377 of the Indian Penal Code) that shoves same-sex love into shadows of illegitimacy and crime, a small section of people of alternative sexuality–mostly urban,English-speaking and privileged–is standing up to tell the world who they are and pushing the margins of the spaces available to them. Browse through TimeOut Delhi, a fortnightly lifestyle magazine launched three months ago, and you find between movie listings and the kids’ section another assertion–a page blazoned with the masthead: Gay & Lesbian. Apart from a regular column, it also has a listings section that features events ranging from the screening of a film on alternative sexuality to gatherings like the Sunday Socials. If that is a threshold crossed, the Nigah QueerFest, held in Delhi from May 25 to June 3, was another landmark. Hundreds of gay men and women from across the country celebrated their sexuality in full media glare as they watched feature,
documentary and short films covering gay, lesbian and bi-sexual to transgender and hijra experiences in India. “It was an affirmation of their lives and choices that people were desperate to see,” says 53-year-old photographer Sunil Gupta, whose film India Postcard on gay life in India in the 1980s showed at the fest. If niche films are mirroring silenced loves, straight and narrow  Bollywood plotlines are bending to allow the gay experience into multiplexes.
Much of it is still crassly homophobic (Page 3 and Life in a Metro). But a film like Honeymoon Travels Pvt Limited allows a gay sub-plot to blow up on a
multiple narrative on heterosexual marriages. The ensuing confusion of sexual
identity is addressed with humour and sensitivity. TimeOut columnist, who
writes under the suggestive name of Dehleez Paar, sees the greater visibility of
gay and lesbian people as part of larger changes sweeping the Indian mindscape.
“More and more youngsters in urban India are resisting social pressures,
marrying late. There’s greater questioning and loosening of accepted social
norms, which is also the case in matters of sexuality.” And as young Indians learn to break shibboleths, queer men and women are walking out of stifling, middle-class closets to find comfort in friends–straight or gay. Nineteen-year-old Amol (name changed), a student in a Delhi college, for instance, finds his greatest support from his pool of
straight friends, mostly women. The Sunday gatherings helped Ajay (name changed), 21, a student of architecture, meet many more men like him, face up to his sexuality and come out to his father. “Two months after I attended my first social, I realised I wasn’t alone.” Ranjan recalls how relieved a 19-year-old was when he met other men like him at the gathering. “He said he realised he wasn’t all that bad. The next day, he went up to his father and blurted out the truth.” A friend of mine was unsettled when I came out to her. But she was my biggest support when my last relationship ended,” says 22-year-old PR executive Shaheen. And as straitjackets snap and a society morphs, in the cocoons of friendship, you see  the possibility of fun–and the freedom to be gay. “Most of my straight men friends know about me and are ok with my sexuality. In fact, sometimes, we check out women together,” she says with a laugh, bright eyes spilling with mirth.
Gupta sees promise for the gay community in the growing BPO-driven affluence of youngsters in urban India. “Homosexuality worldwide has been an  urban phenomenon. In India, the economic change has had a knock-on effect. More and more young people live alone. A lot of them earn quite well. They make up a consumer class that is used to getting what it wants–and they will set the bar. In the middle of this change, there is the possibility of a gay lifestyle.”
TimeOut columnist, who writes under the suggestive name of Dehleez Paar, sees the greater visibility of gay and lesbian people as part of larger changes sweeping the Indian
mindscape. “More and more youngsters in urban India are resisting social pressures, marrying late. There’s greater questioning and loosening of accepted social norms, which is also the case in matters of sexuality.” And as young Indians learn to break shibboleths, queer men and women are walking out of stifling, middle-class closets to find comfort in friends–straight or gay. Nineteen-year-old Amol (name changed), a student in a Delhi college, for
instance, finds his greatest support from his pool of straight friends, mostly
women. The Sunday gatherings helped Ajay (name changed), 21, a student of
architecture, meet many more men like him, face up to his sexuality and come out
to his father. “Two months after I attended my first social, I realised I wasn’t
alone.” Ranjan recalls how relieved a 19-year-old was when he met other men like
him at the gathering. “He said he realised he wasn’t all that bad. The next day,
he went up to his father and blurted out the truth.”
“A friend of mine was unsettled when I came out to her. But she was my biggest
support when my last relationship ended,” says 22-year-old PR executive Shaheen.
And as straitjackets snap and a society morphs, in the cocoons of friendship,
you see the possibility of fun–and the freedom to be gay. “Most of my straight
men friends know about me and are ok with my sexuality. In fact, sometimes, we
check out women together,” she says with a laugh, bright eyes spilling with
mirth. Gupta sees promise for the gay community in the growing BPO-driven
affluence of youngsters in urban India. “Homosexuality worldwide has been an
urban phenomenon. In India, the economic change has had a knock-on effect. More
and more young people live alone. A lot of them earn quite well. They make up a
consumer class that is used to getting what it wants–and they will set the bar.
