From the Editor - Radhika Chandiramani
These have been very interesting times for all sexual rights activists in the region. While the LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill is being debated in The Philippines, here in India the court case to challenge the constitutional validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is ongoing. In nearby Hong Kong, 21 year old William Leung has won his case (you may remember that we covered it in the last issue of In Plainspeak) and the age of consent for sexual activity for homosexuals has been lowered to 16 years, making it the same as for heterosexuals.
No surprise then that with all of this focus on issues of discrimination based on gender and sexual identity, this issue of In Plainspeak reflects the same themes. In the Interview, Khuat Thu Hong talks about issues of sexuality in Vietnam and tells us what she is doing to counter the confines of rigid social expectations of gender roles and sexual behaviour. Issue in Focus looks at whether it is economic independence alone that strengthens young gays and lesbians in today’s economically liberalized India to be sexually autonomous.
Shades of Grey, as usual, takes us into fairly uncharted territory by questioning the assumed congruence of gender, sexual and political positions. Does the way we perform and act out our gender predict what we may like in terms of sexual acts? Are our preferences for certain sexual acts always indicative of our sexual identity? Is who we are defined by what we do?
What we may do in bed or in the bushes gets us into trouble with laws that were formulated almost 150 years ago. Not only are such laws used to harass people but they also create a wider climate of fear and prejudice. That is why, in The Bigger Picture we have reproduced two open letters that support the challenge to Section 377 in India. One is by Vikram Seth and many other eminent Indians. Vikram Seth is a very well known author and created quite a stir when he appeared on TV a couple of months ago as a gay man and stated why he believes Section 377 should go. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has written in support of Vikram Seth’s letter. Both letters clearly point out how laws such as these violate basic human rights.
While we are on the issue of the law, it is the police who often use the law for purposes of harassment or extortion, meanwhile acting as moral guardians of society. In Brushstrokes we have a series of images that show the police in a different light.
In Campaign Spotlight read about and join the campaign in The Philippines to end discrimination against people because of the way they appear or what they do sexually. There are also tips in Did You Know for talking with transsexual people, quite simply because sometimes we forget the basics of human courtesy and end up making people feel like specimens.
Reel Review tells us about three films screened at the Bali Q! Film Festival this year and takes us through three very different worlds. The book review gives us a glimpse into the rich and complex world of lesbians who live and love away from the bright city lights in India, and, the I column focuses on being questioned about being lesbian in the Philippines.
We hope you will enjoy reading this spread of articles and that they will provoke new questions for you. Do send in your ideas, contributions, feedback and suggestions.
See you again in 2007!