Post 377 in post colonial India


Sec 377 is scrapped by Honourable Supreme Court of India on September 6, 2018. Hope that this decriminalisation is also supported by deconstruction of stigma and mindset discrimination. We are always fitting ourselves inside particular categories. Our discomforts are less when we fit in. We struggle hard and even make others struggle harder to fit in or ensure them to fit in. Sometimes there could be moments when we may realise that we do not fit in. We are outside the straightforward distinct categories. We are clubbed clumsily into a category called others. ‘Others’ is an umbrella term which defines all that is inexplicable. All those who remain socially and culturally excluded. Others are mostly in the margins or they are a questionable category. Others are not into the mainstream and recognizable. But they can be either here or there. Others are fluid, flexible, relatively non-existent and sometimes deviant enough to be in the others position. Others are conveniently excluded, socially secluded and ecologically outcasted. Others are close to non-existent.

Women are voters, men are voters and others are also compulsively forced into voting but that hardly matters. I recall experiences of trans-women getting their aadhar cards when they were registered as male in census. Most documents hardly used to have a category called ‘others’. Nowadays with the The Transgendered Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016, transgender is a category but mostly it is called the ‘Third Gender’. Now third is an ascending or descending connotation we need to reflect upon. Women raised the feminist debates on equality through movements around social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights. But such rights are still a far cry for the ‘others’ community. Who are the ‘others’? Are they from within us or are they outside us? These days I see many people working around, with, through and for the ‘Others’ from the periphery and closely.

They share that they are outside the ‘Others’ yet they would like to work with them. They position themselves outside the ‘others’ and then work for them. Some of us identify as the ‘others’ and try to define the ‘others’ through our own transitions. Discrimination starts with ‘others’ when ‘others’ assert their identities and they resist in fitting in. Their struggles are such that they cannot fit in. However, much they try to fit in. Conformity can help them to survive in this era of surveillance and structuralism. But they are never themselves with these conformities.

Why do we look at feminism for ‘others’? Feminist spaces are inclusive and equitable which are the basic grounds for finding one’s own voice. Feminism is emancipating for exploitation affected categories of both binary identities. Most prominently feminists have stood up with the unheard, unknown and unlisted individuals cutting across race, class, borders, language, sexualities, tribe and caste boundaries. Feminist approach is a process in itself which resolves the issues along the journey rather than finding instant solutions to problems which arise even before the journey. Multiplicity, diversity and engaging practices within feminist analysis strengthen the positioning of different intersectional categories.

Feminism does start with defined and pre-determined formulas but they go along the post modern and post structural ways of addressing any problem. Democratic processes and feminist debates intersect with each other. In that context ‘others’ find their space to express themselves. Feminism at times includes and in other times excludes others. When feminism is limited to women then it excludes others within or without women. People have started discussing masculinities within feminism and male hierarchies with its realms to address the issues of feminist interests. But others are again more comfortable as a separate category all together. A lot of people compromise with each other by being within some of the categories of feminism. Feminism is also a deconstructing process of self critique which strengthens it from within. While addressing the concerns of ‘others’ categories, at times feminism fail to contextualise the specific nuances of what constitute ‘others’.

In my own experience of working with different kinds of feminists I have noticed a difference in people’s attitudes when it comes to ‘others’. Some people brush away the discomfort by focusing on policies, interventions and advocacy initiatives which exclude the ‘others’. Sometimes they are not spelt out, feminists simply say ‘they mean all.’ ‘Others’ are either enveloped by ‘fit-all’ approach or ‘us and them’ approach. Feminism layered in socialist, marxist and communist intersections don’t care much about ‘others’. In the context of human rights, people affected by armed conflict, disasters and communal riots find greater support but when it comes to sexual, social, cultural and economic even to some extent political and civil rights of ‘others’ people are not prioritised. It is also due to closeted situations of others which put them either at the bottom or top of diverse priorities.

The uncomfortable silence and discontents around ‘others’ need to be broken from either sides. They have to break their inhibitions of relating to others and others also have to break their silence of humiliations they face as others.  What is next when the discontents are shared?  Will the others have to be part of the mainstream or do they find equality from their respective ‘others’ context. Education, employment, social mobility and social inclusion do create space for equality but these are myths. Can our multicultural society really accept ‘others’ without stereotyping and stigma? People don’t want to address the uncomfortable silence. Post colonial India needs to address many questions.

Samhita Barooah

Samhita Barooah

Dr. Samhita Barooah
 is Educator and QueerUp Founder