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Editorial: Human Rights and Sexuality

an explosion of colours

If human rights are rights that we are entitled to simply by fact of being human, and sexual rights are part of human rights, a Martian would think that ALL humans enjoy their sexual rights. But no, dear Martian, it is not so at all. 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. In fact, there is opposition to people having sexual rights at all, or let’s say, to some people having sexual rights. We are republishing Radhika Chandiramani’s article about why sexual rights are such a volatile issue and why they are important. This article, though first published several years ago still rings true because despite the definite strides that we have made across the landscape of rights in India, there are still rights denied to people – be they young women choosing a partner of a different community or women having to have sex with their husbands even when they don’t feel like it. Rights being denied to some, makes a mockery of rights for all. Speaking of mockery, the current Transgender Persons Bill that has just been passed in India, is a good example.

In an interview with Shikha Aleya, Jasmine George talks about ‘pleasure pockets’ in the city and in our bodies, discusses the importance of access not just in terms of delivery but also right from the moment of planning a service because factors such as gender, class, rural-urban location, disability status, age, and so on affect the degree to which one has access to one’s rights. And to add to all of this, if one is living in a context of socio-political unrest, in a place such as Manipur, other issues of survival take precedence and sexual rights take a backseat as Kumam Davidson points out.

Following an incident while travelling home on the Delhi metro, Shivangi Gupta reflects on the daily transgressions faced by people who look ‘different’ or who dare to in any way express their sexual selves, be it by wearing red lipstick or a short skirt. Violence, be it in the form of verbal slurs or with murderous intent, is far too common and Elsa D’Silva explains why we still need campaigns like the 16 Days of Activism so that women can live and just be.

Suniti Neogy writes about how even the most motivated field staff working on sexual and reproductive health and rights can at times get caught in a conflict between their own values and the prevalent socio-cultural norms. It is precisely the importance given to socio-cultural norms that influences domestic laws and policies as Sanya Talwar concludes in her article about sexual rights and the law.

Micky Nair reveals how her preferences in bed were mistaken for her preferences about how she would be liked to be treated outside of it, and confused with permission to violate her rights. An anonymous writer contributes her account of growing up as a gay man’s daughter, her conflicts, and her eventual not just reconciliation with, but appreciation of who her father was.

Following the ballyhoo that occurred when a young client of his expressed her desire through a drawing, Jai Ranjan Ram makes a compassionate and lucid case for talking about sexuality with young people with developmental disorders.

Anubha Sarkar reviews the film Portrait of a Lady on Fire and finds that it beautifully represents the love between the women protagonists and lights up burning desires.

For our Hindi readers we have Manak Matiyani’s original article, in the form of an e-mail exchange with a friend, about why sexual rights matter even when people are hungry.  And we also have an article in our Navintam Lekh section which looks at sex workers’ rights.

In Brushstrokes we have our favourite Robot Hugs explaining what reproductive rights are and how the choices a woman makes about her body are influenced by various factors like health care systems, economic conditions, education, and much more. That is precisely why our feminisms need to be truly inclusive if they are to work at all. Here’s Vitamin Stree’s video on What is Intersectionality?

In the FAQs corner watch a short instructive video on How To Report Workplace Sexual Harassment.

In the mid month issue, Debarati Sarkar calls on us to radicalise the banal and practice a feminist ethic in our everyday lives because daily acts of feminist practice go a long way in countering patriarchy. In this month’s selection of five blogrolls we see in the first one how acts of self-care can go beyond being consumerist, individualistic activities, and can be political and feminist acts. Political and feminist acts are what are needed because women’s rights are violated based on what patriarchal society thinks is good for us rather than letting us decide for ourselves. Women continue to struggle to take simple decisions about our bodies, be it a decision about how we seek pleasure or how we avoid pain, and even what we do with our own bodies. And it is sometimes not the immediate men in our surroundings who prevent us from making choices in our best interests but an impersonal entity like the government that steps in to tell us that it is going to again assault our rights by banning commercial surrogacy, and it is sometimes governments in collusion with political parties, police officials and prohibitionists who oppose people’s rights to engage in sex work but the global sex workers’ rights movement fortunately continues to grow despite all their efforts.

Power that is wielded in the physical world is also wielded in the digital world and the consequent injustices and violence mean that the Internet is not neutral and cyberspace is not a world where everyone is truly free and equal. And unfortunately, neither is mainstream feminism that continues to perpetuate ableism. Lest you think that we are ending the year on a gloomy note, be reassured – each of the articles points to ways forward.

In the FAQs Corner you will find The Indian glossary of gender justice.

For our Hindi readers we have a translation of the article A gay man’s daughter as well as  another article in our Navintam Lekh section.

As 2019 draws to a close, we thank you for accompanying us on this journey and will see you again in the New Year!


Cover Image: Pixabay

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