Archive for the 'Sexuality' Category

Homosexuality in India: A literary history

Nilanjana S. Roy at India Ink / NYT:

“Some men like Jack/ and some like Jill; / I’m glad I like them both; but still…/ In the strict ranks/ of Gay and Straight/ What is my status?/ Stray? or Great?”

When Vikram Seth wrote “Dubious” many years ago, he may not have realized how long his poem would live. “Dubious” has become an anthem for Indians unwilling to be straitjacketed into heterosexuality, unwilling to accept the argument often put forward that being homosexual, lesbian, transgendered or transsexual is against Indian culture.

Seth had a long line of predecessors, as the scholar Devdutt Patnaik and the academics Saleem Kidwai and Ruth Vanita have noted. The “Markandeya Purana” carries the story of Avikshita, the son of a king who refused to marry because he believed he was a woman.

Gender was fluid, for yakshas and humans alike, in ancient and medieval Indian culture. The Mahabharata famously tells the story of Amba, the princess who was abducted by Bhishma but rejected by the warrior, who had taken a vow of celibacy. Praying to avenge the insult, Amba is reborn as Shikhandini, daughter to King Dhrupada, and then prays for a further transformation into Shikhandi — as a man, she can fight Bhishma, and becomes the cause of his death on the battlefield. More:

Pakistan: A Personal History by Imran Khan

Arifa Akbar in The Independent:

It may seem like sporting profanity now but Imran Khan’s cricketing debut was so inauspicious that it earned him the humiliating nickname, Imran Khan’t. Four decades on, and still viewed as a national treasure for leading Pakistan’s cricket team to its only World Cup victory in 1992, Khan recalls the Khan’t moment. He draws parallels between the slow-burn success of first career and the early disappointments of his second, in Pakistani politics.

This book, an intelligently written mix of Pakistan’s history and his own autobiography, reflects on the challenges that Khan faced in cricket and later, in his humanitarian work. The lessons learnt in his previous incarnations gave momentum to his entry into politics.

Tahreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice), the party he founded in 1996, has faced many humbling moments – winning no seats in the 1997 elections and one in 2002 – although it is now seen as a credible alternative to the government by many Pakistanis. More:

Gay sex is “unnatural”, a “disease”: India’s health minister

For India’s health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, homosexuality is not only “unnatural” but also a “disease.”

Addressing mayors and village council heads on HIV/AIDS on Monday, he said “this disease has come to India from foreign shores.”

“The disease of MSM (men having sex with men) is unnatural and not good for Indian society,” he said. “It’s a challenge to identify such people. In case of female sex workers, we can identify the community and reach out to them since they live in clusters. But in case of MSMs, it isn’t always possible.”

In The Times of India: According to the National Aids Control Organization (NACO), India is home to an estimated 4.12 lakh MSMs of whom 2.74 lakhs have been identified. Around 4.2% of all sexually-active males in India are believed to have sex with other men, with Chennai, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Orissa reporting the highest number of such cases.

Indian gay rights activists have voiced shock and outrage over the minister’s remarks. Read here

US women marry in Nepal’s first public lesbian wedding

In November 2008, Nepal’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of laws to guarantee full rights to LGBT people, including the right to marry. On Monday, an American lesbian couple married in a temple in Kathmandu in accordance with Hindu tradition. This is the first same sex marriage in Nepal.

Same-sex marriages are not legal in Nepal, but the country is drafting laws to guarantee sexual rights.Sarah Welton, 48, a lawyer and Courtney Mitchell, 41, a psychology professor are from Colorado.

Read the full story in The Times of India

See photos at www.shewired.com

A transexual tourist’s doomed love and search for justice in Kashmir

Cordelia Jenkins in Mint Lounge:

When 43-year-old Sarwait Patarachokchai arrived in Srinagar in March 2007, she planned to spend her week-long holiday like any other tourist. Spring was blossoming, the weather was getting warm; she was to stay on a houseboat, visit the city’s famous landmarks and shop at the Kashmiri handicraft stores.