In the middle of this change, there is the possibility of a gay lifestyle.”
Sure enough, in Mumbai, Shasi and Avanti
(names changed), both call centre workers, have just moved in together. “When I
started earning, my parents asked me fewer questions,” says the 24-year-old.
Avanti, who just turned 25, says, “When we decided we were serious about each
other and wanted to live together, I realised it was time to move out of home,”
says Avanti. In Faridabad, 28-year-old Agni (name changed) awaits anxiously for
word from his parents. A month has passed since he came out to his parents
through an open letter in a magazine. “Since then, they have stopped talking. I
guess they need time,” he says wistfully. Two-and-a-half-years ago, he left his
home in Chandigarh when the pressure to marry got overpowering. The anonymity of
a big city life–he often travels to Delhi for his work–financial independence
and the distance from home has given him the space to be himself.  
\n\u003cp\>When Dhall “came out” in the mid-1990s, he was confronted with
reactions like “You don’t look like a homosexual”.
These days, he finds himself surrounded by people who are ‘out’ and
willing to be counted. “Especially in urban centres like Kolkata, there are many
more people who, even in public domains, don’t mind divulging their sexual
orientation,” says Dhall, who has over the years been closely associated with
the organisation of Rainbow Pride Week events in Kolkata. “A generation of gay
and lesbian people left India to live a freer life in the ’80s and ’90s.
Now I am happy to see so many young men and women openly declaring their
sexuality and right to love openly,” says Suniti Namjoshi, a Canada-based
feminist author poet. \n\u003cp\>For lesbian and bisexual women, however, the
space for courage or fun is painfully sparse. While nightclubs in Delhi,
Bangalore and Mumbai host gay nites on a regular basis, for women there are few
places to get together. “We are silenced, not closeted,” says Maya, a member of
Sangini, a Delhi-based support group for lesbian and
bisexual women. “Public spaces are inaccessible for women. We don’t even
put up stickers advertising our helpline number at any public place, be it a
coffee shop or cinema, because we know a woman will not stand up in a public
place and scribble that number down. There is always the fear that too many
people are watching.” \n”,1] ); //–> Sure enough, in Mumbai, Shasi and
Avanti (names changed), both call centre workers, have just moved in together.
“When I started earning, my parents asked me fewer questions,” says the
24-year-old. Avanti, who just turned 25, says, “When we decided we were serious
about each other and wanted to live together, I realised it was time to move out
of home,” says Avanti. In Faridabad, 28-year-old Agni (name changed) awaits
anxiously for word from his parents. A month has passed since he came out to his
parents through an open letter in a magazine. “Since then, they have stopped
talking. I guess they need time,” he says wistfully.
Two-and-a-half-years ago, he left his home in Chandigarh when the pressure to
marry got overpowering. The anonymity of a big city life–he often travels to
Delhi for his work–financial independence and the distance from home has given
him the space to be himself. When Dhall “came out” in the mid-1990s, he was
confronted with reactions like “You don’t look like a homosexual”. These days,
he finds himself surrounded by people who are ‘out’ and willing to be counted.
“Especially in urban centres like Kolkata, there are many more people who, even
in public domains, don’t mind divulging their sexual orientation,” says Dhall,
who has over the years been closely associated with the organisation of Rainbow
Pride Week events in Kolkata. “A generation of gay and lesbian people left India
to live a freer life in the ’80s and ’90s. Now I am happy to see so many young
men and women openly declaring their sexuality and right to love openly,” says
Suniti Namjoshi, a Canada-based
feminist author poet. For lesbian and bisexual women, however, the space for
courage or fun is painfully sparse. While nightclubs in Delhi, Bangalore and
Mumbai host gay nites on a regular basis, for women there are few places to get
together. “We are silenced, not closeted,” says Maya, a member of Sangini, a
Delhi-based support group for lesbian and bisexual women. “Public spaces are
inaccessible for women. We don’t even put up stickers advertising our helpline
number at any public place, be it a coffee shop or cinema, because we know a
woman will not stand up in a public place and scribble that number down. There
is always the fear that too many people are watching.” Another Mumbai couple,
Garima and Baneen, were handed an eviction notice after their landlord saw them
on television at a gay rally during the World Social Forum. Sapna is appalled
that the lesbian movement in India has no public face. “I was really upset when
a television series on homosexuality had only
gay men facing the camera. It’s high time we claimed our space,” she says.
\n\u003cp\>Groups like LABIA, once known as Stree Sangam, a queer-women’s
collective that deals with gay and feminist politics and has been around for
almost 10 years now, are doing that. Last month they launched a new film club,
Cine LABIA, and kicked off their first women-only screening Majlis in Kalina. “I
have been doing screenings all over Europe and when I began working here, I
realised that it would be a new context for women to meet,” says Sophie Parisse,
a Belgian film curator who is spearheading Cine LABIA. Gay Bombay also holds
regular monthly screening of gay films in the auditorium of a Bandra college.
