What Does Freedom Mean to Queer People and Women as We Celebrate Another Independence Day?

 What Does Freedom Mean to Queer People and Women as We Celebrate Another Independence Day?

what does Freedom Mean to Queer People and Women_ichhori.webp

The Indian government is commemorating Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, which marks 75 years since the nation gained its independence from the Crown. Are our homes secure enough for the residents of our own country as we work to create "Har Ghar Tiranga"? Are India's children who live in freedom safe on the streets?

Giving a flag to every home is undoubtedly a top priority in developing the reputation of a country where even the lions of the Ashoka Pillar are in need. Let's visit the aforementioned homes and explore the streets of this strong nation to learn what freedom means to cis-women and other gender and sexual minorities there.

In the "Women, Peace and Security Index 2021," India came in at number 148 out of 170 countries. According to the fifth wave of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), 30% of Indian women between the ages of 15 and 49 had been victims of physical, sexual, or domestic violence. The 76th anniversary of India's independence is celebrated just a few days after Raksha Bandhan, a celebration honouring "men saviours" who promise to defend their sisters. What precisely are we terrified of, then?

The National Centre for Biological Sciences student Nisha describes herself as a queer woman. Men are the main source of dread, whether they are alone or in groups, she asserts. especially if they seem inebriated. At Jamia Milia Islamia, a master's student Stephy Stephen shares the same phobia: "Men. My biggest fear is men in general. Additionally, I only ever dread sexual or physical assault and never theft or other types of crimes.

The arms of justice are lengthy and all-encompassing, but not any longer than the flying elbows on Indian public transportation. Kanoon ke haath lambe hain. Nisha responds to a question about using public transportation in India by saying, "I try to keep someone updated on where I am. To conceal my body from unwelcome touches, I raise my arm.

Ninety per cent of women and girls experience sexual harassment in public places, including bus stops and inside buses, according to a survey by the United Nations Development Fund (UNDF) and the Breakthrough Trust across six Indian states. In 11 cities, an Ola Mobility poll found that only 9% of women feel safe using public transportation. Almost no poll considers how gender minorities move about the city.

Being gender non-binary, Swarnendu publicly recounts their travel experience, saying, "I feel quite scared while travelling on public transportation because of all the staring and whatnot... I feel considerably safer when I present as a man than when I do so as a woman. I would have dressed quite differently than I do today if I had the freedom to do so.

This brings up the issue of the "cloth," which is the basis for public safety according to a sizable community of rape apologists. In this country, the difference of one inch in the fabric can mean "asking for it." When using the metro, Stephy, a frequent commuter, adds, "I always pack a jacket or shrug."

Any femme-expressing person growing up in India is aware that hiding that well-chosen outfit with a jacket or shawl is a common practice. It is a process of meticulously coordinating attire with social contexts, businesses, economic hierarchy, and other factors.

"If I'm going out in a fancy section of the city with a bunch of my buddies... I wouldn't feel awkward in a dress without sleeves. But I wouldn't do that if I were alone and in a neighbourhood that wasn't near a party or anything, says Shinjini, a gay person from Kolkata, about how simple looks may set off alarms and triggers. I've been receiving a lot of passive and occasionally overt contempt from strangers on the street lately, along with a lot of eve teasing and staring, which sometimes causes my panic-induced asthma to flare up and makes me feel incredibly small and terrified in public places.

In a free India, women and gay people are "free" to wear anything they like, but in the not-so-fine print, the nation absolves itself of responsibility for the results. They must make wise decisions on their own. "I can't just show up and be myself in public. Despite my rights, I don't have a lot of control over my decisions. Sreetama continues, "I have to be extremely strategic about where and how I open up.

According to the NFHS-5, 83% of married women under the age of 49 had experienced physical or sexual abuse at the hands of their spouses. One of the most frequent but suppressed or normalised kinds of gender-based violence has always been intimate violence.

Nisha describes her upbringing, saying, "I have never felt safe in my family, even though it appeared to be an upper-middle class metropolitan environment that was prosperous and forward-thinking. I have seen some senior family members physically abuse their romantic partners. As the public and private spheres were disorganised by the covid crisis, our houses were turned inside out. The number of reports of violence against intimate partners has skyrocketed.

In April 2020, one month into the lockdown, the National Commission for Women (NCW) reported 2.5 times rise in domestic violence complaints. A similar picture is reflected in Priyanshi Chauhan's study, which discovered that "about 22.5% of married women, as opposed to zero men and unmarried women, worked for more than 70 hours each week."

How are the independent women of India accessing the internet in the era of Digital India and the post-Covid online world? Indian women are leaving Facebook because they are "worried about their safety and privacy in the male-dominated social network," according to a Meta internal survey.

A prestigious educational institution in Kolkata exposed an infamous case of cyber freedom violation just one week ago. Personal photographs of a female professor were used against her, copies of which were widely disseminated, and she was humiliated for her attire. Even her resignation was coerced. Even if several survivor narratives have failed to remove predatory men from power positions at these campuses, women and queer people in this country are still restricted in their ability to self-advocate and express themselves.

Women are not even free to be themselves on the internet, Stephy says vehemently. Before posting or even sharing something, you have to consider ten different factors. From screen-grabbing without permission, unauthorised disclosure of personal data, trolling, extortion, and doxing, to unsolicited dick pictures... Although the list is lengthy and substantial, it is constantly on our minds as we browse the internet.

The most vulnerable victims of child sexual abuse material are young girls, which is another factor (CSAM). The online world cannot present itself as a free area for women and gay people to participate in until the real world becomes safer.

How free does this nation feel now that the wave of nationalism has become a continuous flow in politics? With her youthful insight, Sreetama muses, "A free country is one where everyone can express themselves freely, regardless of their identities, and not face violence for it. That is light years distant from our country.

We can only fully understand the significance of this Mahotsav when we pay attention to the voices that our culture frequently trivialises and ignores. The nation should reflect on what its citizens' experiences in the streets, homes, and public spaces have meant for them, as well as what autonomy and freedom mean to the country's women and LGBT people. The road to India's independence should be remembered rather than celebrated.

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