I Talk, You Listen

I think everyone was worried. Nobody remembers a feminist gathering in which men have been invited but aren’t allowed to speak. There was apprehension among the organizers about male outrage at having to take a back seat, and about whether women would share their experiences in a public forum like this. Sexism in Leftist and Progressive Spaces, a dialogue held in Lahore at Books and Beans on Saturday, defied those expectations and proved itself to be both catharsis and galvinizer. Continue reading “I Talk, You Listen”

Lahori Grindr Boys Exposed

Over 250 men were exposed Wednesday on Instagram as Grindr users when an unknown person posted their pictures onto an Instagram account. The Instagram profile remained online for 5 days, despite scores of people reporting it as bullying and harassment. It took backchannel communications by multiple Pakistani queer activists in and outside the country to finally have it flagged and removed Monday morning Pakistan time.

The gay male community, which is most affected by this unconscionable outing, has been in increasing consternation and panic, as each attempt to have the profile removed was rebuffed. Over the 5 days, the pictures posted increased from 189 to 252, including some profiles that the gay community clearly identified as not gay and not from Grindr. Continue reading “Lahori Grindr Boys Exposed”

Rape and Victim Blaming in Mauritius

mauritius map

Rape is part of the lives of many and too often, victims think that they provoked it. Rape has been used as an ultimate form of violence against those that were physically frail. There is this concept that rape is somehow the victim’s fault. I have heard so many times imams blaming short skirts and skimpy dresses as a cause of rape. Women seem to be objects of desire, they provoke men and must feel ashamed of it. The honour of families depends on the daughter’s behaviour. Continue reading “Rape and Victim Blaming in Mauritius”



I am tired of being mistress and a diva in closed doors,
I want you to take me out and tell the world,
that I belong to you.
Own me, the way you picked me up from road.
fearless and bold!



My role in bed is my choice, not your demand.
So don’t think,
I am entertaining you.
It’s you who needs me and rely on me.
I can leave,
I want.



You said you have arranged a place,
an opulent room for just two of us.
I won’t mind,
being close with you.
But last time I checked
you said
you love me.

Transnational South Asian Sexualities: Drag and Performance in London

I first encountered drag in Bollywood films in the late 90’s (Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, Dulhan Hum Le jayenge etc). At that point I never really thought much about the complexities that exist within female impersonation. Used as a form of entertainment in popular culture, drag artists were usually assayed by male “character actors” of Bollywood (with the exception of some like Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Hassan and a few others). My first encounter with drag was in a racy, appealing way in my fifth or sixth year in school, when I was asked to perform as Rekha, the legendary actress who is also a popular gay icon. For me, that moment where I transgressed my gender boundaries by donning a sari remains a defining moment. One of my distant memories of that performance was this huge laughter from the audience when I walked on to stage. In a flash, the idea that a man impersonating a woman is a social embarrassment was made obvious to my young self. Continue reading “Transnational South Asian Sexualities: Drag and Performance in London”

Police Brutality from Margins to Centre

November 26, 2010. It was Amir’s birthday, an annual function that is celebrated by most Eunuchs. The police illegally raided the occasion based on reports that drugs and alcohol were being consumed behind closed doors. The police arrested most of the people at the party as well as Amir. While the police were transporting them, Amir in fear of polices reprisal tried to escape and jumped of the police van. The Khwajasara community alleges that he was shot at by the police and this caused his death while the police allege that he jumped off the van and hit his head upon the pavement that caused his death. Either way, there was no autopsy to determine the cause of death, so it will remain a mystery. Continue reading “Police Brutality from Margins to Centre”

Walking the Line

Every society is an accumulation of certain norms and belief systems which define and establish the standard operating procedures by which it functions. However, the basic difference lies in the nature of the society: traditional cultures have relatively rigid, conservative and holistic approaches towards social institutions and liberal cultures are more open, liberal and individualistic in nature. Therefore, gender roles are more fluid and less conventional in liberal cultures unlike traditional cultures that have more stringent gender role divisions with fixed gender types pertaining to what it means to be masculine or feminine. Continue reading “Walking the Line”

*Gasp!* Premarital Sex!

This article has been extracted from a blog I recently started, ‘Nice Mangos’. The blog deals with different aspects of Pakistani sexuality and the difficulties I as a writer have had, trying to convince people to talk to me about this unreasonably taboo subject. Nothing good can come from being so tight lipped about our sexuality, we need to open up, discover, speak and air out a whack-load of issues. I conducted these interviews several years ago during a not-so-brief stay in Pakistan…

Honestly, I don’t believe that most people in the world wait until they’re married to have sex. But many Pakistanis will tell you otherwise. And since, by this time, even more people have refused to do an interview with me, I’m getting a smaller slice of the Pakistani pie than before. So really, I now have access to less than a handful of people within a very limited age range because people outside of that age range are either too old fashioned to talk about sex, or too young to be asked about sex.