“As long as we keep it low-key and send our invites out by SMS, email and word
of mouth, we can be sure that the screenings won’t be hampered,” says
Vikram, founder member of Gay Bombay.   \n\u003cp\>Not all agree that the
changes have been more than cosmetic–even for men.
Sunil, a 34-year-old journalist, says it’s a myth that professions like
journalism are tolerant of homosexuality. “I’ve seen senior journalists
react with fear, paranoia and homophobia to the idea. It’s only a limited
section of very affluent people who can afford to be open.” \n\u003cp\>In small
towns, the silence is indeed deafening. Arunabha Nath is gay and a member of
Sangram, an NGO which works for human rights of sexual minorities, in
Berhampore, a town located approximately 200 km north of Kolkata. Here there is
a glaring need for an organisation like Sangram. “There are many people who fall
under the sexual minorities bracket. We have received queries from many wanting
to come out into the open but can’t. Many are caught in heterosexual
marriages, some simply don’t have the courage,” he says. “We need Sangram if
for nothing else but to share our stories and emotions”. \n”,1] ); //–>
Another Mumbai couple, Garima and Baneen, were handed an
eviction notice after their landlord saw them on television at a gay rally
during the World Social Forum. Sapna is appalled that the lesbian movement in
India has no public face. “I was really upset when a television series on
homosexuality had only gay men facing the camera. It’s high time we claimed our
space,” she says. Groups like LABIA, once known as Stree Sangam, a
queer-women’s collective that deals with gay and feminist politics and has been
around for almost 10 years now, are doing that. Last month they launched a new
film club, Cine LABIA, and kicked off their first women-only screening Majlis in
Kalina. “I have been doing screenings all over Europe and when I began working
here, I realised that it would be a new context for women to meet,” says Sophie
Parisse, a Belgian film curator who is spearheading Cine LABIA. Gay Bombay also
holds regular monthly screening of gay films in the auditorium of a Bandra
college. “As long as we keep it low-key and send our
invites out by SMS, email and word of mouth, we can be sure that the screenings
won’t be hampered,” says Vikram, founder member of Gay Bombay. Not all agree
that the changes have been more than cosmetic–even for men. Sunil, a
34-year-old journalist, says it’s a myth that professions like journalism are
tolerant of homosexuality. “I’ve seen senior journalists react with fear,
paranoia and homophobia to the idea. It’s only a limited section of very
affluent people who can afford to be open.” In small towns, the silence is
indeed deafening. Arunabha Nath is gay and a member of Sangram, an NGO which
works for human rights of sexual minorities, in Berhampore, a town located
approximately 200 km north of Kolkata. Here there is a glaring need for an
organisation like Sangram. “There are many people who fall under the sexual
minorities bracket. We have received queries from many wanting to come out into
the open but can’t. Many are caught in heterosexual marriages, some
simply don’t have the courage,” he says. “We need Sangram if for nothing else
but to share our stories and emotions”. The growing visibility in Kolkata has
come at a price. Over the last three months, at least six cases of crime against
members of the community have been reported. The victims have been mugged,
mobbed, tortured by the custodians of law, and in the case of cross-dresser
Ronald D’Silva, brutally murdered. The incidents have taken place in places
like the Maidan, Southern Avenue and Sealdah — all very much within
Kolkata’s municipal limits. \n\u003cp\>So how does one negotiate these
spaces? “Talk. We should talk about it,” says Shaheen’s partner Rati. “We
don’t need to shout about our sexuality but we should let people close to us
know, dispel their fears.” \n\u003cp\>Or as Tirthankar Guha Thakurta did, walk,
one end of a banner reading ‘Same Sex, Same Rights’ clutched in his
hand.  Tirthankar, a former student of the prestigious
Calcutta National Medical College, is now an activist filmmaker of gender and
gay rights. Though he came out a few years ago, this was the first time he took
part in Pride Walk. “Last year my mother didn’t allow me to go for the
march,” he says. He is happy that he decided to come for the walk. “Maybe my
photograph will appear in the newspapers, but that will only show that I’m
at peace with myself.”
The growing visibility in Kolkata has come at a price. Over the last three months, at least six cases of crime against members of the community have been reported. The victims have been mugged, mobbed, tortured by the custodians of law, and in the case of cross-dresser Ronald D’Silva, brutally murdered. The incidents have taken place in places like the Maidan, Southern Avenue and Sealdah — all very much within Kolkata’s municipal
limits. So how does one negotiate these spaces? “Talk. We should talk about
it,” says Shaheen’s partner Rati. “We don’t need to shout about our sexuality
but we should let people close to us know, dispel their fears.” Or as
Tirthankar Guha Thakurta did, walk, one end of a banner reading ‘Same Sex, Same
Rights’ clutched in his hand. Tirthankar, a
former student of the prestigious Calcutta National Medical College, is now an
activist filmmaker of gender and gay rights. Though he came out a few years ago,
this was the first time he took part in Pride Walk. “Last year my mother didn’t
allow me to go for the march,” he says. He is happy that he decided to come for
the walk. “Maybe my photograph will appear in the newspapers, but that will only
show that I’m at peace with myself.”

