Monday, January 05, 2009

No place for fear this year

This is a piece I wrote for the January 2009 issue of Marie Claire India. (I was asked to write about my wish for 2009 for the Indian queer community.) Here's the PDF of the published piece if it interests you.

Last year began on a very sour note for some of us. Barely had we said goodbye to January than the Maharashtra Police orchestrated the drama of busting a gay party, before it could commence, just outside Bombay (in Thane) for the benefit of the TV media. The police officials got their 15 seconds of fame and managed to curry favour with the voyeuristic channels, who in turn got their ‘exclusives’ and grabbed some filthy and some even self-righteous viewers by their eyeballs.
Privacy has traditionally been at a discount in Indian society, with its joint families, and gossipy maids and neighbours. So it is okay for you to party and be featured in full colour, but those of us at society’s margins should get used to the police barging in, breaking up our parties, forcibly outing us and parading us on national television like criminals and freaks? The tamasha sent forth a wave of great fright among closeted gay people around India.
Fear is what we, the people of India, gave ourselves on Independence. Fear of the unknown, fear of the other. Fear that fed on ignorance of the other. Fear of the majority, a majority that is itself fearful of what it chooses to neither understand nor recognise. Fear of a shameful, relic of the British, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a law that makes an adult like me criminal for life if the police can prove I made love with another adult male. This fear nourishes the HIV epidemic among us.
Fear has caused us to forget that we also gave ourselves a constitution that enshrines some human rights and enjoins each one of us to uphold them. So the police can abdicate its duties to protect and fearlessly abuse its powers. And the government can, through its infamous ex Home Minister and his former minions, make perversions of these rights in writing to the Delhi High Court, which is charged with public interest litigation (PIL) to read down the shameful section that strikes fear in closeted hearts.
Freedom from fear should be theme in 2009, continuing from Mumbai’s grand, cosmopolitan-as-a-rainbow march for Queer Azaadi on 16 August, and the June-end debut Pride parades of Delhi and Bangalore (Kolkata’s annual march against homophobia started nine years earlier when just 13 men mapped the city, with the rest of the queer community staying in the shadows).
Freedom to question the assumption of being heterosexual without fear, the man-woman definition of marriage, and the very importance of such a marriage for a queer person. Freedom to love and live with a person of the same sex without fear. Freedom to educate oneself about safer sex and use the services of a health professional as a queer person, without the fear of stigma, neglect and ‘treatment for homosexuality’ that occurs despite prescribed Good Medical Practice and ethics. Freedom to be out at work without fear of harassment or discrimination. Freedom from the fear of being entrapped and blackmailed by a police stooge simply for being gay and closeted. Freedom from hiding in the closet, wearing a mask, using an alias. Freedom from the insecurities that come from being closeted. Freedom to live without fear of losing one’s dignity. Freedom from the fear of being treated as less than equal by the law.
The march towards Freedom from fear will receive a boost if the Delhi High Court makes the bigots in the government apparatus swallow a bitter PIL and champions the human rights in the Indian Constitution. We will cover the rest of the way forward with a little help from each other and each of our families. Waiting for the dawn of a real Happy New Year. Meanwhile, here’s wishing you one!


simon fanshawe said...

Hello Nitin
I am a documentary maker and writer from the UK. I have been thinking about the possibility of making a doc about the effect of the internet on the growth of gay communities in southern countries. I cam across yur lovely article for Marie Claire India and have just read it. Would it be possible to communicate via email and ask you some questions?

Happy New Year


Anonymous said...

hi nitin,

got your link from sabeena gadihoke...i'm one of the filmmakers who made flying inside my body...if you have any queries, feel free to drop a line.


Anonymous said...

freedom from freedom...

Ankur said...

Hi Nitin,
The first interview which i remember reading of yours was in Tehelka, issue october,08.
To start with the whole idea of 'freedom from fear' is appreciable. But still I am failing to understand that how mere repealing the section 377 will help the minority we are addressing. Although it will definately ensure the recognition of their human rights but again the bigger challenge is the 'stigmatization' one feels at the hands of all given social institutions. As a matter of fact the knid of discrimination that happens inside the community (LGBT) also needs to be addressed. On one hand where section 377 criminalizes the minority it also criminalizes the so called 'heterosexual' poppulation as well who engages in the anal sex. Apart from this some where repealing section 377 also will put the question of child abuse in danger. So, the need is to recognize and accept an adult's right to choose a partner, The fight is for the sexual rights and thus a re-reading of the section 377 is needed.

Ankur Srivastava

workhard said...

Hi, this is a very important issue. Both the police and media have instilled fear among the common man, and hence revoked the right of freedom to choose.


Anonymous said...

Oh gee, I wonder how I missed your blog before this!

Love the work. Relish the thoughts. Keep writing, more and more frequently!

And all the best to us, as we sit and await the Delhi HC verdict.

Anonymous said...

Nice Posting

indian ponderer said...

Not sure if law is the way to the basic right. Maybe first the mindset of Indians should change. After all don't a majority of Indians consider "gays" to be an import of the western culture?

Nitin Karani said...

@Ankur: The work to remove stigma goes on. Notice the change in society, no? It's quite different from what things were like when I came out 14 years ago.
Ponderer: As I said, we are simultaneously changing mindsets. That advocacy work hasn't stopped. And why must we wait until people's mindsets change? A lot of people still believe in caste differences, dowry, sati, child marriage, etc., depsite old laws against these evils. How long will the gay community wait? I believe that people are entitled to their beliefs, their prejudices as long as they don't act on them. To ensure that to a large extent, the law must start changing.

amit kumar said...

hi nitin,

i liked your views in the article posted.I am from a very conservative state like Bihar and you will be surprised to know that there are many of all age group,particularly above 40 who are directly related to this homosexual relationship but most of them are behind the door.

Anonymous said...

Hello Nitin - thank you for this excellent blog.

I noticed that in the pdf of the Marie Claire article you are described as a rights activist for gay men and transsexuals. I was wondering about your thoughts / position regarding the lesbian community in India? It strikes me that in India there is a social space (albeit a small one) available for homosexual men, or at least men who wish to live as women (hijra). But there seems to be even less awareness of or space for lesbian love in South Asia... what are your thoughts on this?

Best regards,
Adrienne Fast

sb0502 said...


I am student and am currently working on a project on the portrayal of the LGBT community in Indian cinema.

I need a few clarifications concerning the same but have no source to direct the queries at. I hope you dont mind this comment.

My sociology professor often mentioned that 'homosexual' is a derogatory term and that 'gay' is more appropriate a term to use. I was wondering if 'homosexuality' is also a term that's derogatory. If it is then what is the alternative term that I can use in my thesis.

Also, I was hoping that there's nothing else in the project that I write which misrepresents or ridicules the LGBT community in India. I was wondering if you would be willing to allow me to correspond with you via email regarding this project.

Thanks. And I admire you for this blog.

P.s.: I will keep checking this comment box for a reply. Else, my email id's on my blog. Thanks once again for this blog.

Nitin Karani said...

Thanks for your comment and regret the delay in replying to you. For a better understanding of LGBT terms, particularly in the Western context, please consider reading GLAAD's media reference guide:
(Download the PDF from the link)
Sure, we can communicate about your project. I will email you via our blog.

Hiran said...

I read your blog
i also start blogging on this same topic
Actually i writs about my G life
I would like to invite you as a gust writer to my blog.. Will you??
expecting your help