ISHQ | Sex-work: Politics, Desires, Laws

Focussing on Shohini Ghosh’s documentary, Tales of the Night Fairies, our panel will discuss contemporary debates around sex-work, socio-political realities of engaging in sex-work in India, the fantasies that surround the issue of sex work, and our ability or inability to resist a moralistic attitude towards sex-workers.

[Panelists include: Gitanjali Babbar and sex-workers from a Delhi-based NGO, Kat-Katha; Ms. Bharati Dey (DMSC), Dr. Smarajit Jana (DMSC), Prof. Madhavi Menon (Ashoka University), Prof. Shohini Ghosh (JMI)]

Siddharth Narain | Privacy, Sexuality, and the Law

One of the criticisms of the Delhi High Court’s decision in Naz Foundation in 2009 on the constitutionality of section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (which was overturned by the Supreme Court in Suresh Kumar Koushal in 2013, and has now been challenged in a curative petition) is the framing of the privacy argument in the case. Critics have pointed out that Naz, while decriminalizing consensual sexual acts between LGBT persons, qualified this by the use of the term “in private”. This, they argue, privileged those who could afford to have their own homes and spaces, while leaving vulnerable those who depended on public spaces such as parks, who were most exposed to the threat of the law.

In this presentation, I will examine the contours of the privacy argument in Naz, in juxtaposition with other claims around privacy that are being debated today. By reading these claims together, I aim to piece together a more nuanced understanding of privacy that emerges, which remains relevant to today, irrespective of the outcome in Suresh Kumar Koushal.

Shohini Ghosh | Queer Enticements: Bombay Cinema’s Archive of Desire

Cinema archives not just the world that we see around us but the worlds of our dreams. Transformations in film narratives are shaped, among other factors, by cinema’s reciprocal relationship to the audience, who on their part, accept some images while rejecting others. An illustrated presentation, Queer Enticements will argue that the emergence of queerness in Bollywood follows from certain longstanding cinematic conventions wherein the implied eroticism of (seemingly) ordinary interactions unlock the doors to forbidden desires.

Sanjay Srivastava | Natives, Citizens, Consumers: On the Cultures of Masculinities, Sexualities, and Modernity

This talk will explore recent histories of masculine cultures in India. The discussion will proceed through outlining some specific sites where discourses of masculinities and sexualities have been produced, taking for granted the inextricable link between the two topics. Working its way through the colonial, the immediate post-colonial as well as the contemporary period, the talk will end with a discussion of ‘Modi-masculinity’. Through tracking narratives of Indian modernity that draw upon diverse contexts — such as colonial discourses about natives, 

‘nationalist’ sexology and post-colonial discourses of economic planning, ‘liberalization’ and consumerism –the talk will explore the multiple locations of masculinities and sexualities. Further, the exploration of relationships between economic, political and social contexts also seeks to blur the boundaries between them, thereby initiating a methodological dialogue regarding the study of gender and sexualities.

Bittu | The ease of gender transitions in fish and queer sex in slugs: lessons for the queer movement.

Gender transitions and queer sex are generally regarded as odd, bizarre, unnatural expressions of human behaviour – a uniquely twisted landscape of expression that escape a simplistic understanding of animal evolution. This talk will delve into the fantastic world of queer sex, non-procreational sex, and gender transitions in the non-human living world, to give us insights into how limited our understanding of sex is when we are constrained by the human framework of behaviour, and how much more we are limited by a moralistic, unscientific understanding of sex. We will end with lessons for what calls itself the “queer” or “LGBTQ” movement in India and the world.