Even though it is 2018, we find same-sex relationships in India are still rejected by many. Student’s from Azim Premji University, Bengaluru conducted a survey across eight Indian states which found that respondents are not forthcoming in sharing their support of adult consensual same-sex relations. Section 377 of the IPC criminalises all forms of non-penile vaginal intercourse, thus the much of India resists accepting an individual’s right to love and expression of their choice, regardless of orientation.

SheThePeople.TV hosted India’s second Feminist Conference empowered by UN Women India, at St. Andrew’s Auditorium, Mumbai. The fourth panel explored ways in which we can integrate acceptance of the right to identity, sexuality and choice into the mainstream society.

Panelists for the session were the founder of the publishing and production house, Queer Ink, Shobhna Kumar, co-founder of Yaariyan, India’s largest LGBTQ initiative, Sonal Giani, equal rights activist and transgender mother, Gauri Sawant and artiste and Director of Mr Gay South Asia, Sushant Divgikar discussed the innate biases of the patriarchy and how communities can create cultures of acceptance and resilience with the moderator, equal rights activist, Harrish Iyer.

Iyer opened the conversation by asking what are the ways in which it is possible to have conversations or learn about queer narratives.

Shobhna explained that there is a dearth of knowledge on LGBTQ identities. “There are less than 200 books and less than 20 movies that talk about gay experiences,” adding, “People who identify differently than the norm, are constantly looking for community, and there are many resources and places for queer people.” Ten percent of the population identifies differently, that’s nine crore people!” “The ignorance and prejudice come from lack of information, as a queer person I need to bring in more people into knowledge—That’s why I don’t blame pop media,” she added.

“The ignorance and prejudice come from lack of information, as a queer person I need to bring in more people into knowledge—That’s why I don’t blame pop media”

Sushant Divgikar tells us that when people told him to act straight during his time in Bigg Boss his response was, “Why would I be a gay man who acts straight—it makes no sense at all. We need to gather this whole discriminatory circle we have created and break through the prejudice.”

Sonal Giani stated, “Sometimes in relationships that are between same-gender persons, we do see the same type of toxic masculinity play out.” She makes a pertinent point regarding the lack of spaces created for conversations about the transgender community, even often within feminist dialogues. “There is a lot of pressure to look a certain way as a transman or transwoman in the community as well, one often thinks that when it comes to LGBTQ communities prejudice does occur — pertaining to the right to choice, especially for bisexuals, this is something we call gay-washing.”

There is also hardly any dialogue about asexual people they are totally invisible she adds, “the media is partly to blame about making it to be that homosexuality is illegal, while that is not true—it is the sexual act of not just anal sex, but oral and masturbation that is illegal—now I know half the room is a criminal!”

“God gave me everything of a woman, a woman’s heart, the brain just not a uterus. That does not define motherhood. Motherhood is a behaviour not having a uterus”

Gauri Sawant talks to us about the politics of being a ‘hijra’ in India and also explains “God gave me everything of a woman, a woman’s heart, the brain just not a uterus. That does not define motherhood. Motherhood is a behaviour not having a uterus.” She adds, “No none can tell me I’m not a woman and I’m not a mother.”

Harrish Iyer concluded the panel discussion with a valid observation, one that we all would do well to pay heed to. “The onus of inclusivity lies on the ones that are already included.”

Also Read: We Are At The Brink Of A Gender Equal World, The Big Change Is Social Media

Akansha Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.

Email us at connect@shethepeople.tv