Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Dear Chairwoman, distinguished participants,
Thank you for inviting me for this historic event, and for giving me the chance to speak about the work that the UN can to to combat the human rights abuses that transgender people face, as well as give you some positive examples of how these abuses and obstacles can be overcome.
I feel that I live in exciting times, when the UN, along with its member states, start to realize that the human rights of trans people matter, when in fact gender identity is included in panel discussions like this one, and when member states include gender identity in statements like the December one.
There is work to do for trans people in all UN member states, including those who have pledged to work for human rights of all citizens, regardless of their gender identity. This also gives trans people the encouragement to demand that the signatory countries stand by their words and carry out what they say.
When I talk about trans or transgender people I use this term in the most inclusive way: Everybody who does not fit neatly into the stereotypes that go with the gender they were assigned at birth. That could be the man with the sway in his walk, the woman who wears her hair short, but also those who cross the gender lines in more obvious ways, when their intersex body does not neatly match either man *or* woman, or by identifying as transvestite or transsexual like myself.
Whenever somebody in society crosses the line of what is considered to be ‘normal’ for a man or ‘normal’ for a woman we start treading on dangerous ground. Transgender people face obstacles mainly in different ways:
we encounter violence and discrimination, we are denied healthcare,
we have to prove sterility to match our paperwork with our identity or cannot change our papers at all.
Firstly, Violence is the most visible. In the UK – and I mention the UK only because it is one of the few countries with any reliable data, not because the situation is any better or worse than elsewhere – 73% of trans people reported negative comments, verbal, physical or sexual abuse or threatening behavior.
The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has repeatedly drawn attention to the murders of transgender people in Venezuela, El Salvador, Brazil, Colombia and Honduras. Hateful murders of transgender people have been reported from most countries of the world. Some of the murders were committed by police officers and more often than not have police officers turned the other way when friends and families demanded an investigation.
On a positive note just two days ago, the Scottish parliament passed a transgender-inclusive hate-crimes bill unanimously, being the first in Europe to do so.
Secondly, access to healthcare can be a problem just as lethal as physical violence. When trans people go to a doctor for a broken bone or the flu, most of us will be treated badly, be refused for treatment altogether or simply avoid to go in the first place because of negative experiences. About 30% of trans people in the UK have that experience. Transgender-specific healthcare is often not covered by health insurance systems, even though the very same hormones are available for other patients. Way too many trans people therefore seek self-medication, and use hormones they purchase on the black market, without proper instruction on dosage, safe needle use or regular check-ups. Way too many trans people also self-medicate with amateur injections of silicone, sometimes even industrial-grade silicone. Lack of access to healthcare kills trans people every day, because we bleed to death, have silicone clotting our blood vessels or simply just kill ourselves because we can’t stand the pressure of not conforming to a gender that was assigned to us at birth. About a third of trans people in Sweden, the UK and Europe in general have attempted suicide at least once.
Intersex people or people with disorders of sex development, become the victims of surgeries which leave the person with mutilated genitalia and no sexual functioning. These surgeries are performed without the consent of the patient, who is often a small child at the time the procedures are performed.
On a positive note, Brazil has just started to integrate transgender-specific healthcare into the regular public healthcare plans, and surgeries for transgender people with a special permission are free in Chile and Argentina.
Thirdly, changing one’s paperwork to match the identity of that person is a nightmare all over the world. In about 90% of the EU member states, including the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, sterilization, other surgeries or hormone treatment are a requirement just to be able to change one letter in a passport or birth certificate. In other words: these states are prescribing surgeries and hormones without a doctor’s license. Ireland and Lithuania have so far failed to react to their conviction by the European Court of Human Rights and still deny trans people the right to change their birth certificate or personal identification number several years after the verdict.
A positive example in this respect is Kazakhstan which allows their transgender citizens to change their paperwork without any kind of medical treatment in a ministerial order from 2003.
I could go on much longer.
I could talk about rejection by family members, by friends and by neighbors.
I could talk about the humiliating feeling of being diagnosed with a personality disorder.
But this list is getting too depressing already.
What the UN statement does is to give trans people the hope that our governments will take up our issues, and will look at their own laws and correct problems where they exist. None of the signatory states of the UN statement are there yet. In fact all of the core group members and organizers of this panel seriously violate the human rights of trans people at this moment. But by signing this statement and by organizing this panel these countries open the door and demonstrates the willingness to look at their issues at home and treat trans people better in the future.
I would like to invite the High Commissioner to look into the human rights abuses that trans people face and to make an overview of these issues in the laws which regulate a change of paperwork.
