Vartanama, Nov '18
Post-Section 377 verdict, where’s the impatience to demand more rights, asks Pawan Dhall
In this issue’s lead article, Brindaalakshmi K. wonders if the Honourable Supreme Court’s Section 377 verdict is going to be disregarded by our governments just like they have given short shrift to the apex court’s April 2014 verdict on transgender citizenship rights. The question that follows immediately though is what is civil society at large doing about both these verdicts and government inaction?
Three months should be long enough to celebrate decriminalization! What about the corollaries of decriminalization? Why are the police and neighbourhood hoodlums still getting away with harassing and beating up queer people? Why are families still wreaking violence on queer adults in consensual relationships without the fear of law? Why are schools, colleges and employers – private and government ones – not talking inclusion big time?
When one sees that ground realities haven’t changed much, shouldn’t there be a stronger civil society assertion? Agreed, campaigns to push for non-discrimination at the policy and legal levels are likely to take more time to shape up. But how about deploying the Supreme Court verdicts to resist day-to-day exclusion and violence? For instance, why can’t there be more restlessness to raise resources for a spate of petitions on transgender identity recognition, inclusive sanitation or tackling police harassment? Do we need more policies and laws to resist discrimination by sexual health and mental health service providers?
What or who are we waiting for? Shouldn’t all the talk by the Supreme Court on constitutional morality, historical apologies and healing processes galvanize us to push for more and more rights? Not just through the judicial route but also by urging other wings of the government to listen to us.
In this context, a recent attempt at political advocacy by the Women's and Transgender Communities' Joint Action Committee in Telangana should be commended. Their manifesto demanding women’s rights and comprehensive gender sensitive policies and empowerment of all women (cisgender and transgender) in time for the upcoming Telangana Legislative Assembly elections is an example worth emulating. Election season's upon us and not passing away in a hurry till next year. The Telangana manifesto is indeed comprehensive in its range of demands. Among other issues, it seeks political representation; education, healthcare, livelihood and social security access; protection from violence; and recognition of the role played by women in Telangana’s history. It's also a representation of multiple social movements joining hands – women’s, Dalit, transgender and disability rights.
There can be cynicism about the outcome of any kind of engagement with political parties. But that can’t take away from the importance and necessity of advocating with them as they are crucial to our democratic set-up. The political parties need to bear in mind that their fortunes can’t be disengaged so easily from our aspirations for queer-inclusive governance and accountability.
Can we have more and more such strategic, visible and forceful moves by queer communities across India?