From the Editor - Radhika Chandiraman
So many of us love and let go of each other. Because we cannot deal with the discrimination that comes with the loving. Love, also, like many other things in our lives, is regulated. This we know, and some of us experience it more than others. But do we know how far it extends, even apart from us? And, how much do we ourselves play into it?
And it’s not just with the loving and the sex – with whom, how – that discrimination comes. It comes also with the circumstances, for example, sex for money, or with how we can deal with the unwanted negative consequences of sex, for example, disclosing HIV status or dealing with an unwanted pregnancy.
For us to say ‘no more’ to the discriminations we suffer, we have to see our connections with others who we may not have considered to be ‘like us’. To open our eyes and see that discrimination has a common colour. It’s the colour that finds itself on all our palettes. Give it any name, it doesn’t matter. It’s the common colour of ‘I’m better than you are’ because I belong to this or that gender, class, caste, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or whatever.
We live in a world of difference, of diversity, of choices. And we need to figure out how we want to deal with it. Do we think about how discrimination happens in the lives of those ‘not like us’? Who are they? What are their problems? What do they suffer? Do we share common currency? Is there a way in which we can make alliances so that together we can make more real a world where we are all free? And, how do we make known the problems of those ‘like us’, whoever we might be? Do we exaggerate difference, dilute it, or speak of it in other ways?
In this part of the world, where so many of our countries have a colonial legacy, we fall into the easy habit of blaming all ills on ‘The West’ or on the much maligned Victorians. Hardly do we pause to consider whether our histories of discrimination and oppression go further back. In this time’s In Plainspeak, Mario D’Penha questions these ideas in the Issue in Focus. And Srilatha Batliwala takes us even further back in time on a fascinating journey to navigate the links between sexuality and (dis)empowerment in The Bigger Picture.
It is indeed a strange world that we live in. Instead of making for ourselves a world that is expansive, inclusive and enriching, for all and not just for a privileged few, we seem not to have learned from the lessons of the past or even those staring us in the face today. We seem not to have learned that criminalising something only pushes it deeper underground, be it abortion, same-sex desire, or sex work. We see in Did You Know? that we still have laws against abortion in most of the countries in South and Southeast Asia, resulting in booming business for backstreet abortion clinics and a large number of women dying because they have no access to legal and safe abortions. Campaign Spotlight focuses the beam on the problems with the current amendments sought in the law that will affect the lives and livelihoods of sex workers. See images of strength, solidarity and diversity in Brushstrokes of sex workers proudly demanding their rights. And, speaking of the law, the State of Goa in India, is currently seeking to make HIV testing mandatory at the time of marriage. Shades of Grey discusses this from two different angles.
In this time’s Interview you will hear from Ging Cristobal about the steps used by a lesbian group in the Philippines in the dance of forming alliances. You will also read about a new film, Sancharram – The Journey, and about Julia Suryakusuma’s latest book where she explores ideas of sexuality, power and the nation. All very different ideas.
When you are done reading this issue of In Plainspeak, pause for a moment to consider how these seemingly disparate issues connect. And how though some of them might feel far away from our lives, they do indeed affect us all in this intricate web of living, loving, having or not having sex, and (mis)using the powers we all possess. We hope In Plainspeak will provoke you to think more critically about and move towards creating a world that affirms our lives and our sexuality.
And, as always, we welcome your ideas, contributions, feedback and suggestions.