I would like to invite Ireland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, France, and Norway to lead the way in this process by announcing that name and gender changes will be possible to all trans and intersex people who feel the need to do so – irrespective of whether or not they have had surgeries, hormone treatments or a personality disorder diagnosis.
I would like to invite all countries to follow the example of Bolivia and outlaw discrimination against trans people in their constitution or in other laws.
I would like to ask all other countries to do the same and – hopefully – follow that good example.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Bengaluru – 15 June 2009 – After last year’s successful and vibrant queer pride march, which saw over 600 people celebrating and affirming queer lives in Bengaluru alone, Karnataka is gearing up for its second edition christened Karnataka Queer Habba. This year we as individuals and organisations, under the banner of Campaign for Sex-workers and Sexual Minorities Rights (CSMR), have decided to extend the festivities to a week beginning with a cricket match on June 21st and culminating with the pride march on June 28th. Come celebrate along with us as Bangalore’s LGBTQ community paints the town pink on the 28th June 2009. Like last year, this time too the pride march will begin at National College, Basavanagudi at 2:00 p.m and go up to Puttanachetty Town Hall via Sajjan Rao Circle and Minerva Circle and will culminate with a series of speeches as we gather on the Town Hall steps. Celebrities including actress Arundhati Nag will address the celebration at the end of the march.
After the success of last year’s pride we have decided to host an even bigger event christened “Karnataka Queer Habba” this year. As a run up to this year’s Pride March we will be hosting a week of events across the city. The events will include:
“Queering the Pitch”: Cricket Match
When : Sunday, June 21st, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where : RBANMS Play Ground, Gangadhar Chetty Road, Ulsoor.
Contact : Gurukiran 98803 65692 or Sunil 99450 90301
Dalit-Sexual Minorities Dialogue on Stigma and Discrimination
When : Monday, June 22nd, Time to be announced
Where : SCM House, 2nd cross, Mission Road, behind Priyadarshini Handloom.
Contact : Manohar 96322 23460
Release of Human Rights Watch Report - This Alien Legacy: The Origins of “Sodomy” Laws in British Colonialism
When : Tuesday, June 23rd, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Where : Institute of Agricultural Technologies, Queens Road.
Contact : Arvind 99800 10933
Pirat Dyke Film Screening of One in Ten and Desert Hearts
When : Wednesday, June 24th, 6 p.m.
Where : Swabhava Office, 4th Floor, No. 1., M.S. Plaza, 13th A Cross, 4th Main Road, Sampangiramnagar (opposite Sampangiramnagar Police Station)
Contact : Nitya 99164 82928
Public Discussion on Religion and Sexuality
When : Thursday, June 25th, 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Where : United Theological College (UTC), Millers Road
Contact : Shubha 92434 46105
Evening of Theatre and Dance Performance
When : Friday, June 26th, 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Where : St. Josephs College of Commerce auditorium
Contact : Sumati 98451 65143
Story Telling Sessions
When : Saturday, June 27th, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Where : Cubbon Park
Contact : Deepak 93437 63497
Bengaluru Pride 2009
When : Sunday, June 28th, 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Where : National College Basavanagudi to Puttanachetty Town Hall via Sajjan Rao Circle, Minerva Circle and J.C. Road
Contact : Siddharth 98450 01168 or Nithin 98860 81269
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
By: Anshuman G Dutta
The gays in the country are preparing for the year's biggest event for the community and those opposed to their way of life are planning to pitch in religion, law and politics together to stop them from doing so. In an open letter to the Pope, the Shahi Imam of New Delhi's Jama Masjid and the Shankaracharya, the Youth Unity for Vibrant Action (YUVA) has called for their support to "send a message to the practitioners of homosexuality that they won't be allowed to destroy the social capital".
The gay pride parade held in Delhi last year file photoThe gay community is getting ready for the annual Gay Pride Parade in the capital on June 28. Such parades are organised by the queer community to commemorate the Stonewall riots in the USA back in 1969, when there was a spontaneous riot against persecution of homosexuals at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.YUVA's national convener Binay Kumar Singh told MiD DAY that they will invite gay rights activist for a debate. "Gays are the most vulnerable group for contracting infections like STDs and HIV. Moreover this parade is anti-social and illegal by nature," he said. The youth organisation, which gained notoriety for throwing a slipper at author-activist Arundhati Roy and later auctioning it off, has threatened the Delhi Police commissioner too. The organisation has said it will complain against him in the High Court for allowing an "illegal activity."In a letter to the police commissioner, YUVA said: "If permission is granted for the parade, a case will be filed against you for contempt of court before the Hon'ble Delhi High Court, as the decision on the Section 377 IPC is still pending."YUVA is also planning to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Delhi High Court to "appraise the legal fraternity about how this entire issue is against the provisions of the IPC," said Singh.Apart from inviting youth from all over the country for the protest, YUVA is planning to rope in doctors, lawyers and teachers too. "We will wait till June 26 for the Delhi police to reply and if they don't, we will assure the parade doesn't begin," said Singh.We are against activists tooIn the letter to the police commissioner, YUVA has asked the police to initiate action against gayright activists Celina Jaitely and Ashok Row Kavi.The organisation complained that while promoting homosexuality, these people were condemning the institution of marriage.
