Men, Women and Other People: Understanding Sexualities #Sundayreading


breaking1

From left to right  ( Nine members of the research team ) – Hasina Khan , Kranti  ,  Shruti, Shalini Mahajan, Smriti Nevatia , Raj, Sabla , Meenu pandey, and Chayanika shah

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Women Feature Service 

The concept of gender needs to be transformed. That was the central thrust of a recent study entitled, ‘Breaking The Binary’, released by the queer feminist collective, Labia, at an event organised in Mumbai’s well–known SNDT University.

Questioning the male–female binary, the study concluded that there can be no uniformity within these identities. Even when people use the same term like ‘man’, ‘woman’, ’transgender’ to define themselves, their lived realities may differ greatly. Such categories, therefore, should necessarily be less rigid because when the boundaries between them get blurred, individuals are enabled to exert greater agency and choice in moving across them. According to the study, gender needs to be consensual; it needs to get transformed from a hierarchical discrete, binary system to a porous, multiple–gender one.

‘Breaking The Binary’ was based on 50 life history narratives that explored the circumstances and situations of queer PAGFB (Persons Assigned Gender Female at Birth), who were made to, or were expected to, conform to existing social norms pertaining to gender and sexuality.

The research team for the study comprised 11 members, with Chayanika, Raj, Shalini and Smriti from Labia anchoring the work. Explained Chayanika, “Through this study, we looked at the experiences of our subjects within their natal families and while at school. We charted their journeys through intimate relationships and we attempted to understand what happened to them in public spaces, how they were treated by various state agencies, what were their sources of support and refuge when they came under the threat of violence or faced discrimination.”

The people interviewed came from a wide cross–section of society in terms of location, age, caste, class, and religion. These variations were critical, according to Chayanika, as the intention was to reach those living at the intersections of many marginalised identities. But achieving this was difficult, even impossible. As she put it, “The silence and invisibility around individuals who continually transgress gender norms meant that we were able to approach only those individuals who have some contact with queer groups.”

The 50 respondents were spread across north, east, west and south India – living in cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi, Pune and Thrissur. The representation of individuals living in rural areas was low, but two persons – one from rural Maharashtra and the other from rural Jharkhand – were interviewed, and 11 of the respondents had grown up in rural settings. Of the 50 individuals who participated in the study, 30 were from the dominant castes, 11 people were from the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes/Special Backward Classes, three were from Other Backward Classes (OBC) and six identified themselves as Others.

‘Woman’ as a biological category was one of the subjects that figured in the interviews. Persons whose biological sex did not correspond with their psychological sex, were branded as gender “variants”, even though women do not constitute a homogenous category and could belong to many different categories – including a category as unfamiliar as ‘working class lesbian’ or ‘dalit lesbian’.

According to Raj, a member of Labia, “We found that being from an upper class background was no guarantee of privilege. There was a 20–year–old from a business family. Because of family dynamics, she was unable to get the education she had wanted and was forced to support herself by earning small sums of money playing cricket. Another respondent, identified as upper class, was also deprived of a meaningful education.” Clearly, a privileged, upper class background does not protect queer persons, especially if they happen to challenge gender and/or sexuality norms.

The study identified three levels of violence the respondents had faced. The first is at the individual level, where harmful acts are perpetrated against people and property. This can range from taunts to forced marriage and even murder. The second is at the institutional level, where damaging consequences are perpetrated by social institutions with the idea of obstructing the spontaneous expression of human potential – as, for example, when an office denies promotion to an employee on account of sexual orientation. The third is at the structural – cultural – level as, for instance, when religious or political beliefs rule that homosexuality is immoral or illegal.

A woman’s sexual orientation can, among other things, determine her access to resources as well as her social status, according to the study. Women suffer severe material loss when their families desert them and many experience emotional and psychological trauma in their struggle against discrimination and ostracism. Mis–recognition and non–recognition can become a very perverse form of violence as it seeks to naturalise the power enjoyed by dominant groups over non–dominant ones.

For instance, families, friends and teachers could refuse to recognise the need of lesbians to be acknowledged as they are and treated with dignity, leading them to experience a severe loss of self–esteem. This constitutes a form of violence imposed by the majority on a minority. As Shalini, one of study team members, put it, “Every society has its own notion of what is normal and what is assumed to be normal. Going beyond that construct could invite violence on the individual. Many of the respondents felt that the gay rights movement was crucial precisely because people cannot hide behind identities that are not their own. Therefore, just as women defied patriarchy through the women’s rights movement, queer persons defy heteronormativity through the queer rights movement.”