But three years later, Patarachokchai is still in Srinagar, embroiled in a legal suit against the man she met and fell in love with on that first trip to the valley: a handicraft salesman in his late 20s called Mohsin Shah. The case is complicated for one principal reason: Patarachokchai was born a man, but since meeting Shah has had a sex change and is now a woman. The half-Thai, half-Pakistani tourist lives in Germany and, although counted a woman there, her legal status is still that of a man on her passport and, therefore, in Kashmir.

Although Patarachokchai had the surgical procedure to make her a woman only in 2009, she has lived and dressed as one since her teenage years. “I always thought I was a girl even in high school,” she says. “I grew my hair long and wore girls’ clothes, I saw many doctors in Germany and they accepted I am a woman.” Patarachokchai says she told Shah she was “not a real girl”, and he professed to have fallen in love with her. More:

 

The fling thing

The Outlook-Moods Sex Survey 2011:

* 60.4 Percentage of Bangaloreans who think more partners makes for a more fulfilling sex life

* 24.0 Percentage of Hyderabadis whose preferred sexual indulgence is partner-swapping

* 100 Everyone in Chennai feels that a hotel room is the only place for a one-night stand

* 91.9 Percentage of Chennaiites will not have sex with a person of different religion or ethnicity

* 49.8 Percentage of respondents who say they would never again indulge in a one-night stand

* 95.2 Percentage of Bangaloreans who cite being ‘under the influence’ as reason for a one-night stand

Full story here.

Make love, but first make the lover

Nilanjana S. Roy in Outlook:

The problem with our times is that we categorise sex with such lack of finesse: pondies, lesbian erotica, vanilla porn, and the Internet’s brimming troves of what might be called Bhabhilust. Several centuries before Mills & Boon and YouPorn had commercialised our erogenous imaginations, vanilla sex flourished in Bhartrhari’s verses, in the Kuruntokai, in the Tamil poems written by women in ancient India.

“My virgin self of which he partook is now like a branch half broken by an elephant, bent, not yet fallen to the ground, still attached to the mother tree by the fibre of its bark.”

I’m not sure the author of this verse, from the Kuruntokai, realised how closely this lament would mirror the dilemma of the women protagonists of romance novels. More:

India: calling gay tourists

Brushed under the carpet for years, homosexuality in India is slowly emerging out of the closet, emboldened by a court decision last year that decriminalised same sex intercourse. Now, new businesses in India believe they can cater to a niche gay travel market, reports Mridu Khullar Relph in the New York Times 

Creative Commons: Merlith's photostream

When Bryan Herb steps into stores on his trips to India, he says, shopkeepers almost always ask whether he is looking for a souvenir for the woman in his life. A ring for his girlfriend, perhaps? What about a beautiful pink scarf for his wife?

“Every single time this happens, I toy with the idea of saying, ‘I have a boyfriend, not a girlfriend.”’ said Mr. Herb, co-owner of Chicago-based Zoom Vacations, which caters to gay tourists. “But I don’t.”

Homosexuality has long been a hidden facet of Indian life and, until recently, an illegal one. But change is afoot. A Delhi High Court ruling last year decriminalized same-sex intercourse, and sensitivity toward gay people and bisexuals is growing in major cities like Mumbai and New Delhi. The Hindustan Times, one of the country’s largest English-language newspapers, recently began a campaign called, “It is time to open our minds,” encouraging Indians to rethink social issues, including equal rights for gay people. more

Not AMU alone

You would imagine that Indian universities would ferment liberal thought and a more tolerant attitude to queer sexuality. But Srininvas Ramachandra Siras’s tragic death — murder, suicide or natural causes yet to be determined — highlights that universities, unfortunately, tend to be the stomping ground for bigotry. Georgina Maddox in The Indian Express.

