'Varta' Webzine

Bioscope of your intimate dreams!

  • This main graphic highlights the phenomenon of intoxication playing a role in the occurrence of consent violations. It depicts that free consent (for sex or any other aspect) is not possible to give if a person is intoxicated. The text in the graphic says ‘Consent Violations!’ It shows a Clip Art graphic of a glass of wine tilted to the left. The glass has a small amount of alcohol in it, with an olive floating in it. The word ‘consent’ is shown to overlap the circular rim of the glass from the left. The glass is funnel-shaped with a long stem and circular base. The funnel shape of the glass reads like a giant ‘V’ and it acts as the first letter of the word ‘violations’ that is placed to the right of the glass. The letters of the word ‘consent’ are in red, while the letters of the word ‘violations’ are in black with a white outline. The wine glass sketch is done in light grey-green, and is super-imposed on a black rectangle with a thick green border (implying boundaries of consent). The entire graphic is placed on a background in tinges of white, light blue and golden yellow. The text is written using Word Art. Graphic credit: Pawan Dhall

    Clear your head on sexual consent

    By Kaushik Gupta

    Can intoxication and sexual consent co-exist? Kaushik Gupta throws light on the legal issues involved. Reader queries I'm writing in about something that happened between two of my friends. Recently,...

  • This main photograph shows a snapshot of the article ‘Out of the Closet’ by Purnima Dutta published in the ‘Plus Four’ section of ‘Amrita Bazar Patrika’ on January 18, 1994. The photograph shows a portion of the article text, with a big graphic centre stage – the side profile of a human face in black, with only the outline of an ear standing out in white. The article title is printed also in white on to the face, and the word ‘closet’ is positioned such that the letter ‘O’ forms a ring in the ear lobe (indicating the trend at that time of gay men wearing an earring in one of the ears to hint at their sexual orientation). To the right of the graphic, there is a photograph showing copies of queer journals 'Pravartak', 'Bombay Dost' and 'Arambh'. A quote from the article next to the graphic says “For the bold new generation of gays, the fight is on . . . the fight for acceptance, as distinct from tolerance”. The graphic artist’s name is unknown. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

    Memories in media outings (part 1)

    By Pawan Dhall

    In Kolkata’s Queer Movement: A Recollection of Media Outings – Mid-1984 to Mid-2013 Pawan Dhall remembers his personal queer-story over the years. This four-part series of extracts is being published in...

  • This first (main) photograph shows the book launch ceremony during the event ‘Books, Films and IDAHOBIT 2017’ organized at the Alliance Francaise du Bengale Park Street centre in Kolkata on May 4, 2017. Dr. Rohit K. Dasgupta, Pawan Dhall and Stephane Amalir (standing from left to right) can be seen holding the two books launched, smiling and facing the cameras in the audience. The books launched were ‘Digital Queer Cultures in India – Politics, Intimacies and Belonging’ and ‘Social Media, Sexuality and Sexual Health Advocacy in Kolkata, India’. The first was authored by Dr. Rohit K. Dasgupta, Lecturer in Media and Creative Industries at Loughborough University, UK. The second was co-authored by Dr. Rohit K. Dasgupta and Pawan Dhall, queer activist and Founding Trustee, Varta Trust. Stephane Amalir is Director, Alliance Francaise du Bengale. In the background is a screen projection of a graphic highlighting the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. Photo credit: Arunabha Hazra
    Happenings May '17

    Digital media, queer lives and ‘Indian-ness’

    By Kaustav Manna, Arunabha Hazra

    Two books on the relationship between digital media and queer lives were launched recently in Kolkata. The event was part of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia observations....

  • Graphic shows a screen grab of a home video made by the author’s father, late Prakash Chandra Dhall, with digital liquefy effect. The screen grab has images of the author as a toddler in his mother’s arms (along with a few children from the neighbourhood) in the verandah of the author’s childhood home. But these have been modified such that the entire graphic appears to consist of wavelets of water with multi-coloured reflections. Graphic credit: Pawan Dhall
    Vartanama Apr '17

    Recurring dreams, random thoughts

    By Pawan Dhall

    Recurrent and vivid dreams of water have fascinated me since years, perhaps even childhood. I see water in my dreams as blue, black, transparent; still, moving, flowing; peaceful, playful, terrorizing,...

  • Word cloud in the shape of a thought blurb on the theme of the new mental health legislation – it includes words like ‘advance directives’, ‘choice’, ‘dignity’, ‘insurance’, ‘LGBTIQ’, ‘mental health’, ‘legislation’, ‘quality’, ‘suicide’ and ‘treatment’. Graphic credit: Pawan Dhall

    New mental health law: Act of dignity?

