So while theoretically we should all have the right to make our own decisions about matters to do with our sexuality, have the right to sexual and reproductive health care, the right to love who we want to, and the right to be free from violence and discrimination based on our sexual choices, to name just a few sexual rights, even today many people do not have these rights.
It may be useful to visualise sexual rights as a large tree with deep roots and a vast canopy of leaves. Or as a giant umbrella. Or a big tent. Whatever tickles your imagination and allows you to see it as a conceptual and practical tool to make claims for any aspect that relates to how we express sexuality.
Parents and significant adults in the lives of the Neelams of the world have been programmed to see age-appropriate sexual behaviour through the very narrow lens of “problems and disorders”. Their engagement of professionals like myself is mostly restricted to seeking to curb in the Neelams what is natural and joyous.
Every year we participate in an international campaign known as “The 16 Days Campaign” which runs from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10 December (Human Rights Day). It is an organising strategy by individuals and organisations around the world to call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls.
As development professionals, our tasks involve reflecting on the norms that service providers, colleagues and field staff engaging with communities hold on to so strongly. How can programmes create safe spaces to match up to service providers’ professional and personal beliefs so that they can challenge those norms in their own families and be non-judgmental?
In some of the country’s most conflicted regions, activism on issues of sexuality (if it's aligned to human rights) is both a risky affair and one of secondary importance in the midst of larger socio-political and historical issues. The topic of human rights tends to center on gun violence, AFSPA, statehood and insurgency.
Were there more people like my father? Was it legal? I read about sexual diversity and how people of all sexual orientations should have the same rights, the LGBT community, and so on, and what the law says about them. Though the picture is not a completely happy one, a lot of work is going on in this area and there is still hope for the future.