It is perhaps both tragic and ironic that Aligarh Muslim University professor Srinivas Ramachandra Siras went from virtual anonymity to being certain to be remembered — but not as the exemplary teacher of Marathi that he was, but as the man who may have died because he was caught on camera having sex with a rickshaw-puller. As we wait on the judgment whether his death was a suicide, a murder or had ‘natural’ causes, there is widespread and bitter outrage among the gay community across the Indian subcontinent. more

Death of a professor

On the evening of Wednesday, April 7, when Aligarh police broke open the bolted door of  Srinivas Ramchandra Siras’s rented accomodation, they found the Marathi professor dead with blood on his mouth.

Neighbours had complained of a foul smell emanating from Siras’s apartment. Police reckon he must have been dead for at least eight hours.

Was it murder, suicide or something more sinister?

Siras, a poet and a professor, had been in the eye of a storm after Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) officials suspended him following the leak of a tape showing Siras having homosexual sex. The tape was filmed after four AMU officials and some journalists broke into his house, shot pictures and then proceeded to leak this in the public domain. The conservative university responded by accusing Siras of  ‘grave misconduct’ and suspending him on February 9 this year. But Siras fought back and a few days before his mysterious death he was able to obtain a stay from the Allahabad High Court and had told journalists that he was looking forward to going back to ‘my beloved university’.

While the police’s first response was to dismiss Siras’s death as suicide or even a heart attack, it finally moved on Saturday, April 10 to lodge an FIR (first information report) — on court directions — against four AMU staff members and three journalists for ‘harassment’. According to reports, Siras had approached the Civil Lines police to lodge a complaint against these staffers, but the police ignored the complaint.

Regardless of how and why Siras died, important questions about this case remain:

1. Who filmed the secret tape in Siras’s house, violating his right to privacy?

2. Does the AMU allow or condone a ‘spy wing’, and what is the need for such a wing in a university?

3. Did not AMU exceed its brief by suspending a professor for being gay, especially now that the courts have decriminalised homosexuality?

4. How ethical is it to suspend a professor without even a basic inquiry?

5. What action will the university take against the four officials who broke into Siras’s house illegally?

6. If a university founded of Syed Ahmed Khan’s moderning impulses and with a history of liberalism can suspend a professor for being gay, then what hope is there for gay rights in India?

Pre-marital sex: Rural youth more active

From The Indian Express:

New Delhi: Rural youth have more pre-marital sex than their urban counterparts. The less educated are more likely to cast their vote and India’s youth is ill-prepared for employment in a globalised economy. It is information like this that the government hopes will help it understand the ‘vulnerability’ facing the nation’s youth.

In a first of its kind study, researchers and policy makers have tracked key phases in a person’s life, especially concerning health, marriage, civic participation, pre-marital sexual activity and work force participation. The consolidated data of the study — conducted in six states — will be launched by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Saturday.

Youth in India: Situation and Needs is the first ‘sub-nationally representative’ study undertaken by the government to track key transitions experienced by young people in six states in India. More:

Gandhi and women

Mohandas Gandhi held India back when it came to women’s rights — and his own behaviour around them could be bizarre, writes Michael Connellan in Guardian’s Comment is Free

Courtesy: Outlook India

Mohandas Gandhi whose death anniversary falls on Saturday, was an amazing human being. He led his country to freedom and helped destroy the British Empire. Little wonder India worshipped him, and still worships him, as the Mahatma – “Great Soul”. In the west he is viewed as a near-perfect combination of compassion, bravery and wisdom.

But Gandhi was also a puritan and a misogynist who helped ensure that India remains one of the most sexually repressed nations on earth – and, by and large, a dreadful place to be born female. George Orwell, in his 1949 essay Reflections on Gandhi, said that “saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent”. If only.  more

A striptease class in Bangalore

Saritha Rai in the Indian Express:

In a dance studio in an affluent Bangalore neighbourhood, instructor Sneha Kapoor is leading a small group of women through a series of sensuous, steamy moves to the accompaniment of slow music. It is a combination of striptease, pole dancing and lap dancing.