    By Pallav Bonerjee

    Pallav Bonerjee assesses India’s brand new mental health legislation, the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017. The spring of 2017 brought along with it much needed relief and cause for celebration for...

  • Photograph is a close-up shot of a number of visiting cards from the author’s collection scattered on a surface. These are the cards of ‘Akhbar-E-Mashriq’, an Urdu daily newspaper published from Kolkata; late anthropologist Dr. Moni Nag; Moulin Rouge Restaurant, Park Street, Kolkata; People Tree, Parliament Street, Delhi; Pride Publications Private Limited, Bombay; and Reshma Lodge, Station Road, Midnapur. There are two other cards – one that shows a few Chinese alphabets (the rest of the details are hidden by the other cards); another unnamed card that shows a black and white sketch of a tall, slender and sharp-featured white woman dressed in Victorian style clothing, including a large hat. Some of the cards are on glossy paper, others on cardstock (thick) paper often used for business cards, and one is on handmade paper. Most cards are horizontal in orientation. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall

    (Re)visiting cards

    By Pawan Dhall

    A friend’s request for information about hotels in Midnapur town leads Pawan Dhall to look into rarely used visiting card diaries, and the cards trigger memories of the queer scenario...

  • Photograph shows a scene from the starting point of the ‘Hyderabad HLGBTIQ Pride 2017’ (the abbreviation stands for Hijra, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer or questioning). Half a dozen individuals (men, women and transgender women) can be seen holding the pride march banner at the starting point of the march (Krishna Kanth Park). The banner is made up of squares of cloth stitched together. Each square has its own pattern and colours, and so the entire banner is quite a colourful mosaic. Stitched on to the banner are the letters and numbers like appliqué work forming the name of the event – ‘Hyderabad HLGBTIQ Pride 2017’. There are also smaller pieces of cloth stitched on, with words like “Rohith”, “Adivasi”, “Muslim”, “Worker” and “Dalit Lives Matter’ written on them. To the right of the banner is a person holding a poster that says “LGBTQ for Radhika Vemula”. Paper rainbow flags can also be seen in the photograph. Other than those holding the pride march banner, another 15 or so people (mostly men) can be seen in the photograph, including a videographer, waiting under a bright sun for the pride march to start. Photo credit: Dr. Mukut Bhowmik.
    My Story Apr '17

    Awakening the pride within

    By Dr. Mukut Bhowmik

    The author’s first rainbow pride march experience energized him to move out of his comfort zone. Hyderabad, February 19, 2017 would always be a red letter day for me! It...

  • The photograph shows a close-up shot of the hands of two young children with autism. One of them is playing a rattle, the other a tambourine. The children are sitting cross-legged on the floor, and there are other children around them. We can’t see the faces of the children as the focus is on their activities. The photograph was taken during an event organized on April 3, 2017 in Kolkata to mark Autism Awareness Day (which was on April 2). The event consisted of poetry recitals, songs, music, dance and storytelling involving a number of children with autism, their parents, guardians and caregivers. The event was organized by Transcendent Knowledge Society, an NGO that runs Wonder House, a day-care centre for children with autism in the Tollygunge area of Kolkata. Photo courtesy Transcendent Knowledge Society
    Happenings Apr '17

    Autism eye-opener

    By Aparajita Dutta

    Aparajita Dutta was bowled over by the vibrancy at an event organized to mark Autism Awareness Day in Kolkata recently

  • Quote: Government of India questioned on glaring absence of rules to ensure education, social security, health, rehabilitation and recreation for persons with disabilities!

    Discord on rules for Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016

    By Disability rights organizations in India

    Excerpts from a letter sent to the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment by the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled Delhi, March 25, 2017: The National Platform for...

  • Quote: Irom Chanu Sharmila may have stepped away from the politics of polls, but her politics of resistance will live on. Like subterranean water – not visible, nonetheless there – a deep aquifer of silent energy, quietly influencing life above ground.
    Vartanama Mar '17

    Incremental change

    By Pawan Dhall

    Civil rights champion, political activist and poet Irom Chanu Sharmila may have lost in the recent Manipur Legislative Assembly elections. But all is not lost. Perhaps her defeat was expected,...