This study, the first of its kind, has helped shed light on how queer persons have addressed the challenges of life and how they continue to search, negotiate, and challenge multiple boundaries. It has attempted to answer some important questions. Where, for instance, are the points at which gender binaries rupture? How are the normative gender lines being reinforced? What situations help to create varied gender identities? Most important of all, the study has helped to capture the experiences of Persons Assigned Gender Female at Birth and their negotiations with families, friends, communities, social structures, as well as the health and legal systems.

The team hopes to take the study forward to highlight areas of concern and conceptualise effective interventions. As one of the team members put it, “We are aiming to convey its insights to the more general category of people, at least those who are interested in taking proactive steps in addressing violence against any human being in any form and also for those who would like to understand the root causes of homophobia. We also want to take it to educational and governmental institutions, so that they can also help usher in change.”

The study was released not just in Mumbai, but in Kolkata, Delhi, Bangalore, Thrissur and Chennai as well. A Hindi translation of it is also on the cards. (WFS)

 

#India- The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment- Review 2012 #disability


 

      Press Information Bureau English Releases

 

      28-Dec-2012

 

        The

Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment

        is entrusted with the empowerment of the disadvantaged and marginalized sections of the society. The target groups of the Ministry are: (i) scheduled Castes, (ii)

Other Backward Classes

      , (iii) Senior Citizens and (iv) Victims of Substance Abuse.

 

        Enhancement in Plan Outlay of the MinistryThere was an unprecedented increase of 136.60% in the plan outlay of the Ministry from Rs.2500 crore in 2009-10 to Rs 5915 crore in 2012-13 which includes the Budget Estimate of Department of Disability of Affairs. The plan Outlay allocated to Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for

12th Five Year Plan

      has been enhanced to Rs 32684 crore from Rs 13043 crore in the 11th Five Year Plan…Department of Disability Affairs

 

      Creation of a new Department of Disability Affairs

 

        A new Department of Disability Affairs has been set up vide

Cabinet Secretariat

      ’s notification dated 12.05.2012. The Department has been allocated twenty five (25) subjects. Creation of a new Department would ensure greater focus on policy matters to effectively address disability issues. Having a separate budget would help in strengthening existing schemes, formulation of new schemes as also promotion of technological innovation in the sector. It would further boost greater coordination among stakeholders, organizations, state governments and related central ministries.

 

      New Draft Legislation on Rights of Persons with Disabilities

 

        The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 (

PwD

      Act) has been in force for over 15 years. In view of the need to review it and harmonize its provision with United Nations Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the Ministry constituted an experts committee, which submitted its report to the Ministry on 30.06.2011. The draft bill was uploaded on the Ministry’s website for comments. The Ministry also initiated consultations with 17 Central Ministries and Departments on provisions of the draft Bill concerning them. Based on the inputs received, a draft Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2012 has been prepared and circulated in September, 2012 to all State Governments/Union Territories for their comments. The Bill will be introduced in the Parliament, after due consultations with the State Governments and other Stakeholders.

 

      Establishment of new District Disabled Rehabilitation Centres (DDRCs) and Composite Regional Centres (CRCs)

 

      District Disabled Rehabilitation Centres

 

      To create infrastructure and capacity building at district level for providing rehabilitation services to persons with disabilities, awareness generation, training rehabilitation professionals etc, the Ministry provides assistance for setting up of District Disabled Rehabilitation Centres (DDRCs) in un-served districts of the country. Until March, 2010, 199 DDRCs have been sanctioned.

 

        The Finance Minister had announced in his budget speech for 2010-11 that 100 new DDRCs would be opened during the remaining period of the XIth Five Year Plan. Accordingly, 100 districts in 20 States were identified and the concerned State Governments requested in June 2010 to send proposals for setting up new DDRCs. In the year 2010-11 & 2011-12, sanctions were issued for setting up of 33 new DDRCs. During the current year 2012-13, sanctions have been issued for setting up of four new DDRCs namely (1)

Mehboobnagar

        (Andhra Pradesh) (2) Howrah (

West Bengal

      ) (3) Bankura (West Bengal) & (4) Shivsagar (Assam).