The hour-long lesson is for a group of close friends, all in their mid-thirties or over, married and well-off. Many are housewives but there is a sprinkle of working women as well.

It is strictly a private lesson. There is no advertising or publicity of any sort and admission is by word-of-mouth. The class is decorously called “Exotic dance workout”.

In Bangalore, arguably India’s hippest and most cosmopolitan city, dirty dancing arrived two years ago. But in keeping with the underlying Bangalore conservatism and fear of right-wing attacks — as in the Mangalore pub — exotic dance has stayed behind closed doors. More:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFf4L03K40M

[ps: The YouTube video above is not from Bangalore. It's a promo for the US Pole Dancing championship.]


Eunuch marriage website

Rhys Blakely from Delhi in the Times, London:

In the days of the Mogul emperors, India’s eunuchs were the bodyguards of queens and privy to the most sensitive of state secrets. Today they are most often seen begging at traffic lights.

Now they hope that the internet can help them to edge their way back into mainstream society — by finding them suitable husbands.

The first matrimonial site in the world for hijras — a catch-all term for South Asia’s eunuch, transgender, transvestite and third gender communities — has been launched from the eastern Indian city of Madras.

The home page of Thirunangai.net explains that “transsexual women by birth may not be physically women. But, by soul and heart, we are real women”. More:

A matrimonial site for transsexuals

From the Times of India:

Kalki Subramanian is young, liberated and looking for an Indian man who is loving, compassionate, educated. Oh, and one more thing – he should be OK with marrying a transsexual.

But Kalki isn’t leaving her hopes for a suitable boy to destiny. The founder-director of the Sahodari foundation, that works for transgenders, is setting up a matrimonial website for transsexual women – the first of its kind in the world.

With the Internet matchmaking portal, to be launched on Thursday, she also hopes to create a debate about the issues of matrimony and adoption for transgenders. “There has to be legal clarity for transsexuals to live a better life. We have been discriminated against and exploited for very long”, she says.

Unlike, other dating services in the world, where transgenders are set up with other transgenders, www.thirunangai.net will give transsexual women a chance to find a man of their dreams. Thirunangai, incidentally, means respectable woman in Tamil.

In a country where the boundaries of sexual tolerance are shifting daily “especially after the Delhi HC has decriminalized homosexuality – there’s a thin line between acceptability and discrimination as far as transgenders are concerned. Hijras supposedly have a sanctioned place in Indian society with more than 4,00 years of recorded history. But the estimated 2,00,000 members of the community face harassment. More:

Gay but not quite happy

Jawed Naqvi in Dawn:

AN apocryphal story told by the late Prof A.M. Khusro when he was vice chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University goes thus: in 1603 James VI of Scotland became England’s first Stuart monarch.

Within 10 days of arriving in London, he demanded that Shakespeare’s troupe come under his own patronage. So they were granted a royal patent and changed their names to the King’s Men, in honour of King James.

One day, waiting for The Merchant of Venice to begin, the king asked his senior aide to inquire into the inordinate delay in the show. ‘Sire,’ said the official after a visit to the green room. ‘Portia is being shaved.’ Good-looking boys played female roles in Shakespeare’s England. In India, upper-crust women in Maharashtra would, as recently as the early 20th century, choose their exotic nav-waari saris according to the fashion of the day.

The legendary Bal Gandharva, who depicted many famous female characters from Marathi stage plays, set the standards. Bal Gandharva is still deified as an essential cultural grooming in upper-crust homes. He was of course a handsome man who sang beautifully in the Natya Sangeet format of old Maharashtrian theatre. More:

History in the making: it’s legal to be gay in India

Gay pride parade in New Delhi, 2009
Gay pride parade in New Delhi, 2009

[Updated July 20]

India’s Supreme Court has refused to put on hold a landmark court judgement decriminalising gay sex in the country. That story is on BBC here.

Hearing a public interest litigation, the Delhi High Court has ruled that consensul sex between adults of the same gender is, finally, legal. Read that story on CNN here.

