Dear friends,We bring to you this double issue of SCRIPTS on a more solemn note this time. The latter half of 1998 and the beginning of 1999 have coalesced into a very eventful year for all of us. It has been a time for sadness and despair and also for great joy, hope and above all movement. We would like to take this space to share with you what has been and where we feel we need to go.
Yet another lesbian suicide came to light, the film Fire was released, vandalised and shut down, was re-released following protests all over the country, the Campaign for Lesbian Rights was formed in Delhi, Calcutta dykes started their own group, and two important books were published.
What happened around Fire was the most astounding of all. That the Shiv Sena would find it threatening and would try to stop the screening was expected. That they took three weeks to do so was a bit strange. Perhaps it took them all that while to figure out that “if women start satisfying each other then who will marry? What will happen to the family?” (This is not the place to quibble about our various notions of family, and then who are we to dissuade them of their fragile notions?). perhaps it was the theatres full of women watching the film that triggered this reaction. Whatever it was, they felt the threat fully and responded in their usual thuggish fashion.
But something went wrong. Or, if you look at it from our POV, the moment was, do forgive this cool-ism, “happening”. Or maybe it was just another face of the contradiction that is this country. On an issue where we had not expected our compatriots to be liberal and oppose the fundamentalist rulers, the women and men of the country turned around, and in unafraid voices, protested the high-handedness of the Shiv Sena. Perhaps it was just full up with the diktats that we have had to live under and this attack on Fire happened when what everyone needed was a release valve. Whatever it be, what remains with us is that the people who make this democratic nation voiced their support for the film, their right to see it, and then many went out of their way to comment on the lesbian theme and assert that we have a right to live as we choose and love who we choose.
We may sit and worry about the terrible state of affairs where we even need an assertion like the above; where you wonder whether they were only supporting “their” right to view a film without someone else mailing the choice for them, or if they were really supporting “our” right to our lives; where we have second thoughts whether in the action and the support that followed, lesbian existence hid out under the cover of “freedom to expression”; whether tolerance can ever lead to acceptance...
Whatever the case may be, each time we hear some support, direct or oblique, from another unexpected quarter, we have to acknowledge the fact that in a country where women as sexual objects are the rule and sexual beings a rarity, where lesbian existence is invisible and silent, where couples still see suicide as the only way to be together, in such an environment a positive country-wide acknowledgement of women who love women, is a big event. We should probably be sending thank you notes to the Shiv Sena of making our task of visibilising our lives easier. At least our existence is no longer under question.We at Stree Sangam believe this is barely a beginning, but the stage is set. It is for us now to take off from here towards a positive and dynamic discussion amongst ourselves, and with different people and organisations. And that too is happening. In the various protests that followed the acts of the Shiv Sena many human rights and other progressive organisations, who had hitherto been silent of les-bi-gay issues, came forward to support our rights.
The formation of the Campaign for Lesbian Rights in Delhi and the group formed in Calcutta for support, network, counselling and organising for lesbians are very positive events of the last few months. Since last year there has been a helpline for lesbian-bisexual women in Delhi. A few women are planning for one soon in Bombay.
But these efforts barely cover the metros of the country. We are everywhere. And so often, so unnecessarily, we are alone and silent. Visibility is not just coming out to the world. Visibility is connection. Visibility is our words, our expressions of our love and lives.
And so far as words go, we would like to boast of two more events – the publications of Humjinsi: A Resource Book on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Rights in India edited by Bina Fernandez and Facing the Mirror: Lesbian Writing in India edited by Ashwini Sukthankar. Both these books came out in February 1999 and are recommended as a must reads to all of our readers. In any case, it is a doubly good thing for us at the editorial board as now we have plenty of Indian writing to “lift” from for issues of Scripts.
Meanwhile we, at Stree Sangam, received many letters and comments for the first issue of SCRIPTS, both positive and critical. May we complain, though, that the subscriptions and contributions have been very very slow in trickling in. We hope for a better response this time, in order to keep this publication alive!
Read on then, and as we fade gently away, fists pumping into the air to the tune of “staying alive” or some such anthem, we end with our usual exhortations to write, contribute, and send in the moolah.
Till dykedom come,
The editorial board.
Number 02 + 03
Editorial May 1999