After its revolutionary move to introduce the third gender in its application forms in March this year, Panjab University took another progressive step in taking the conversation around LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) issues on to a more visible platform.
The Centre for Human Rights and Duties organised a film festival, in collaboration with KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival and Chandigarh-based NGO Saksham, on Tuesday to raise awareness.
These films screened under the title ‘KASHISH Forward’ were selected by LGBT filmmaker Sridhar Rangayan of ‘Purple Skies’ fame, who started KASHISH in 2010, mainly to bring issues faced by the community into mainstream.
“Our main motive was to bring such cinema on the big screen so that it reached everyone. In Mumbai, we are happy to say that at least 30% of the audience are not from the LGBTQ community,” said Rangayan. He said ‘KASHISH Forward’ was an initiative to reach out to youngsters to escalate the dialogue around gender identity and empowerment.
Renowned lawyer and activist Aditya Bandyopadhyay, an expert on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, talked about how the law criminalised a person for something they had no control over.
“Homosexuality has been documented in our cultural history. The British came to India and imposed their religious values on our culture. If this has been around in the past, then we must analyse how our mindsets have changed leading us to term this as a ‘modern perversion’,” he said.
Bandyopadhyay’s address was succeeded by the screening of seven award-winning Indian as well as international short films and documentaries on LGBTQ issues, mostly relating to gender identity and social acceptance, targeting the youth.
Notable among them was the short film ‘Identity’ starring transgender writer and activist Gazal Dhaliwal from Patiala, who talks about her soul-stirring journey of transforming into a girl and her parents’ support throughout, reducing the pain of social stigma and isolation usually faced by those who choose to “come out”. Other Indian films screened were ‘Tell Me A Story’, four short stories on identity, ‘A Love Such As This’ about acceptance by a mother of her gay son, and ‘Because…’ about pride march.
PU taking many initiatives
Panjab University, besides introducing the third gender in application forms, has also taken the initiative to build infrastructure such as separate toilets for transgenders. So are things looking up for the LGBTQ community in the academic scenario?
Namita Gupta, assistant professor at the Centre for Human Rights and Duties, said, “Though we have taken such steps, we still have a long way to go when people from the community will finally come out in the open to register in colleges and universities. They still face a lot of stigma. The change has to happen in schools where they can be conditioned in the right way to accept their identities.”
Talking about the scenario of LGBTQ rights in India as of today, Bandyopadhyay said, “I am very optimistic. At times I’ve felt frustrated. I question why am I doing this and for what. Will this hard work get me somewhere? But I know justice is on my side. So I’ve stopped giving it a time frame.”