In Kafila, Nivedita Menon says ‘three queers for the Delhi High Court’. That story here.

To download the full text of the 105-page Delhi High Court judgment on pdf click here [courtesy Kafila]

One day before India’s second national Gay Pride parades kicked off in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, the Congress-led UPA government hinted that it might do away with a 150-year-old law, drafted by Lord Macaulay, that makes homosexual acts a criminal offence.

India’s gay and lesbian community has long been asking for the government to decriminalise section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that makes sexual acts ‘against the order of nature’ a crime that carries a punishment of up to 10 years in jail. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and writers like Vikram Seth had, as far back as 2006, issued an open appeal to ask the government to do away with this section. And Naz Foundation, an NGO committed to spreading awareness about HIV/AIDS had in 2002 filed a public interest litigation in the Delhi High Court asking for section 377 to be amended.

During UPA-1, then health minister Anbumani Ramadoss had considered the idea of decriminalising homosexuality, arguing that pushing homosexuals underground only encouraged the spread of HIV. But Ramadoss encountered stiff resistance from the then home minister Shivraj Patil (sacked in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai terror strike) on the grounds that repealing the act, or even watering it down, would encourage delinquent behaviour.

Now, with UPA-2 picking up reforms with zealous fervour, law minister Veerappa Moily has said that he is in favour of a ‘review’ of the law and that home minister P Chidambaram is also in favour of the idea. The ministers will now call for a formal meeting with health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to find out his views.

Yet, even as the gay and lesbian community rejoiced over the news, there are signs that the Centre will find it very difficult to build a consensus on the issue with religious leaders already rejecting the idea and the BJP Opposition cautioning restraint (read that story here).

Is it time to say bye bye to section 377? What do you think? Do send in your comments.

Meanwhile, read about this developing story here, here and here. Also, what was ancient India’s stand on same-sex relationships? Read Manoj Mitta’s story in the Times of India here.

Dalai Lama: sex=trouble

The Dalai Lama pitches celibacy as a better way of life. AFP has a story [via Breitbart]

It's all in the mind

It's all in the mind

The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual and temporal leader, on Friday said sex spelt fleeting satisfaction and trouble later, while chastity offered a better life and “more freedom.”

“Sexual pressure, sexual desire, actually I think is short period satisfaction and often, that leads to more complication,” the Dalai Lama told reporters in a Lagos hotel, speaking in English without a translator.

He said conjugal life caused “too much ups and downs.

“Naturally as a human being … some kind of desire for sex comes, but then you use human intelligence to make comprehension that those couples always full of trouble. And in some cases there is suicide, murder cases,” the Dalai Lama said.

He said the “consolation” in celibacy is that although “we miss something, but at the same time, compare whole life, it’s better, more independence, more freedom.”

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Gay Pride — in Delhi

From The Guardian:

Yesterday was the biggest day in the life of one 26-year-old insurance agent in Delhi, yet he came to the city’s long-awaited first gay parade hiding behind a mask.

“I have to remain invisible,” he said. “If my parents see me on TV, I won’t be able to go home. And if my colleagues recognise me, there’ll be hell to pay in the office.”

The gay insurance agent is typical of millions of Indians condemned to lead a double life since, much like in Victorian Britain, they risk becoming social outcasts and even criminals if their sexual preferences are revealed.

Though the setting up of advocacy groups and helplines in recent years has given India’s homosexuals a voice and some solace, they are still largely a hidden and persecuted community. But in a sign of changing times, India’s gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the traditional hijra transsexual community came together for the first-ever Delhi Queer Pride Parade yesterday.

More:

Delhi’s feeling gay and Deepa Mehta is happy

From The Times of India:

Deepa Mehta, who has just completed another celluloid treatise on the subjugation of women, can’t hide the pride in her voice when she’s told that Delhi’s first-ever gay parade today will begin from Regal cinema in the Capital, where the screening of her lesbian film, Fire, was forcibly stopped years ago.