 

      Composite Regional Centres

 

      The scheme of setting up of Composite Regional Centres is a part of overall strategy to reach out to the Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in the country and to facilitate the creation of the required infrastructure and capacity building at Central, State and District levels and below for awareness generation, training of rehabilitation professionals, service delivery etc. Centres are set up at locations where the existing infrastructure for providing comprehensive services to disabled were inadequate and where such centres are needed the most.

 

        There were eight CRCs functioning at Sundernagar, Srinagar, Lucknow, Guwahati, Patna, Bhopal, Ahmedabad and

Kozhikode

      . The new CRC at Kozhikode has been functional from February, 2012.

 

Rajiv Gandhi

      National Fellowship Scheme for Students with DisabilitiesA new Central Sector Scheme of Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship for Students with Disabilities for persons with disabilities has been launched in November, 2012 to increase opportunities to students with disabilities for pursuing higher education leading to degrees such as M.Phil and Ph.D. The scheme caters to requirements of the students with disabilities for pursuing research degree in universities, research institutions and scientific institutions. The scheme has been made effective from 01.04.2012.

 

        The scheme caters total number of 200 Fellowships (Junior Research Fellows, JRF) per year to students with disabilities. The scheme covers all universities/institutions recognized by

University Grants Commission (UGC)

      and will be implemented by UGC itself. The rates of fellowship for JRF and SRF will be at par with the UGC fellowship.

 

Sounds of silence- Sec 66A-IT Act #FOE #FOS


Jug Suraiya
06 December 2012, 11:12 PM IST, TNN

Following several cases of people in various parts of the country being sent to jail because of comments they had either made, or even just approved of, on social networking sites, JV sought an interview with the newly-appointed minister of misinformation and non-communication. The interview turned out to be unique, in that the interviewer didn`t say a single word right through the entire proceedings leaving all the talking to the interviewee.

Why didn`t the interviewer utter a word during the course of the interview? Was it because of a sudden attack of laryngitis which made it impossible for him to speak? Not quite. Here is a transcript of the one-sided interview.

JV: (Silent greeting of `Good morning`)

Minister: The same to you. Isn`t silence soothing? No wonder they call it golden. And with the price of gold being what it is today — and going up by the hour — golden silence has never been so prized as it is now. And it is the job of my new ministry of misinformation and non-communication to preserve and protect that precious silence and keep it safe from those anti-social elements who are advocates of freedom of screech.

JV: (Silent question mark)

Minister: Yes, yes. I know that the obsolete term borrowed from that out-of-date publication called the Constitution is freedom of speech. But under the special powers derived from rule 37, sub-clause 29ZX of section 66A of the Misinformation and Non-communication Act of 2012, free speech has been deemed to be free screech.

JV: (Silent exclamation)

Minister: Yes, i agree with you. Such an imaginative reinterpretation of language is indeed quite ingenious. And it had become necessary in order to keep the general public — which means the likes of you — safe from the harmful effects of free screech.

JV: (Silent screech)

Minister: See what i mean? You wanted to exercise your right to screech. That was the trouble with our democracy. Everybody believed they had the right to screech, at anyone they liked, at any time they wanted to. No wonder our democracy was fast turning into a dinocracy, what with all that free screeching creating the most godawful din. No, it had to be stopped. In order to restore democracy to those to whom it rightfully belongs: the silent majority. And the more silent it is, the better. That`s what the ministry of misinformation and non-communication and section 66A are all about.

JV: (Silent surprise)

Minister: Why should that surprise you? Haven`t you heard of communicable ailments which are bad for the health of the individual? Well, communication is a communicable ailment which is bad for the health of the body politic.

JV: (Silent understanding)

Minister: See, you`re beginning to get the point now. With people no longer communicating with each other, those dangerous germs called ideas and opinions won`t spread the socially transmitted disease called dissent. Dreadful thing it is, contagious as hell. And there`s no cure for it, only prevention. Prevention in the form of section 66A. And the gag that was put over your mouth when you stepped into this office. No, no. Don`t try and take it off. If i have my way, you`d better get used to it being a permanent fixture.

JV: (Silent vow of enforced silence)

 

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