Monday, June 8, 2009
For the Second Year Running, on July 28, 2009, Delhi gets set to celebrate Queer Pride! Queer Pride is our celebration. It is about loving who we are, whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, hijra or straight, and affirming everyone's right to be respected for their own sexuality and identity. It’s as much an expression of the everyday struggles for dignity and respect as it is a celebration of our diversity and an acknowledgment that this diversity is a gift.
Queer is a term that has a history of being reclaimed from being a derogatory term to refer to same-sex desiring and gender-transgressive persons to one that has empowered and brought people together to fight for their rights. In the Indian context among others, the list L-G-B-T cannot ever be exhaustive as we have many local identities such as kothi, hijra, men who have sex with men (MSM) and so on. There are so many others who cannot or do not want to fit within any of these identities. Newer names come up everyday as human life and desires keep changing. Queer then refers to any person who questions norms of gender sexuality irrespective of what their sexual or gender identity maybe. It is also used as an umbrella term to cover different sexuality and gender expressions. Besides, if we were to do an exhaustive list of them, that would be a leaflet in itself!
With the Queer Pride, we step forward to celebrate that diversity. To acknowledge the changes, and to understand how many miles more we have to go.
Queer Pride as an event dates back to the early morning of 29th June 1969 when police in New York City raided a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn. That night, the gay men and drag queens refused to be cowed down, and fought back. The Stonewall riots lasted for five days and from then on became of a symbol of Queer Pride and resistance to oppression.
Today in India, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people face harassment from the police. Lesbians are subject to violence, forced into marriage and even driven to commit suicide by their families. Gay men are blackmailed by organized rackets that often involve the police. Hijras are routinely arrested and raped by the police. Same sex couples who have lived together for years cannot buy a house together or will their property to each other without being challenged by their families. Neither can they adopt a child if they wish so as a couple.
All this is possible because Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code treats LGBT people as criminals. It has been used to arrest, prosecute, terrorize and blackmail sexual minorities. It has strengthened the already existing stereotypes, hatred and abuse in homes, schools, workplaces and streets, forcing millions of LGBT people to live in fear and silence at tragic cost to themselves and their families. And yet, these lives go on. They go on as a struggle every single day.
On June 28th, 2009 Queer people in Delhi will join other cities across India, to break this silence and to splash the colours of our lives, our diversity on the streets of Delhi.
Join us at 5:30 pm on Sunday, June 28th, 2009. The March starts at the Corner of Barakhamba Road and Tolstoy Marg, will continue along Tolstoy Marg and end at Jantar Mantar.
For more information about Delhi Queer Pride ‘09: delhiqueerpride.blogspot.com.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Deccan Chronicle on the web
June 1st, 2009
It started on the terrace of a coffee shop in Delhi on June 16 last year. The discussion was that Delhi too should have a pride march this year. The topic was magnetic enough to drive us all with a force and passion that by the end of our meeting we had a name to our small group, the Delhi Queer Pride Committee.It was not an organisation or a company but a group of like-minded people who wanted to do this together. Sonali suggested we should have a long flag, which many people can hold onto, and she referred to a picture from Kolkata’s Pride march.Everyone liked the idea and we decided upon having placards, small hand flags, metal badges and fliers to distribute as different elements. For the comfort of those who are not out of the closet, we decided to arrange for masks as well.The to-do list was ready next day and everyone picked up his or her own share of responsibilities. A week later we met again for the placard making session and some 50 placards were made with different slogans and messages, special thanks to Saheli. A set of people cut the cardboards, another painted, another touched it up and the rest were busy keeping them aside. So finally when June 29 came, we were expecting some 200-300 people to show up.Before the march could even start, the media reached there there for a live telecast. The long flag was unveiled and the dholwallas started playing the upbeat music. Some covered their faces with rainbow masks, some chose feather masks and the rest started to walk without any masks.The march started from the corner of Barakhamba Road and proceeded towards Jantar Mantar. The small rainbow flags made a magical impact and so did the 10-meter long shimmering satin flag, which was held by some 50 people at the same time. Rainbow colours took over the whole street and the impact was sheer electric.Dancing to the tunes of classical Punjabi dhol beats, holding placards and shouting, “Hey hey, ho ho, homophobia got to go and Hindu-Muslim-Sikh