The Constitution Bench of five judges of the Supreme Court on Section 377 is entering the second week of hearing. On the one hand, the Central Government has left the decision on the court, not clarifying its position in the case. On the other hand, the Supreme Court’s comments seem to be generating more confidence than in 2013. In the year 2009, Delhi High Court excluded Section 377 from the purview of crime. The court said that this section comes in the way of the right of adults to live by their choice. However, in 2013 the Supreme Court overturned the judgment related to the interests of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-intersex-queer-sex (LGBTIQA +) community. Through this, Section 377 was brought back into the category of crime.
158 years old, punishments under this law made by the British have been nominal, but it has become a major cause of harassment of members of the LGBT community. Their sexuality continues to cause ridicule. Newslaundry met Pooja Srivastava to understand what it means to be LGBT in India’s social structure, what their struggles are.
Pooja (42), born in Banaras, provides fancy dress to schools. This is his self-employment. Prior to this, he has done 14 years of journalism in various media institutions (Dainik Jagran, Ishan (Tabloid), Zee Business, Petro Watch etc.). Serving animals is a hobby of worship, she looks after the animals wandering on the street.
Pooja took years to accept her sexuality. During this time, she faced stress from the people, became a victim of depression and the result of her hideout with home and society was that irritability became a part of her life.
Recalling her childhood days, Pooja says, “I would have been 10-12, there was an attraction towards my same-sex people.” Could not know why this is so. Did not ever think about it. But the family members and society made me realize that I am different, I am unequal. You get scared of ridicule from the front. You go on shrinking yourself. ”
Pooja says, there has never been any difference between boys and girls in the house. The sisters were doing engineering in Pune. Parents have never said that if there is a girl, there should be less education or there is a ban on wearing any kind of clothes. “When I was in sixth grade, I used to run Bajaj 150cc. It was Scooter, not Luna or Scooty, ”says Pooja.
She tells the story of her first love. I was in seventh grade. And the language (changed name) was in the twelfth. I was mad for him, passing through his house for twenty times, going to the terrace and standing in the sun too that he might be seen. It was not that I wanted sex but madness towards him was tremendous. “It used to be that once seen, my day would become type.”
Pooja continues her talk, “In those days, when friends used to talk about boys or boyfriends, I used to stay calm. I used to feel that I should also tell whom I want. Could not say It used to sit in the mind that people would make fun. ”
Pooja used to write a diary for the language. She says, “If I didn’t see it that day, then I would write in the diary,” Today you don’t see, my day is going bad. ”
Pooja laughs while saying “Absolutely lovely awara type”.
This was the first incident when I encountered my mother at home. Mother had seen the letters written to the language. “Girls write such letters for boys and at this age do you feel all this for a girl?” You have gone mad, the doctor will have to show up, ”the mother then rebuked Pooja.
Pooja moved to Delhi in the year 1995. Here he did a three-year professional course in computer software. Then Pooja’s sister started working in Delhi. These days, Pooja says, she felt attraction towards a colleague working in her sister’s office. His name was Rajbala (changed name). “I loved her and Rajbala considered me a friend. I also used to show that I am a friend, nothing more than a friend. ”
Pooja says, her sister felt something ‘wrong’. He started commenting. “This is not right,” Didi said.
Where Pooja was studying in Delhi, she befriended Gunjan. They told her, my family members object that I like Rajbala. ”
“This was the first time Gunjan called me a ‘lesbian’ term.” Then I came to know, lesbian is also a word. Gunjan was the first person in my life to tell me that I am normal, ”Pooja takes a long breath.
However, Pooja did not take Gunjan’s case very seriously then. Close proximity to Rajbala increased. Rajbala feared that since Pooja liked her, Rajbala would not be able to live with Pooja, so that the friendship of the two would not be broken due to this. As a result, Rajbala took Pooja to a psychologist in East Delhi. It was the year 1997-98. Psychologist gave medicines to Pooja. After a week of taking medicines, Pooja’s health started deteriorating. He called the psychologist and explained the situation.
The psychologist then gave an example and explained, “If you have to give up cigarettes, first you should know that cigarette is the wrong thing and you have to quit. You have to first decide that you have to be okay. It seems you are not able to decide for yourself that you have to be okay. ”
This incident continues to haunt Pooja even today. This was the moment of despair when Pooja was introduced to Google. “I searched Google for the first time sitting in Didi’s office. Was the word, Why do I get attracted to women. ”
From here she came in contact with a voluntary organization named Sangini. This institution was very active then. Members of the LGBT community used to share problems and experiences with each other.
“I asked him, I am a girl and am attracted to a girl. He talked to me for an hour and explained that I am normal. This happens to many people. It felt like a huge burden was being removed from my forehead. My stress level decreased, ”says Pooja.