Same sex couple splits July 5, 2007

Posted by qmediawatch in English, Lesbian, Tribune.
add a comment

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2007/20070706/punjab1.htm#14

The love story of the same-sex couple, who got married against the wishes of
their parents, today took a sad turn when one of them attempted suicide at the
Sadar police station here. The couple, Baljit Kaur (21) of Hassanpur Kalan and
Rajwinder Kaur (20) of Hassanpur Khurd, were brought to the police station by
panchayat members of their respective villages after Rajwinder allegedly refused
to stay with Baljit. Both girls were to be produced before the sub-divisional
magistrate (SDM), Batala, Sandeep Rishi to record their statements. Baljit
slit the veins of her left hand at the police station while Rajwinder recorded
her statement before the police. The former was taken to the local civil
hospital where after a medical examination, she was arrested under Sections 309,
511 and 506 of the IPC for attempting suicide. Rajwinder told the SDM that
Baljit married her with the promise that she would send her abroad. She alleged
that Baljit was having similar relations with
certain girls and was forcing her into their company. Later, talking to
mediapersons, Rajwinder alleged that Baljit was a drug addict and was having
relations with certain boys. She did not give up her habits even after my
repeated requests. She said Baljit cheated her by not keeping her matrimonial
promise to send her abroad and now she did not want to live with her any more.
Parents of Rajwinder had brought her back with them following which Baljit
complained to the police. Baljit claims to be the “husband” of Rajwinder. She
said they got married at the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir on June 15

Gay slur on husband for Ranchi girl suicide July 3, 2007

Posted by qmediawatch in English, The Telegraph.
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Calcutta, July 2: A 32-year-old homemaker from Ranchi committed suicide in Calcutta by hanging herself from the ceiling of her bedroom late on Saturday night.

Preeti Verma left a suicide note naming husband Sanjay Verma, 35, and mother-in-law Savitri Verma.

But neighbours in the Chiriamore area, near Kaikhali, off VIP Road in Calcutta, said Sanjay’s alleged homosexual relationship with a cousin had driven Preeti to despair — and death.

The name of Manoj Verma, or Munna, cropped up in every conversation on Monday as police probed the “unnatural death case”.

Some neighbours, on condition of anonymity, revealed how Preeti was suffering because of her husband’s relationship with Manoj.

Sanjay and Manoj are also business partners as gold merchants.

“Sanjay and Preeti were married for five years but he remained very close to his cousin Munna. That relationship must have driven her to suicide,” said a relative of Preeti.

“Even when the two went on their honeymoon, Munna was with them. We want police to look into this relationship as the cause of Preeti’s death. She did not make it public and suffered in silence, as she did not want to malign her husband,” she added.

Sanjay was not at home when Preeti committed suicide early on Sunday.

