Earlier this month, rumors surfaced on Twitter about Ali Sethi, one of South Asia’s most reputed musicians and the man who brought ghazal to contemporary times was said to have supposedly married Salman Toor, an American artist of Pakistani origin. While both have been highly praised for their work, it seems as though simply rumors of their union (which have been refuted by Sethi) spurned South Asian masses against the two artists, which brings into question of how we can continue our formation of new traditions, if we deny such cultural icons the opportunity to be themselves and therefore, fully realize the true capabilities of their art.

 Toor is a famous Pakistani artist, credited for his depiction of male homosexuality and intimacy in his artworks, with his most famous exhibit being “No Ordinary Love.” The solo exhibition attempts to capture brown men in scenarios of comfort, where they have regained autonomy over their queer identities and can shape the narrative surrounding their sexuality, something which Toor was deprived of during his childhood back in Pakistan. His paintings also question the colonizers’ lens and point of view.

By creating private, deeply comfortable spaces, I hope to give dignity and safety to the boys in my paintings. Somehow, this also makes me feel safe and comfortable, solidifying my context in this culture as a queer man from a Muslim cultural background.” – Salman Toor in an interview with Design Pataki.

Sethi, on the other hand, is one of Pakistan’s only openly queer public figures and has been credited for reviving the ghazal and making it relevant in modern times. His most recent global sensation, Pasoori has also said to subliminally underline fluidity and redefinition of gender identity and the freedom to love who one’s heart desires. The song, which mixes Turkic and South Asian elements, poses a certain duality given the Punjabi lyrics but it can be said that it speaks of the perseverance of love in the face of adversity. Sethi’s use of Sufi motifs, which are notoriously and conveniently ambiguous, allow for the expression of homosexual love, something seen in Sethi’s previous works like Rung. The juxtaposition of traditional garb with bright eclectic colors all through the music video can also be indicative of a mixture of tradition and modernity.

One would think that the peoples’ love for these two artists would transcend such regressive beliefs but mere rumors for their marriage sparked conflict on social media. Accusations of violating Islamic beliefs, derogatory memes, and calls for boycotting Sethi’s performances by his fans ran rampant on Twitter.

This incident brings into question the place of art in our community, and how we look at personal expression and its intersection with identity. If we cannot accept the two of our most loved artists, who’ve entered our homes and hearts through their music and art, who’ve been sources of joy and entertainment, who’ve reinvented and preserved South Asian culture –  then what is the purpose of our traditional values?


Read also – https://dubeat.com/2023/07/03/saffronisation-of-cultural-expression/

Image credits – luhringaugustine.com


Chaharika Uppal

[email protected]


The possibility of a Gay Judge being appointed to the Delhi High Court is definitely a step forward but what does this mean in the larger context of legalization of civil union of same-sex marriages?

Saurabh Kirpal is still slated to be the first openly gay judge of the Delhi High Court. In a more perfect world, only his qualifications to be a judge would matter and be of any consequence to the nomination board making the decision and the larger body of jurisprudence Kirpal would be serving upon his nomination. His identity as a cis-gendered gay man should be incidental, something to be neither extraneously celebrated nor held against him. Yet it’s hard to deny the suspicion that his nomination, pending 2017, fell victim to his sexuality. It was deferred every year. The government denied the red flags had anything to do with his sexual orientation, and argued that the nomination was denied purely on grounds of security concerns which rose out of the Swiss nationality of Kirpa’s partner Nicolas Germain Bachmann. The concern, which is deeply ironic, also points out two major fallacies in the stance taken by the government.

The concern of a foreign national spouse has never been a cause of concern in the case of Dr. S. Jaishankar whose wife Kyoto Jaishankar is of Japanese nationality. Furthermore the acknowledgement of a national threat being posed by Kirpal’s partner is an inadvertent admission of the existence of a same-sex couples in the higher political echelons of the Indian bureaucracy – something that the government has otherwise been blind to in general as far as the larger public is concerned. It points out the hypocrisy of the stance which acknowledgement same-sex partnership only on grounds of security concerns but denied the possibility of the same when citizens use its existence as a legitimate ground to demand recognition of civil unions between same-sex partners.