isai, hetro-homo bhai-bhai”. Those 1,200 marchers took the energy and excitement to another level.After a while, I noticed that those who chose to wear masks initially had also courageously taken their masks off.It wasn’t only the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community but also straight people, friends, families and allies to the queers who supported the parade.We were also joined by passer-by and spectators who started marching along, this whole spectacle was just out of the box. So much so, that one policeman who was appointed for security said, “I couldn’t identify who was gay and who wasn’t”. The march ended with a candlelight vigil and a two-minutes silence in the memory of those who have sacrificed their lives for the cause.That said, last year’s success gave the confidence to more people to support the cause and voice themselves openly. Queer people can be great artists, good citizens and good human beings. They pay their taxes and obey the rules like other citizens. It’s time this discrimination must go. If a child tries to come out to his/her parents, the first consultation should be with a psychologist. These psychologists need to tackle the front and endorse the fact that being queer is not a disease. There is a huge gap that needs to be bridged. Even the people who made the law — Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that treats LGBT people as criminals — have amended it. Law is to protect not to discriminate.But this is not the end; we have come again this year with new excitement and enthusiasm. Another great thing last year was that all the funding came from individual donations, no sponsors or organisations were involved and we plan to follow that this year too.
“It is a chance, a coincidence, or predestined (if you may like) by the benign gods”, the wise echo.
Working on the re-casting of the old icons, days, months and years passed, for now we were angry and sad about the old icons for they had lost the efficacy, or so we believed.
Ceremoniously the icons were brought to the fierce day light from the moist sanctum recesses, washed and put on the pyre. The silence chanted the prayers of death. There were thirteen days of mourning and daily rituals.
The icons of the mother and her two children had remained in our soul’s heart for ages between the flickering golden light and the mysterious dark depths.
The old cloths and the dry flowers were removed and thrown in to the sacred waters. We thought that this would erase our luscious memories of them.
When we use to love the icons,
we use to wake them up in the early mornings with music and loving care,
bathed them in seven sweet fluids, milk, honey and such.
Wiped them anxiously for the fear of cold.
Put on washed and pressed new cloths, and gold and pearl ornaments.
Put fresh flower garlands around the necks,
and kept our heart flowers at their lotus feet, on the loving hearts and on their valorous crowns.
Made them wear different kinds of shoes and cloths as per the changing seasons, burned incense and mosquito coils for the different purposes at different times.
Fed them all kinds of different food made from fruits, nuts, butter, grains, meat and fish, when bored we promised them to make special breakfasts and ones with items of chocolate alone.
Just like that we always looked at them with delight while we prayed,
standing across and smiling to ourselves in wonder and delight.
We prayed to the gods to keep them with efficacy.
Now under the hammer they lied broken in the dust, our bleeding tear droops bid farewell silently. But some even ran with the running train thinking that they can fix the passage of time.
Later the smith put them in a crucible and into the heat to melt,
red hot our icons were poured into the new wax moulds to make new icons.
The smith allowed them to become cool for a few days. Those days we prayed into the emptiness, the sacred vessels of worship gapped at us in ridicule, sanctum looked like a poisoned womb, the scattered food on the cow- dung floor was untouched by crows. We were empty and silent. Some cried with out an end pressing the head into the pillow. Some shouted and shrieked in anger.
But all waited too, anxiously to see the new icons to be breathed in with new life, and for the ceremony of lending the glance.
But when the smith opened and cleaned the new cast icons we could not believe our eyes, they looked exactly like our old icons radiating with the same old power to heal and bless our sick hearts. But it was of a pretty dog, several servants of love, and a piece of earth where no one may ever walk.
In them we saw our losses recast through mourning to celebration. And there was still something excess left in our storage urns to give away as alms in a poor man’s celebrations, and to be burned at the pyre- a chance, a coincidence, or as predestined (if you may like) by the benign gods.
Shivaji. 20th Feb. 2002.
A PRETTY DOG, THE SERVANTS OF LOVE, AND A PIECE OF EARTH WHERE NO ONE MAY EVER WALK
By chance, a coincidence, or predestined, the old icons has now turned out to be of a pretty dog, of some beautiful servants of love, and a piece of earth where no one may ever enter.
The belief turned colours; doubt, disbelief and then belief again.
For, actually the new icons were only for play and fun,
and the piece of land we now owned was only a picture, and not a serious one at that, but truly no one could ever walk into it.