“I remember I was in Dubai in 1996, watching AR Rahman’s concert. I had just thought Fire would come and go in India without creating a ripple, like all films on unconventional themes. I should’ve known better. I got a call in the middle of the concert, asking me to come down to Delhi immediately. They had just halted the screening of Fire. I was aghast. It was my first brush with the moral police. Later, of course, I got used to being bullied by extra-constitutional censors in India.”

More:

A biography of the world’s most famous sex manual

Michael Dirda reviews The Book of Love: The Story of the Kamasutra, James McConnachie (Metropolitan, 267 pp, $27.50) in The Washington Post [via 3QuarksDaily]

Years ago, a bunch of us were sitting around drinking when I heard a friend murmur two sentences I have never forgotten. “You know, guys, sex is the greatest thing in the world.” He paused and we were all about to nod in agreement. He was, after all, a noted and knowledgeable ladies’ man. Unexpectedly, though, he then added, with infinite wistfulness: “But it’s just not that great.”

There, in that gulf between the reality and the dream, lies the domain of pornography, the sex industry and the masturbatory fantasy — of Viagra and the midlife crisis. Our Western myths of love are seldom about fulfillment; they are all about yearning. In Plato‘s Symposium we are told that the gods divided the original ball-like human beings in two, and that we consequently spend our lives searching for the other half who will complete us. So-called romantic love, which first blossomed in 12th-century France, revels in passion delayed, forbidden or otherwise thwarted. Its real theme is desire.

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Forbidden knowledge

Posted by Namita Bhandare:

My new column in Mint is on sex education, and why ignorance is not bliss. How did you learn to speak words we dare not speak? What’s your story? Tell me. I want to know.

My formal sex education at an all-girls convent school in New Delhi can be summed up in two words: woefully inadequate.

What passed for it was a brief interlude when one fine day in biology class in std IX, our NCERT-issued textbook opened with that tantalizing chapter, “Reproduction”. A frisson of expectation ran through the class as Mrs Ravindran began reading in her clear lilting voice. Towards the end of the first sentence, however, the voice became hushed as poor Mrs Ravindran (who had by then turned beetroot red) put down the book and said: “Girls, you can read the rest of the chapter on your own at home.”
“On your own at home” pretty much sums up our attitude to sex education. We still hesitate to ask questions, speak “forbidden” words or seek out information. A television ad for Naco (National AIDS Control Organisation) highlights this ingrained reticence as it urges men to boldly say “condom”, a forbidden word if ever there was one. New sexual awakening? Hardly. In India, the urgency for sex education is seen not in the context of sexuality, but of HIV/AIDS.

The bhabhi chronicles

India’s first home-grown, online graphic porn star is the unlikely Savita bhabhi. In Tehelka, Anastasia Guha checks her out.

COMICS HAVE A WAY of bypassing our critical and moral register and going right to the id. They have a way of getting into, and then staying in, the deepest recesses of the psyche. This is apparent from our frenzied interest in Savita Bhabi, India’s first animated Internet porn star. Created by the appropriately underground Deshmukh, Dexstar and Mad (whoever they may be, they are not telling – we did ask), Savita Bhabhi is growing to be a phenomenally popular pornographic comic strip. It has grown solely by word of mouth to 3911 registered users in little over a month since its inception. The lead character has been drawn with every Kserial bahu trapping firmly in place: the dull gleam of a mangalsutra, sindoor forming a bright contrast to long dark hair parted chastely down the middle.

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A sex manual for Indian sensibilities

‘Penetrative sex’ and ‘sexual intercourse’ are banned from NACO’s watered-down sex education manual for teachers scheduled to be introduced across schools in August this year. Teena Thacker has the report in The Indian Express

Over six months after it pulled out its sex education manual following nationwide protests, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) is ready with a revised version which has been sent to various states for their comments.

The states have been given two months to review the manual, which is expected to be introduced in schools by August this year.