Preeti’s brother Amit Kumar, from Ranchi, lodged a complaint, holding five members of the Verma family — husband Sanjay, mother-in-law Savitri, brother-in-law Manoj and his wife Mani, and another brother-in-law Ajay— responsible for her death.

The complaint did not hint at any homosexual relations between the two cousins.

“On the basis of the complaint lodged by Preeti’s brother, we arrested Sanjay Verma and his cousin Manoj. They have been remanded in judicial custody for seven days,” said the superintendent of police (North 24-Parganas), Praveen Kumar.

The three others named in the FIR were absconding till late on Monday.

Har Verma, Preeti’s father-in-law, who has been described by their neighbours as “a nice person, unlike the other family members”, dismissed talk about his son’s closeness with cousin Munna.

“I think the issue of the two having a relationship is baseless. My son is running his business well and some people are trying to malign him,” alleged the 72-year-old, at his G-504 apartment in the Green Valley estate near Kaikhali.

Har, a former employee of a private firm, added: “Manoj and Sanjay are business partners and this might have brought them closer. I don’t see anything wrong if two brothers live and work together to nurture their business.”

Other members of the Verma family tried to deflect the focus from Sanjay’s alleged relationship.

“Preeti was terribly upset after she suffered three miscarriages. She was undergoing treatment recently to ensure a safe pregnancy. She had gone into a deep depression because of the miscarriages, as most of her peers were mothers, while she was childless,” said a relative of Sanjay.

Woman commits suicide July 2, 2007

Posted by qmediawatch in English, Indian Express.
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http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=244024

Woman commits suicide; victim of torture, say neighbours

Kolkata, July 02: Alleged sexual deviation of husband and torture by
mother-in-law, forced a 31-year-old housewife to suicide.

Preeti Verma, a resident of G 504, Green Valley Complex of Kaikhali, hanged
herself in her bedroom on Saturday, on the eve of her fifth marriage
anniversary. A suicide note was found on her.

In the note, she wrote that she was ending her life as she could not bear
the torture by her husband and mother-in-law, the police said.

The body was sent for postmortem after the arrival of Preeti’s two younger
brothers from Ranchi. Her husband Sanjay, a gold trader, and his cousin
Munnu, who also stayed at the same house, was arrested, said police
officer-in-charge Dhiraj Banerjee. They were remanded in jail custody.

A case has been registered against Sanjay’s mother Savitri, but she is
absconding, police said. “We have recovered a suicide note and a complaint
made by her brothers. But there are some other inputs, like statements of
her neighbours. Some said her husband was gay and had sexual relations with
his cousin. The fact that her body was brought down by the two of them,
without informing police or any other member of the complex, forced us to
take another look at the case,” said an investigating officer of Airport
Police Station.

Sanjay’s father Indrajeet said: “Every evening, Preeti took a nap. On
Saturday too, she went for a nap in her room, while my wife and I went to
the rooftop. We returned around 9.30pm and found the door locked. We
knocked, but got no response. We thought she was still sleeping. Later,
around 11 pm, my son and Munnu (the cousin) came back home. My son unlocked
the door with his key and found her hanging.”

Sex reconstruction surgery on transgenders July 2, 2007

Posted by qmediawatch in Chennaionline, Online/New Media.
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http://www.chennaionline.com/colnews/newsitem.asp?NEWSID={3CD0136A-5443-4A20-A83\1-D1D1AD81F9D1}&CATEGORYNAME=CHN

 Chennai, July 2: For the first time in the country, a government hospital in
Tamil Nadu will perform sex reconstruction surgery on transgenders this
week, marking an end to their ordeal at the hands of quacks.

In the first batch, eight transgenders are slated to undergo the surgery at
the government hospital in Vellore district on July 5.

The surgeries will be performed free of cost following a government order
issued by the Social Welfare Department in April last.

Since sex change was not legal in the country, transgenders had been
thronging quacks to remove their genital organs.

Due to unscientific surgical processes followed by quacks, many transgenders
had developed complications like urinary infections and allergies.

In one or two cases, people had died too, South India Positive Network
president S Noori told reporters.

Tamil Nadu has an estimated population of 60,000 transgenders of whom 50 per
cent had undergone the sex reconstruction surgery.

They throng quacks practising in Cuddapah in Andhra Pradesh and Dindigul in
Tamil Nadu and shell out about Rs 10,000 to remove their genitals.