In the month of October the Union has told the Court its stance on same-sex marriages by saying that it went against the foundational objective of marital unions – reproduction, which could only be possible if there was a marriage between a biological man and a woman. In the end of November, the same-sex marriage hearings came up before the Delhi High Court yet again and was dimsissed by the court. The petition seeking to legalise the civil union of same-sex partners had sought the same under the Hindu Marriage act, Special Marriage Act and the Foreign Marriage Act. The court argued saying that the same could not be granted under the Hindu marriage Act since same-sex partnership went against the precincts of Hinduism and a secualr state intervention in the issue of religion in a Hindu-majority population state would only be detrimental.

Some observers say India is lucky that it already has a Special Marriages Act that can be used to bypass issues of religion and could be a way to allow same-sex civil marriage. But the government has already made clear that just because homosexual sex was decriminalised it did not mean homosexuality and its anciliiary institutions were being legitimised, thereby keeping recognition of same-sex marraige off the table as far as the Centre was concerned. This brings to light a larger debate concerning the existence of freedoms for citizens without the right to act upon it. Currently owing to the historic decriminalisation of Section 377, homosexuality can no longer be punished by law. However the carrying out of any form of love, if desirous to be resultant in marriage, will not be recognised by the State on grounds of it harming the social fabric of the community at large. Furthermore, the non-existence of acknowledgement of civil unions denies same-sex partners rights to tools of public assistance such as insurance and property rights as well.

But as the case of Kirpal proves, these lines are trickier to navigate than we ever imagine. It was inevitable that the ball would not stop rolling at decriminalisation just because the government drew a line in the sand. Gay people cannot come out of the shadows yet leave their relationships in the closet. One could debate about whether marriage should be the top priority for the movement and whether the whole idea of trying benefits to marriage is outdated but it’s only natural that LGBTQ popeople would want the same rights as everyone else. In fact various trans-rights have criticised the decision to legalise marriage in an atmosphere where the discriminatory Trans Bill still holds sway over the populace as emblematic of the mainstream ueer movements repeated erasure of gender minorities and trans bodies in favour of cis-gendered, upper-class queer folks. Their primary critique being directed at the lawyer duo Arundhati Katju and her partner who have in many ways become the face of the liberation movement at large. While their advocacy intentions are never questioned their prominence as the face of the movement is repeatedly brought to question as they embody the centralisation of cis-gender upper class domination of queer discourses.

Currently the debate around marriage in India is wrapped around symbols and rituals. Does Dabur get to give a lesbian twist to Karva Chauth in an advertisement for skin bleaching products which have been at the receiving end of criticism for more than a year now following moves by brands like Fair and Lovely in changing well established marketing strategies? Can fashion designer Sabyasachi pair a mangalsutra, an ornament that is situated in a historicity of patriarchy and misogyny, with low necklines and suggestive intimacy following being heavily criticised for selling Indian artisanship to western corporate setups? What truly are the politics of a brand like Tanishq showing a Muslim family organising a traditional Hindu baby shower for their Hindu daughter-in-law in a country where the marketing head of the same company, which stands as one of the most reputed in its field, gets death threats on grounds of promoting love-jihaad?

The debate around such questions and scenarios can only be contemplated if one realises that the construction of marriage as a social document is not reductive to mere symbols – objective and metaphorical. Marriage is not only about bindis, mangalsutras and Karva Chauth but more about social acceptance and respectability and accessibility to public resources. Although gay weddings are the rage of the hour as clearly proven by the Telengana marriage reception, basic rights are still denied to same-sex partners. An event of heartbreaking magnitude can be traced back to the pandemic when an NRI married to an American same-sex partner was denied entry into India, although the same rule was relaxed for heterosexual couples of the same order.

As Sandip Ray puts succinctly in a Times Of India editorial with regard to the same,

In the end progress is about these boring things. The first openly gay judge on the Delhi High Court makes for a good news story and will be a point of inspiration for many. It is something to be welcomed but what LGBTQ Indians ultimately need are those joint bank accounts, the health insurance plans, joint custody of children and hospital visitation rights. Just like every other couple.”