Not ideal conditions at all… Continue reading “*Gasp!* Premarital Sex!”

Can We Be Sexually Diverse in Bangladesh?

Define yourself sexually.

Pinpoint the first time you became aware of your sexual organs.

Share when you became cognisant of being a different gender from others.

Those were the provoking, intimate, and self-analysing questions and exercises asked to the participants at a recent gender, sexuality, and sexual rights workshop. These inquiries engaged the participants to comprehend, de-construct and re-construct the social definitions of gender and sexuality imposed upon them.

Continue reading “Can We Be Sexually Diverse in Bangladesh?”

Hijra, Marriage and the Law

On 24 May, 2010, in Peshawar, Rani, Malik and 45 other people were arrested for holding a wedding ceremony. Rani is a known Hijra (third gender/trans woman) while Malik is a cisgender man who also had two previous marriages. Both Rani and other prominent members of the Hijra community denied the fact that a wedding ceremony was taking place, and said that the function was in fact a “salgirah” which is an annual function that is celebrated by a Hijra or Zanana where other members of the community are also invited.

The police’s story is that station house officer Shahzad, while on patrol in the area, received information that a wedding ceremony was taking place between a Hijra and a man. On receiving this information he raided Rani and Malik’s residence along with other police officers and arrested Rani, Malik and all the guests present there. They also took into custody the clothes belonging to both Rani and Malik, musical instruments found at the scene and other items including a Kalashnikov. Continue reading “Hijra, Marriage and the Law”

Ins Kromminga: A Conversation

Below are excerpts from an interview I did in November, 2009, with a fascinating artist and activist, Ins Kromminga, who initiated a process in me, simple and obvious, and yet complicated and hardly ever embarked upon vis-à-vis the politics of gender and sexuality. Ins has challenged the routine of the politics we engage in and the worldview we sometimes unintentionally take for granted and thus make static.

Ins Kromminga was the guest artist at the Nigah Queer fest ’09. The fest, which has partially collaborated with the Max Mueller Bhavan, New Delhi, for the past two years has invited one artist from Germany each year. Ins Kromminga is an artist and activist who works on a range of issues concerning intersex persons. He/She is the German spokesperson for the Organisation of Intersex International. I whisked him/her away for a while during the Nigah picnic, at Nehru Park in Delhi, the closing event of the fest this year. Below are Kromminga’s opinions on intersex persons’ issues and the role of art in the same.

Ponni Arasu: What is “intersex”?

Ins Kromminga: I will try and explain this complex aspect in as simple a form as possible. It is a form of bodily reality where a person’s body integrates parts that are usually considered to be “female” and “male”. This can be at multiple levels. It can be in the genitalia, chromosomes, and the genetic system on the whole and so on. There are many variations in this continuum. Medical science has identified eight categories to determine any human being’s sex and all persons have to fit within these to make a clear-cut call on a person’s gender. Continue reading “Ins Kromminga: A Conversation”

A Gay of No Importance

It has been an audacious and difficult decision for me to finally come out and accept my gaiety. Coming out has seemed like deliverance from my every sin, for which I will be pardoned and will start living happily hereafter.

But I forgot that life isn’t a fairy tale with a King Midas with a golden touch or a magical kiss which can transform a toad into a handsome prince. I used to think that my perennial tears for being unaccepted and unloved would be gone as my queer folks will take me in with arms wide open. But it turned out to be a different story. I was unaware that my gaiety has to go through a lot of litmus tests before I could be certified as an Authentically Valid Gay. Continue reading “A Gay of No Importance”

Transformation, Emancipation

On July 2nd, 2009, the Delhi High Court ruled that the law outlawing homosexual acts was discriminatory and a “violation of fundamental rights.” The ruling overturns a 148-year-old colonial law, which describes a same-sex relationship as an “unnatural offence.” The recent ruling decriminalising homosexuality in India, being touted as India’s Stonewall, is generating debate and controversy. This ruling comes at a time when there is much unrest and agitation around the notorious Proposition 81 and other lesser-known rulings around hate crimes and non-discrimination acts and marriage rights.

A piece of legislation insofar as it remains encoded in legality is not of much use. Granted, it provides recourse to law and aims to safeguard rights and protect from vulnerability those whose rights have been dispossessed. In this case, homosexuals and transgendered peoples, who have been Other-ed by the draconian laws written into existence by bigotry and privileged intolerance. Securing human rights, however, remains a process. New rulings and laws must be accompanied by social campaigns that must explain and create acceptance and understanding around new unprecedented pieces of legislation. The judicial framework even remains inaccessible to many. How can this ruling be extended beyond red tape bureaucracy and provide a real solution to the queers and non-straight-identifying people of India? Continue reading “Transformation, Emancipation”