Noori said a majority of transgenders work as commercial sex workers to eke
out a living and it was a Herculean task for them to pay Rs 10,000 for the
surgery. Conceding the demand of transgenders, the state government had
announced that sex reconstruction surgeries would be performed in all
government hospitals free of cost.

Besides undergoing medical tests, including for HIV, the transgenders
selected for the surgery on July 5 also attended counselling sessions as a
preparation to the physical transformation.

Soundarya, a transgender, said, “I’ve always felt like a woman mentally and
I am eagerly awaiting the day to undergo the surgery and physically
transform myself into a woman. We’re grateful to the Tamil Nadu government
for understanding our sorry state of affairs and issuing such a landmark
order. We hope other states will also follow suit.”

A second batch of transgenders was being screened to undergo the surgery,
official sources said. (Our Correspondent)

Rainbow films in wet weather – Telegraph July 2, 2007

Posted by qmediawatch in English, The Telegraph.
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http://www.telegraphindia.com/1070701/asp/calcutta/story_7993505.asp

Romila Saha, 1st July 2007

Last week would have been hectic for those associated with the LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual transgender) movement. On June 22 and 23, NGOs Sappho for Equality and Pratyay Gender Trust organised an LGBT film festival at Max Mueller Bhavan, billed the first in the city, the Siddhartha Gautam Film Festival notwithstanding. Then there was a book launch by Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre.
“It is not that screenings of LGBT films have not been held in the city before. But the organisers did not claim a space for themselves as dealing exclusively with the issue,” explained Anindya Hajra of Pratyay.

Alain Berliner’s Ma Vie en Rose portrayed the social backlash faced by the family of Ludovic, a seven-year-old boy convinced that his being a boy was merely an unfortunate accident, to be corrected as soon as he grows up and becomes the girl he feels himself to be. The film takes on sensitive topics like homophobia and transvestism with humour, and above all with kindness, as with the portrayal of Ludovic’s conformist father who alternately lashes out and tries to accept his son’s identity.

But films like Patricia Rozema’s When Night Is Falling and Pratibha Parmar’s Nina’s Heavenly Delights had their subject as the sole justification for being included in the line-up. While Parmar’s film seemed a queer (as opposed to heterosexual) rehash of The Mistress of Spices, with colonial presumptions about the Orient intact, Rozema’s film was increasingly reduced to titillating soft porn in the absence of a plot to grip the viewer’s interest.

These films point to the danger of indiscriminate celebration of all things queer in the face of greater acceptance of alternative sexualities, that is perhaps as harmful as insipient homophobia. To merit a position in the city’s cultural calendar, more attention to the quality of films would help.

Romain Maitra, who watched The Investigator, directed by Chris Oxley, on the first day of the fair, said: “There is a lot of quality films that have been made on this subject. This selection of films lacked quality and The Investigator seemed more like a television series than a film.”

June 24 saw the release of the book, The Phobic and the Erotic: The Politics of Sexualities in Contemporary India, edited by Brinda Bose and Subhobrata Bhattacharyya, at Seagull. The occasion saw the screening of Performing The Goddess, Naveen Kishore’s documentary on Chapal Bhaduri, famous for his female roles in jatra. Bhaduri, who was felicitated on the occasion, looked like a lone mascot of the “sexual minority” in the midst of the academics and culturati.

The book deals with subjects like the queer in arts and cinema (the Fire controversy), the issue of empowerment and the way sexuality is undercut by considerations like gender, caste and economics.

A presentation by one of the contributors to the volume, Shohini Ghosh, looked into the possibility of the exclusion of heterosexual women because of the increased attention paid to queer groups. “Can identity be defined by appearance? A woman’s wearing a sari is different from the same by a hijra, though both conform to female stereotypes,” she said.

This is evident in Anita Khemka’s documentary, a clipping from which was screened by Ghosh. Laxmi, a hijra in Mumbai, says in the film: “My soul is that of a hijra. I am more than a woman. If you call me a man, you abuse me.” Agrees Anindya Hajra in Mahuya Bandopadhyaya’s documentary, Being Male, Being Koti: “Names like koti do reinforce stereotypes.”

In the end, it is the carnivalesque that remains after the politics of gender and identity has drained away — where Bobby, the Bollywood drag queen, dances away to strains of classic Bollywood numbers in Glasgow, in Nina’s Heavenly Delights, or Laxmi, the hijra, sways with the drunken beats of a dance bar in the darknesses of a metropolis.

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