  • Photograph shows scores of people sitting and waiting, mostly in small groups, on the open stairs leading up to the Kolkata Medical College & Hospital building. A few are walking up or down the stairs. A blue, red and white signage on the entrance to the building says “M. S. Life Drug House – Chemists & Druggists”. It is day time, and many people are walking past the stairs to elsewhere in the hospital complex. The building, built in a neo-classical style of architecture in the mid 19th century by the British, is painted in white with gold linings on the roof and elsewhere. In the foreground are a couple of trees and a small temple to the right of the stairs. Photo credit: Dr. Shaoni Sanyal.

    Act up call for hospitals on trans health rights

    By Diksha Sanyal, Shubhrajit Roy

    Diksha Sanyal makes a strong case for judicial intervention to ensure health facilities honour apex court verdict on transgender rights An occurrence in the Chinsurah District Hospital in West Bengal on January...

  • Graphic shows the cover of the report talked about in this article. It is titled ‘“Unnatural Offences” – Obstacles to Justice in India Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity’. The cover is deep blue in colour with a patch of lighter blue stylized like a tear falling – this is to the right corner of the cover. The title on the top and the International Commission of Jurists logo at the bottom of the cover are in white. The logo says “ICJ” in lower case – it has a lamp like icon to the left and the full name of the organization to the right. To the right of the cover is a box with a quote from the report. It reads: “In contemporary India, the enforcement of the law by the police and the country’s justice system fails queer people and is in sharp contrast with India’s obligations under international human rights law . . .”
    Happenings Mar '17

    (Un)equal before the law?

    By Danish Sheikh

    Danish Sheikh on the launch of a report on obstacles to justice faced by queer people in India Delhi, February 24, 2017: The International Commission of Jurists today launched a report titled “Unnatural Offences”...

  • Photograph shows a huge steel rack packed with books on law and human rights, files and other documents in the chamber of a lawyer. The rack covers one entire wall of the chamber from floor to ceiling. Photo credit: Kaushik Gupta

    Tackling past blackmail during childhood

    By Kaushik Gupta

    Kaushik Gupta answers a reader query on dealing with sexual and financial blackmail experienced before someone turns adult Reader queries Can anything be done if suppose someone who is 20...

  • Main photo long description: This first (main) photograph shows a performance of Mandeep Raikhy’s choreographic creation ‘Queen-size’ under way at Sitara Studio in Mumbai. The setting is typical for a ‘Queen-size’ show – Lalit Khatana and Parinay Mehra, the two dancers are performing around a charpoy, which is placed in the centre of the performance space – a studio room or small hall. The audience is also seated around the charpoy in an intimate arrangement that is a complete departure from a proscenium setting. The performers are on the right side of the bed, touching each other intimately as they pass by slowly and gaze into each other’s eyes. The lighting is dim, but the charpoy roping is a bright white, especially compared to the audience figures shrouded in darkness. Lalit Khatana, facing the camera, is to the right; he is tall, somewhat heavy built and hirsute, wearing an orange shirt with sleeves folded up and dark trousers; Parinay Mehra with his back to the camera is a shade shorter, slightly built and is in a grey t-shirt and cream coloured trousers. The photograph is taken from behind a few people in the audience seated on chairs. Photo credit: Kavi Datt.

    Coming out on the charpoy

    By Mandeep Raikhy

    Mandeep Raikhy on the spaces that his choreographic creation Queen-size has occupied across India in resistance against criminalization of queer intimacies. I made Queen-size in order to take it OUT. Out of theatres...

  • Word cloud in the shape of a ‘yes’ tick mark on the theme of transgender socio-economic inclusion – it includes words like ‘transgender’, ‘trans*’, ‘gender’, ‘woman’, ‘man’, ‘genderqueer’, ‘fluid’, ‘equity’, ‘economic’, ‘inclusion’, ‘court’ and ‘verdict’. Graphic credit: Pawan Dhall

    Government banks can’t write off trans inclusion!

    By Pawan Dhall

    State Bank of India told to include ‘transgender’ option in its examination forms. Kolkata, March 16, 2017: After the West Bengal Public Service Commission (WBPSC) in December last year, today the...

  • Photograph shows a poster on the back of an auto-rickshaw parked on a street in Hyderabad. The poster says: “Increase your sex limit, solve internal problems – else take your money back; trusted by million peoples”. The text is accompanied by a silhouette of a man and woman hugging each other and looking into each other’s eyes. The couple is standing on a sea beach, with the waves rushing on to the shore and the sun setting in the background, giving the sky a golden glow. A phone number is provided for people to call the service provider, but the name of the service provider is not legible. Photo credit: Pawan Dhall
    Vartanama Feb '17

    Time for adult sex education?

    By Pawan Dhall

    So the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India has launched an adolescent health resource kit that includes information on sexual and reproductive health, mental health, violence, substance...

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