“I invite the gay community to my yoga ashram and I guarantee to cure them of homosexuality,” Ramdev said in 2013 to The Print. Last month we celebrated the 3rd Pride month are the decriminalization of Homosexual relationships in ‘article 377’ in India. Still, for many people, homosexuality is a kind of disease that can be cured with proper treatment. In the South Asian subcontinent, the idea of Homosexuality was rooted in our ancient texts, epics and folklore. There are plenty of instances where changes of sex, homoerotic encounters, and intersex or third gender characters are widely found. While the relationship between man and woman has been honoured, homosexuality and LGBTQ themes were also discussed with the same respect. That’s because gender is seen as an idea, a belief or as a conviction. The sweep and the scale of gender had been traced through the diverse characters, each extraordinary and unusual.
During the Brish raj (1862) Section 377 was introduced in many colonies, where it was stated that whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the ‘order of nature’ with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine. In many countries, this section remained unchanged even after their independence. Although, on 6th September 2018, the Supreme Court of India stated that the application of Secon 377 to consensual homosexual sex between adults was decriminalised. It took 70 years of struggle and intense fight to make it possible. Although it still presents in people’s minds as a social stigma. Sahodaran – a male sexual health project, along with UNESCO conducted a study in 2018 among sexual and gender minority groups where it was found that 60% of those identifying outside mainstream sexual identity were physically harassed in middle/high school, and 50% in higher secondary and only 18% of them reported the bullying to school authorities. On most of the occasions alleged were asked to change their “perceived feminine behaviour” to avoid being bullied or to ignore the incident. When we got individuals like Manvendra Singh Gohil (first openly gay prince in the world), Manabi Bandyopadhyay (first transgender professor to get a PhD), Prithika Yashini (the first transwoman to be a police officer in India) who questioned our orthodox ideas by taking part in the mainstream system and playing a very crucial role to shape our mindset and attitude towards the LGBTQ. We can still find that within the boundaries of family, home and school, the acceptance of their sexuality and freedom still remains a constant struggle. Especially in rural India people have their own way of dealing with LGBTQ individuals, where secret honour killing has become a regular scenario. The only option left for a young gay man to survive is to run away in the cover of the night to some city. Lesbian women are subjected to corrective rapes, which are often conducted by their own family members. Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli, a transwoman LGBTQ activist and public policy scholar invokes B.R. Ambedkar while talking about the rural socioeconomic environment. “Ambedkar thought of the village as a unit of violence and that is most true for LGBTQ issues,” she also added, “Village medics and babas often prescribe rape to cure lesbians of homosexuality.” These horrible factors really raise the question, are people with non-binary sexual orientation can feel really safe in our society? Why we became so intolerant when it comes to someone’s sexual orientation? Why can’t we accept people on the basis of humanity? Through this issue, we are trying to find the answer to these questions and trying to understand the condition of the LGBTQ community in the South Asian context in terms of history, mythology and social aspect.
So we would like to start this issue by featuring the work of Subhajit Naskar, who through his beautiful body of work (“Where the peacock can dance free…”) tried to find out the condition of LGBTQ people are the decriminalisation of homosexual sex in India. With this Cocoon wants to give a tribute to them, who are continuously fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ people throughout the world.
In the colourful series of works by Gautam Chatterjee, he painted pictures of various kinds of birds which are often very common in our subcontinent. He managed to give them a completely different point of view using his irrational and imaginative mind. They appear quite abstract and very recognisable at the same time, as if those birds are born out of a child’s mind and often makes no sense if we try to define them with logic and rational thoughts.
Finally, we will publish a journal that presents a critical and personal view of the filmmaker Wong Kar-wai. He deals with love and romance in a very different way. For him, love is the most intoxicating thing which can push any rational person to break their routine and move on with their life. In his films, he presented love as an emotion that doesn’t discriminate gender, race or colour. The love between Su and Chow in ”In The Mood For Love” or between Lai Yiu-Fai and Ho Po-wing in “Happy Together” has made no difference, though both the couples were unacceptable through the lens of society.
Once I read a European fable where a child was often asked by the parents, ”what is the most important organ in our body?”. The child said, “ears”. The parents replied, “There are many people who can’t hear but are happy.” Next the child said, “eyes”. The parents again answered that “There are many people who can’t see but are happy.” Suddenly one day the father passed away and the child discovered the relatives were crying on each other’s shoulders. That day finally the mother answered “the most important organ in our body is the shoulder because your near and dear ones need it more than yourself. There will be a time in life when you will require a shoulder to cry on, to find peace and strength.” Cocoon also believes we should lend our shoulders to everyone, without much perusing.
As responsible individuals, we don’t want such a society where people are discriminated on the basis of some social code. Rather we urge for space where every aspect of life is free and is not categorised with certain rules and norms. where every person has the right to be themselves.
– Pinaki Nath, Editor