To be a woman in India is unfortunate. Here, sexual harassment and violence is an everyday reality. Chances of escaping patriarchal establishments are narrow, and submission to power is often what most resort to. Being a queer woman in India is a crime. If the Indian constitution (Sec 377) itself rejects her existence, it is no wonder her family is more likely to do the same. And this non-acceptance manifests itself in many ways – through fear, anger, even hatred. Even though the family is the microcosm at the centre of the welfare of an individual in India.
On March 9th, Rashmi Rana’s father, Satish Kumar, filed an FIR against her daughter for murdering her mother, Pushpa Devi, in a fit of anger. She was in a relationship with another woman which the family disapproved of. She had eloped 7 months earlier and was brought back by the police after the family filed a false kidnapping case against her partner. Despite this, the couple continued their relationship. They were confronted by Rashmi’s mother. The confrontation, fuelled with breeding anger against the parent’s homophobia, ended in murder.
The media coverage of this incident has been cruel, to say the least, towards the queer community. Most of the stories exclude the harassment faced by the couple, painting them as ‘lesbian villains’, while they were once victims themselves. Rashmi, after confessing, told the police that her mother had tortured her a lot because of her relationship. The intention here is not to justify the horrific crime that murder is but to ask what led up to it. This, the media has not asked instead they narrated the incident as a lesbian crime. They portray the relationship as vulgar by repeatedly emphasizing on it being ‘lesbian’ and the partner being her ‘tuition teacher’. The loss here is not merely of a well-rounded story. The entire queer community suffers.
Much of the homophobic behaviour in India is because of the lack of acknowledgment of homosexuality. Many recent vox pop videos of people’s ideas on homosexuality and topic like equality of marriage in India provide a slice into the conversation around homosexuality. There is a large majority of people calling homosexuality a disease, a deranged need, a mental illness, and something only surrounding sex. Homosexual people are often then, not even portrayed as people. Most of the media portrayal of queer people have, in fact only been for the ‘dramatic’ element and ‘shock’ element surrounding the existence of queer people. In hindsight, lesbian people and lesbian relationships have been kept out of attention. Take for example, how people were frightened out of the theatre halls screening ‘Fire’, one of the first movies in India explicit in its depiction of a lesbian relationship. In this environment where there is little understanding of homosexuality, careless coverage of stories like this can lead to further harassment of the community.
Parenthood is a delicate undertaking. Being queer is also a delicate matter. It needs a little bit more of acceptance from family. Acceptance takes time, and at least the need to reach out for information to understand what the child is saying is definitely a necessity. For a lot of these children, this has been inaccessible and media is partly to blame for it. Misrepresentation of the queer community which already lacks representation can lead to the development of homophobic tendencies within families. Feeling trapped within one’s own identity can not only lead to violence but also depression and anxiety. And it is not just the child who suffers.
Until, the media gets over its obsession with clickbait titles and masala stories, the future of queer India is stuck on its tracks.