Spotting the Rainbow in Grey

I often find myself envious of people who live in a world of black and white and for whom everything seems so simple and clear. It would be so much easier not to struggle, feel torn or grapple with complexity and uncertainty. One needs to find the courage, strength, conviction, and sensitivity to live in the grey and bear the tension inherent in a sophisticated and nuanced approach to complicated issues.

One such example is the increasing approach towards LGBT community or the organizations that are slowly and steadily rising in our country. Recently, I spoke to a group of observant teenagers about this issue and began by asking them: If a close friend were to invite you to a same gender marriage, would you attend? I was startled when every single hand in the group went up, with a few saying that they don’t necessarily approve of this lifestyle, but their dedication and loyalty to their friend and desire for their happiness dictate from their participation.
LGBT-Community-Kerala

The controversial section 377 in India, has not only created a landmark judgment by granting a “third gender” category but recognizing them as a socially and economically disadvantaged class. It is the right of every human being to choose their gender, thus granting rights to those who self-identify as neither male nor female.

Various such organizations around our country are also doing much for sake of their betterment. One such community is ‘The Humsafar Trust’. A community-based organization for self-identified gay men, MSM, Hijras(eunuch) and LBT persons in Mumbai since 1994. HST also provides legal support, crisis management, mental health counseling, and nutrition counseling to its communities. The Indian government themselves are coming up with various projects and initiatives for this community. Taking up the research studies from these trusts such as HIV interventions for more betterment in the rural parts of our country.

With an exclusive interaction with this trust, I came across with the advocacy and online outreach manager of this organization, Rohan Pujari, who is also one of the Top 3 finalists of Mr. Gay, India. This 30 years old handsome guy, from the coast of Mumbai, works with The Humsafar Trust (HST) which is also India’s first registered LGBTQ organization. Rohan came out of the closet seven years ago, admits being bullied and threatened during his growing up years. Hailing from an orthodox South Indian family, and being the only son, coming out wasn’t easy for him. “My parents didn’t speak to me for days. My mom would say, ‘Forget all this and get over it.’ She was in denial for a long time, but I knew at the end of the day, what I was,” says Rohan.
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Another such organization ‘Saathi IIT-B’, aims to make the college environment comfortable for these minority groups which are at the receiving end of mockery and ragging. It works to eliminate heteronormativism, homophobia and gender identity oppression and provide a safe place and counseling to individuals who have faced harassment because of their sexual orientations. The efforts were by Saathi, which is probably the first-ever institute-backed campus support group in India for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) people” at IIT-B. Started by a group of students, faculty, and alumni. Saathi is a home for LGBTQ community at IIT-B and is meant to be a “safe space” for people coming to terms with themselves and their sexuality. Being one of the reputed institutes of our country, IIT-B has set up such a support group.

Homosexuality is a matter of concern for the country of India; to combat it; in the initial days of the verdict, the government has put LGBT laws into place that banned the presence of homosexuality. Thus, the government had later responded to this heightened homosexual presence by increasing regulations which brought the establishment of Section 377, in the Indian Penal Code. This caused citizens in India to seek freedom from political constraints by revolting against the government. But the scenario has changed now. This “Grey” community has been waving their rainbow colored flag high in the sky and making their mark of love all over.

It is said by an anonymous once, “There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s a lot wrong with the world you live in”

The Open Secret: Female genital mutilation

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Mumbai abounds with untrained midwives and
Clerics who continue to scar young girls from the Bohra community.

In India, not many people are aware of the practice of FGM. Many of them do not even know the term FGM. The Bohra community usually calls it as khatna. The fact is that millions of girls have undergone this practice. Some remember and some are afraid to answer. There are around 100 Million to 140 Million women and girls around the world who have been subjected to FGM.

So, What exactly is FGM? Female Genital Mutilation comprises all procedures that involve injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. The Dawoodi Bohra community in India is highly educated, yet it is the only Muslim community to practice female genital mutilation in India. It is not a religious practice but is a cultural practice – a practice where people believe a women’s sexuality is to be brought under control. This act highly reflects deep rooted inequalities between sexes and which constitutes a high form of discrimination against women and girls.

SCREAMING

The sad truth to this painful process is the fact that it is a practice being done to women by other women. Most women during a research blamed their mothers initially. Till they realised they too were victims of the same mindless tradition. About 35 years ago at the age of seven, Shajana Azmi who grew up in Mumbai was lured to her grandmother’s house in UP. It was the time she will never forget. “I clearly remember that fateful day. There were my mother and aunt next to me holding my legs apart and I felt something cold being touch to my clitoris. A lady in black held a scissor like an instrument and cut me there. I screamed and no one listened.”

The documentary ‘A Pinch of skin’ which is based on this barbaric act is being practiced even in India. Priya Goswami, the director of this documentary shows vividly that it still exists and is extensively practiced especially in parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Tasneem, who had done her Ph.D. from Tata Institute of Social Science on gender inequalities, is a full-time social activist. With her campaign ‘Speak out Loud’ she and a group of women are helping such girls who are facing such pain. Their courageous efforts gave hopes to many girls that will bring change and also bring a stop to it.

With events like Rohtak, India, where a 23-year-old girl was raped and murdered. Her body was brutally mutilated and the sheer reason was that she refused to marry her jilted lover. And many more similar events happening all around. Mutilation of a female body, be it rape or FGM or any other form should not be kept anymore under the veil. The raising awareness on the issue of gender based violence should be louder. Children and teenagers must feel able to talk about any issues that affect or disturb them.

The initial steps towards the eradication of FGM have recently begun in India through initiatives and several other groups. But change can only be possible if victims themselves raise their voice against it. And the immediate responsibility lies on the mothers of this generation who should refrain from practicing it on their daughters. The act must start from Home!

 

Wishlist…

You make lists in your mind about what you want in your lover,
like brown hair and a sweet voice.
A sharp mind and a soft heart, a sense of humor that actually makes you laugh like you mean it.
This and That.. and this list is all crap. Because people aren’t lists.

And I’ve always wanted to be the person who made someone realize that.
I want to come across someone with lists in their head that is nothing like the person I am.

I want to show them that they didn’t even know what they were looking for.
People who think they know what they want, are just fooling themselves.
Nobody really knows what they want.. Not until it’s right in front of them.

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She…

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She was beautiful, but not in the beautiful ways you might like to think so.
She did not have hair that dripped gold, her eyes were not the color of the cold sea.
Her smile was crooked and bent, her lips were chapped and thin.
She did not have a gentle laugh nor did she speak humble thoughts but she was beautiful in the way the shore kisses her white feet.
In the way the moon hides in the curtain of darkness, she was beautiful, in the way wind dances in her hair.
In the way shy lovers hold hands.. she was beautiful in the way of morning air and black coffee.
In the love poems that live in each other’s broken heart, spilling red oil into blue lungs suffocating happiness.
Right out of its shell and she was beautiful because she refused to taste sadness even when that was the only thing she had left to eat…

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