Some Great Professions
This matter still haunts Pooja as to why her siblings did not help her at the same time. “I am the youngest of siblings. Brothers and sisters are all engineers. I found it very surprising that when I can do a Google search, then my siblings should not have done a Google search for me. ”
However, the next moment she becomes safe with her family. She herself thinks that maybe her brothers and sisters had some different struggles and they have forgotten.
She laughs and says, “I still don’t understand, why was I being harassed for so many days?”
Despite being aware of their sexuality, the pressure of home and society has not diminished. Nor was she able to accept her sexuality. The family proposed marriage before Pooja. “Well we understand that you are attracted to the girl. But how do you know that you cannot be attracted to men? ”The family members put questions before Pooja. Pooja got into the question of family members. He also did ‘Try’.
Then her marriage to Pooja’s associate Satish (name changed) was decided. Now Satish started to act like a partner rather than his colleague. “He would hold my hand, try to get close to me. I woke up in a few days. I called him and told him, man will not work. I’m gay
Pooja told the family that she had told Satish about herself. The family felt that Pooja did not like the boy and that is why she did not want to get married. She will later marry another boy. “I kept pretending to be straight at home. Didi used to say, she likes this boy. It feels good, ”says Pooja.
Pooja’s father favored Pooja in the decision not to marry. He passed away in the year 2002. Remembering them, Pooja says, “I think now that perhaps father understood about my sexual orientation. He never pressurized me for marriage. ”
Pooja’s colleague Tuli (name changed) fell in love with her while working in a channel. Pooja was 26 then and Tuli was 23. Both used to spend hours together. But here too there was a problem, says Pooja, “Tuli wanted to love me as a man. I wanted to live as a man
Since Pooja considered herself capable of doing all the work that a man can do, perhaps Tuli wanted to love her as a man. Recalling this phase of life, Pooja says, “I was like a boy, I also felt like I am not transgender. Man stuck in a long body. ”
This relationship lasted for about four years. News of both of them had started brewing in the corridors of journalists. Tuli’s family members pressed for marriage and she got married elsewhere.
Pooja broke down after Tuli’s marriage and separation from her. Irritability within them went on increasing. He left the channel after a few days. She started being active in LGBT programs. Gay Pride started participating in the march. At a similar event in Lodhi Garden, New Delhi, he met Shomi Guha Thakurta. The closeness between the two kept increasing. Shomi and Pooja decided to live together.
Pooja’s mother put a condition for acceptance of this relationship, “Ok, I am accepting this relationship but no one from the LGBT community will come to our house, nor will you go to their house.”
After a few years, Shomey started to feel good that the outside world recognizes him as a friend, not as a couple. She became oblivious among the members of the LGBT community as she distanced herself from the programs.
In the context of this aspect of relationships, Pooja said, “Saying that means you get married or you are lovers, then you want to see yourself as a couple. But in our case you are going anywhere in the world, everybody is considering you as a friend. ”
This behavior started to bother Shawmi. He did not like his mother’s restrictions. Relationships began to deteriorate between Shoemi and her mother’s priorities. Shawmi went back to Calcutta. Talking on the phone continued for a few days, but then the conversation stopped.
Being away from Shomi had a profound effect on Pooja. She became a victim of depression due to her loneliness. He consulted psychologists. She says, “I was fed up with double life.” Then he decided that he would have to accept himself publicly.
“I started pretending to be heterosexual, telling lies about my sexuality, not being able to tell the truth out of fear of people laughing,” says Pooja’s voice.
Pooja was clouded by doubts before making her own sexuality public. “Who will understand me?” He found a solution.
“I sent a message about my sexual orientation to all the Liberals I found on my friendlist. I urged him ‘I hope you understand me’, “Pooja told. Pooja calls this a process of her public acceptance.
Meanwhile, in December 2017, Pooja met 35-year-old Nikita Vishwas. Pooja says, “I got love at first site from Nikita. She is a very intelligent and genuin girl. ”
Nikita loves a settled life. Both are excited by the ongoing hearing in the court. She wants the court to not only repeal Section 377, but also soon the Parliament should approve homosexual weddings. However, the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has made it clear that at present it will not expand the scope of issues related to Section 377 and the debate will be focused only on its validity.
Pooja describes Indian society as a society of “hetero-normality”, where all the terminology and conduct are woven around the relationship between women and men.
Pooja says, seeing them unmarried at the age of 42, people make strange comments. One day a neighbor aunt said, “Oh, you did not get married. It was such a big secret to stay with my mother. ”
One day the other aunt said, “Oh my daughter says, look, Pooja has not married, how much fun she has.” It stays as it likes. She lives with her mother. Pooja does not like it.
Pooja wants people to be told the difference between gender and sexuality. She herself also tries to educate the people of LGBT community in social groups.