Although absolutely beautiful, the bright orange ground and the golden sky studded with ever sparkling diamonds, the lovers could only watch it, but couldn’t walk into or own it. The emerald trees flowered red, yellow and white, and when matured into fruits could be eaten only by the colourful birds and beasts. The flowers could be smelt and sucked only by firefly like bees. In the liquid gold water of the rivers, ponds and of the faraway seas where languorous blue mermaids lived, had no dreams of getting married or having a family, they also only wanted to play. The reptiles and beasts had fluffy wings and flew gracefully from here to there and ate the luscious fruits of future.
The lovers constantly gapped, and walked, but into the picture they could not reach.
But even now the rituals continued; the icons needed daily washing, lighting of lamps, new cloths, flowers, gold and pearls and new food. We also floated rose petals, and lighted incense, all in the name of the loved icons, for oneself, and for other lovers.
Daily the icons and we also drank chicken soup meant for the impoverished souls along with other medicines to keep us alive and happy.
Learnt and taught what Michelangelo had said about sculpture over painting and mutual jealousy of artists. Or made this or that plan for the tomorrows. Went to the market and took home lots of sweet grapes and the like, remembering Rumi, Akka and Meera, and cigarettes to smoke.
Said no to others who wanted to droop-in in twilight, for we wanted time to practice love and worship.
And when we kept hearing about the stories of trains and towers being burned, imagined about lives leaving in a shriek, and burned flesh and bones twisting and turning in the burning metal and concrete, our souls do suffer, but since there was a piece of land that we could watch and worship we resisted pain and survived.
Yet the recast icons were forlorn, though unhappy they had a dream to cling, a beautiful piece of land where some one may walk into some day.
Shivaji, 1st March 2002.
Sunday, 3 February 2008
It started on the terrace of a coffee shop in Delhi on June 16 last year. The discussion was that Delhi too should have a pride march this year. The topic was magnetic enough to drive us all with a force and passion that by the end of our meeting we had a name to our small group, the Delhi Queer Pride Committee.
It was not an organisation or a company but a group of like-minded people who wanted to do this together. Sonali suggested we should have a long flag, which many people can hold onto, and she referred to a picture from Kolkata’s Pride march.
Everyone liked the idea and we decided upon having placards, small hand flags, metal badges and fliers to distribute as different elements. For the comfort of those who are not out of the closet, we decided to arrange for masks as well.
The to-do list was ready next day and everyone picked up his or her own share of responsibilities. A week later we met again for the placard making session and some 50 placards were made with different slogans and messages, special thanks to Saheli. A set of people cut the cardboards, another painted, another touched it up and the rest were busy keeping them aside. So finally when June 29 came, we were expecting some 200-300 people to show up.
Before the march could even start, the media reached there there for a live telecast. The long flag was unveiled and the dholwallas started playing the upbeat music. Some covered their faces with rainbow masks, some chose feather masks and the rest started to walk without any masks.
The march started from the corner of Barakhamba Road and proceeded towards Jantar Mantar. The small rainbow flags made a magical impact and so did the 10-meter long shimmering satin flag, which was held by some 50 people at the same time. Rainbow colours took over the whole street and the impact was sheer electric.
Dancing to the tunes of classical Punjabi dhol beats, holding placards and shouting, "Hey hey, ho ho, homophobia got to go and Hindu-Muslim-Sikh isai, hetro-homo bhai-bhai". Those 1,200 marchers took the energy and excitement to another level.
After a while, I noticed that those who chose to wear masks initially had also courageously taken their masks off.
It wasn’t only the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community but also straight people, friends, families and allies to the queers who supported the parade.
We were also joined by passer-by and spectators who started marching along, this whole spectacle was just out of the box. So much so, that one policeman who was appointed for security said, "I couldn’t identify who was gay and who wasn’t". The march ended with a candlelight vigil and a two-minutes silence in the memory of those who have sacrificed their lives for the cause.
That said, last year’s success gave the confidence to more people to support the cause and voice themselves openly. Queer people can be great artists, good citizens and good human beings. They pay their taxes and obey the rules like other citizens. It’s time this discrimination must go. If a child tries to come out to his/her parents, the first consultation should be with a psychologist. These psychologists need to tackle the front and endorse the fact that being queer is not a disease. There is a huge gap that needs to be bridged. Even the people who made the law — Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that treats LGBT people as criminals — have amended it. Law is to protect not to discriminate.
But this is not the end; we have come again this year with new excitement and enthusiasm. Another great thing last year was that all the funding came from individual donations, no sponsors or organisations were involved and we plan to follow that this year too.