Date(s) - 20/04/2020 - 22/04/2020
9:30 am - 5:30 pm
Decriminalization of Indian Queer: Socio-Cultural, Political and Legal Concerns
Dates: 20-22 April, 2020
Dr Kaustav Chakraborty, Department of English, Southfield (Loreto) College,
The queer citizens of India witnessed a historic moment on 6 September 2018 when a five-judge panel of the Supreme Court of India declared that criminalizing queers for any consensual relationship is, in the words of the-then Chief Justice of India, “irrational, arbitrary and indefensible”. Both Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice A M Khanwilkar recognized that “sexual autonomy” as an “important pillar” is an “insegregable facet of individual liberty”. “History owes an apology to the members of this community and their families, for the delay in providing redressal for the ignominy and ostracism they have suffered… The members of this community were compelled to live a life full of fear of reprisal and persecution. This was on account of the ignorance of the majority to recognise that homosexuality is a completely natural condition, part of a range of human sexuality,” observed Justice Indu Malhotra.
The civilizational culture that we call Indian has always been an inclusive one. Scholars like Ruth Vanita, Saleem Kidwai, Giti Thadani, Vinay Lal, Mrinalini Sinha and many others have already elucidated how with the domination of the European hypermasculinity, non heteronormativity has gradually been otherised – a trend that has been eventually internalized and reproduced in postcolonial India. Hence, although queer phobia is a major anxiety in contemporary India, the decriminalizing of non conformist sexuality has to be appraised as a decolonizing attempt of the Indian judiciary.
The Supreme Court Judgment while reading down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code asserted that constitutional rights need to be safeguarded and assured over majoritarian ethos. Decriminalization is a very significant but not sufficient move towards ensuring the equality of all Indian queer citizens and their right to live with dignity. Justice D Y Chandrachud has acknowledged that decriminalization is the “first step” for the queer community towards “an equal participation of citizenship and an equal enjoyment of living”. The most acute challenge before the decriminalized queer Indian people is that of acceptability by the mass, because a large section of Indians have internalized the colonial homophobia. Hence, sensitizing the common people regarding the queer ‘natural’ identity as well as documentation of the instances of inclusion of the queer in the Indian socio-cultural tradition needs to be initiated strategically. Moreover, in the political domain discussion has to be started regarding the recognition of the civil rights of the queer community. To some extent debates and discussion have been taking place regarding the civil rights of the transgender people, but no such initiatives can be seen regarding the gay, lesbian and bisexual people. In this context, it is also important to realize that although LGBTQ is seen as an assemblage, there are also distinct issues that are specifically related to the gay, lesbian and bisexual. Hence policy has to be framed/amended keeping in mind the queer as a collective as well as the lesbians, gays, transsexuals and bisexuals, as distinctive identities. One also needs to address the concerns of the asexual people. Most importantly, legal provisions have to be framed in order to acknowledge and safeguard the rights of these otherised people. Finally, since the entire queer movement for decriminalizing has been mostly based on the metro cities and urban India, strategies need to be framed in order to address the severe marginalization of the queer people of the rural and mofussil India. The so called queer ‘pride’ walks have been conducted in the urban areas and for most of the rural and mofussil Indians, queer still remains just as a worrying symbol of people with HIV – that is, a diseased individual. Hence, the next phase of the queer movement should focus on committing to the non-urban India and addressing the ‘multiply marginalized’ like the rural and mofussil queer individuals, Dalit queer, queer with disabilities or those from the minority communities.
The seminar aspires to bring together the academicians, scholars, creative personalities, activists, social workers, administrators and legal experts to address the requirements of the decriminalized queer citizens of India in the process of asserting their identity and to frame guidelines for the policymakers regarding the eradication of homophobia through socio-cultural, political and legal reforms. These are the specific questions that the seminar wants to address: What kind of impact has the decriminalization created on the queer community and on the ongoing theoretical debates on queer questions in India and across the world? How is the ‘mainstream’ reacting to the decriminalization? What are the major expectations of the decriminalized queer community from the nation and the countrymen? How can the large homophobic section of the citizens be provided with proper orientation so that the aspirations of the marginalized queer community get fulfilled? What should be the role of academia in addressing the queer concerns emerging in the post 377 verdict state of affairs? How should the NGOs be involved to bridge the gap between the straight and the queer? How to explore and analyze the everyday life of queers and reflect on the socio-cultural and economic ground complexities of this group of individuals or sections of society? What socio-cultural, political and legal frameworks need to be worked upon to bring the queerphobia to an end?
The feminist and the Dalit movements in India have provided us with the models of gradual progression in resisting discrimination. After the decriminalization comes to the ‘second wave’ of struggle against social taboos and for policy reformations towards the granting of the civil and political rights to the queer Indian community. It is hoped that this seminar as a queer ‘round table’ would eventually give birth to an intimate ‘queer Indian collective’ so that the future course of actions can be chalked out and the battle against discrimination can be strategically continued towards success.
The seminar would invite speakers to address issues related to the following sub-themes:
· Impact of the decriminalization on the queer community
· Aspirations of the decriminalized Indian queer: Re-assessing the current and historical theoretical debates; empirical work illustrating the everyday complexities of Indian queers.
· Responses of the ‘mainstream’ regarding the decriminalizing of the queer
· Making the queer visible in Socio-cultural domain: instances of Historical inclusion; queer and indigeneity; literary and folk representations; depiction in various forms of art, architecture and cinema
· Equally but differently Oppressed: Distinct Problems faced by the gays, lesbians, transsexuals and bisexuals in India; the Western categories of queer vis-à-vis the Indian construction of sexuality based identities like ‘Kinnar’, ‘Jogta’, ‘Jogti’, ‘Shiv-shakthis’ ‘Hijra’, ‘Aravani’, ‘Kothi’, ‘Napunsak’ etc.
· Multiple marginalizations: Addressing the concerns of the queers of rural and mofussil India, queer people with disabilities, Dalit queer, queer individuals of the minority communities, asexual individuals etc.
· Role of the government and nongovernmental organizations in eradicating homophobia
· The ‘Second Wave’: Future Plan of actions for a vibrant queer movement in India towards socio-cultural, political and legal reforms; suggestions for policy formations/ amendments.
CALL FOR PAPERS
A limited number of participants will be invited for the Seminar. Those interested in participating should send -by email-an abstract of 500 words of the proposed paper along with their brief C.V. (of around 200 words) to:
1. Dr Kaustav Chakraborty, Department of English, Southfield (Loreto) College, Darjeeling-734101 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
With a copy to:
2. Ms. Ritika Sharma
Academic Resource Officer, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Rashtrapati Nivas, Shimla- 171005 Tel: 0177-2831385 Email: email@example.com
The last date for submission of abstract (500 words) is 2nd February 2020 till 12:00 midnight. The Institute intends to send Invitation letters to selected participants by March 2020. It is the policy of the Institute to publish the papers not proceedings of the seminars it organizes. Hence, all invited participants will be expected to submit complete papers (English or Hindi), hitherto unpublished and original, with citations in place, along with a reference section, to the Academic Resource Officer, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla– 171005 by 5th April 2020. IIAS, Shimla will be glad to extend its hospitality (free hospitality is provided only to the seminar participant) during the seminar period and is willing to reimburse, if required, rail or air travel expenses from the place of current residence in India, or the port of arrival in India, and back.
Note: Plagiarism is a serious academic offence and the Institute reserves the right to cancel the selection/participation of a candidate found guilty at any stage