Though the Indian justice system has taken many progressive decisions over the years, the first thing that comes to mind for many is Section 377. The 2013 ruling of India's top court, squashing the Delhi High Court's verdict from a few years earlier legalising consensual homosexual relationships between adults, dealt a huge blow to the country's LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community, and raised a significant outcry. However, the issue here is not the Indian justice system, but the overly glorified culture of India. A few choices in India become taboo by default as they are deemed to tarnish the so-called beauty and purity of Indian culture.
Amidst all of this, it is extremely refreshing to see student bodies in universities all over the country being more and more accepting of the LGBT community. In a first, a lesbian candidate from Jadavpur University in Kolkata contested the Student Union Elections held in January. What stood out during the entire election process this year was the conscious effort to be accommodating of all, including the non-formative gender identities as well.
Asmita Sarkar is a member of the All India Students’ Association. She ran for the post of assistant general secretary at the Arts Faculty of the university.
Asmita Sarkar was born in Burdwan, Kolkata, and was mocked all through her life for her tomboyish attitude. She eventually decided to come out of the closet in her first year of college and told her parents. She was then subjected to a lot of discrimination by her acquaintances as well as teachers. Even her parents gave her a hard time as they were unable to accept Asmita's identity.
This never brought Asmita down, and she gradually fought against all tides to reach a place where she was not just comfortable, but also proud of who she is. While speaking with Youth Ki Awaaz, she said,
It is very important to come out of the closet because the society must learn that being a person who has a non-binary identity is nothing against nature.
Asmita is very aware of the stigma around homosexuality in India, and also has very strong opinions about the same. She told Youth Ki Awaaz in her conversation with them,
More often than not, people don’t accept that there is anything called homosexuality. It is almost like we don’t even belong in the same place; there is no place for the LGBT in Indian society. One needs to be taught about gender and sexuality from the primary level itself. The problem we are facing is that sex education in itself is a taboo in India.
Asmita strongly believes in making the university a more inclusive and safe space for all. She, along with her party, aims to bring about changes in the current scenario of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or identity. Though they did not win the elections, the party that has been elected also has a very similar ideology. It looks like Jadavpur University is heading in a positive direction.