Following protests over the “explicit” content in the earlier manual forcing NACO to pull it out in October last year, the expert group has tried to play it safe this time. The manual, which has been re-named as the “teachers’ handbook”, has no pictures of human figures or words like “penetrative sex” and “sexual intercourse” this time. It is expected to be uploaded on the NACO website for wider comments.

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Sex and Indians

According to a Durex Sexual Wellbeing survey, Asians are clear losers when compared to rest of the world. Only 46% Indians experience an orgasm almost every time they have sex. Couples from China and Hong Kong are the least likely to reach orgasm during sex, while the Italians and Spanish claim to have no problems climaxing (achieving orgasms 66 percent of the time). Other Asian countries such as Japan (27 percent) and Singapore (36 percent) ranked poorly

However, while 55% of Indian males almost always climax during sex, women get a worse deal with only 26% almost always achieving orgasm.

Click here for Durex survey:

South Asia’s circles of sexuality

Himal SouthAsian’s March cover feature takes a look at the wide range of sexuality, particularly alternative sexuality, in South Asia. Diwas KC reports on the push for gay rights in Nepal which recently won a significant victory with a Supreme Court ruling

ali_saleem_.jpg

Nepal was recently witness to a victory of sorts for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and inter-sex (LGBTI) communities. It was an undeniably historic day on 21 December 2007, when the Supreme Court of Nepal, in response to a petition filed by a coalition of local LGBTI-rights groups, ordered the government to fulfil its contractual responsibility to LGBTI individuals by amending existing legislation or formulate new laws that would permit this community to better exercise its civil and human rights.

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Elsewhere in the same issue, Miranda Husain sets aside stereotypes to understand alternative sexuality in modern-day Pakistan

In 2004, the (now defunct) United Nations Human Rights Commission used its 60th session to debate a resolution that had been tabled the previous year by Brazil on “Human Rights and Sexual Orientation”. This represented the first time that the world body had actively considered adopting a motion specifically aimed at ending discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Pakistan – along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya and Malaysia – proposed amendments to the resolution, demanding that the term sexual orientation be removed from the text entirely. As it had announced previously, the Pakistani delegation upheld the stance of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) by ultimately voting against the resolution.

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Tanveer Rouf sees how the Internet has allowed a new kinship to develop in the Bangladeshi gay community

Homosexual men in Dhaka who openly identify themselves as such are mostly from the middle and upper income groups. In large part, they have come to understand their identity mainly from information obtained from the Internet, which those who know English are able to access from a computer at home or a cyber café. Men in Dhaka have had access to information and images related to gay issues since as early as 1996, but over the past decade there has been a mushrooming of cyber cafes all over the city, with the competition leading to affordable rates.

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Marini Fernando says sexuality rights activists in Sri Lanka are having a hard time being heard

As in many Southasian countries, sexual minorities in Sri Lanka grapple with a harsh and discriminatory law that proscribes “gross indecency”, a term that is never actually defined. Up until 1995, this legislation applied to men only, but a movement to raise awareness on the need to reform the law led to it being made gender neutral. Now, women too come under the ambit of the law, and for the past 13 years, consensual sex between two women in private has been criminalised.

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And Chayanika Shah calls for a strengthening of the women’s and ‘queer’ movements in India

A disability-rights activist recently said that she considered the Indian women’s movement a natural ally of the disabilities movement, as it was the only progressive movement in the country to have politically explored the notion of the body, from biological variation to socially constructed ideas of ‘difference’ and inequality. Actually, the same holds true for what can be referred to as the ‘queer’ movement. Queer is a recent description for an evolving politics that questions patriarchal ‘heteronormative’ structures – those institutions, such as marriage, family and community, that regard only heterosexuality as ‘normal’. (For convenience I use ‘queer’ movement as a term to describe the plethora of sexuality-rights movements, and also because each of these identities has a potential for challenging the norm. However, many activist groups, across genders, do not necessarily identify with ‘queer’ politics.)

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For a complete list of contents click here