Read Also
Section 377 – Has anything changed?
A Post-377 World: Is this really Freedom?


Anwesh Banerjee

[email protected]

This article traces the role of major corporations in navigating the changes that arose with the decriminalization of homosexuality. 

During the month of September in the University of Delhi, the rainbow flag’s ubiquity was evident in corporate advertisements, from billboards, to logos and tweets—all decorated with the rainbow symbol of defiance and acceptance. This raises questions about the role that these corporations played in a long-standing struggle, that is far from over?

With the scrapping of certain aspects of Section 377 of the Indian Constitution, came a wave of support from major corporations like Infosys, Google, Swiggy, Flipkart, Infosys, Uber, Ola, Google Pay, and IBM. In their fixtures and fittings, brands were adopting the rainbow sign as if it were ingrained in their social conscience. It was expected because legal recognition of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, Transgender (LGBTQ) community rendered them as potential consumers, and shocking because the corporations had nothing to do with the said movement and its struggles. The companies coming out in celebration of the landmark Supreme Court verdict is applaudable, but it begs an essential question, yet to be answered—does this support hold any intrinsic value or sincerity, post legal validation?

Swiggy’s celebratory poster said, “Its not been a piece of cake, but we made it”. This was perceived by some members of the LGBTQ community as trivialising their struggles by implying Swiggy’s participation in it. Companies that had no role to play in the rebellion or the anticipation that led upto the judgement, adopted pro-LGBTQ ideals as a marketing strategy immediately after the verdict. Multinational Companies (MNCs) such as Nike and Netflix are far more open to proactively hiring and representing LGBTQ people (to the point where, a movie about the coming out experience is a blasé concept) than home-grown companies which might take longer to adopt it in the same way. The Godrej Group is one of India’s very few corporates to have well-defined, pro-LGBTQ policies, including benefits for partners, irrespective of their gender.

Barring Godrej, status quo sees the fate of this community confined within the cloistered settings of apathetic or inefficient workplace policies. The Kochi Metro case is a typical example of an ostensibly noble intention frustrated by the bitter reality of public prejudice. A few years ago, Kochi Metro Rail Limited, appointed 23 transgender people in different positions in its workforce. In the first week of their jobs, eight out of the 23 trans people, all of whom were trans women, quit.

A report by the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A), titled “Inclusion in India Inc.” stated that as many as 98% of companies surveyed said that they have not taken any concrete steps to make their workplace LGBTQ friendly or actively hire people from the community. Corporate influence cannot be understated in a mixed economy like ours and important issues revolving around individual identity, discrimination and safety shouldn’t be reduced to Corporate Social Responsibility events, Non Government Organisation donations, or seasonal social media posts.


Feature Image Credits: Swiggy India on Twitter

Nikita Bhatia

[email protected] 

Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History edited by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai encompasses the literary history of homosexuality, ranging from Vedic ages to 2Ist Century in India. With the NDA government derecognising transgender persons as the ‘third gender’ in the country’s labour law framework, Trump signing a directive that bans military from recruiting transgenders, and India voting against the ban on death penalty for homosexuality in United Nations, it looks like the attainment of LGBT rights have a long way to go. This makes me wonder, had our administrators read Same-Sex Love in India, edited by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai, then we would not have had to see such policies being practiced. Edited by former lecturer and literature student of Miranda House Ruth Vanita, and activist-scholar Saleem Kidwai, this book has an array of writings on same-sex love picked up from over 2000 years of Indian literature. The book is divided into four parts. The first part deals with ‘Ancient Indian Materials’ coves Mahabharat, Jataka tales, and kamasutra. The second section caters to ‘Medieval Materials in the Sanskritic Tradition’ which talks about references to homosexuality in Puranas and folklore. The third section has ‘Medieval Materials in the Perso-Urdu Tradition’ that depicts homoerotic love expressed via gazals and Sufi traditions. The last and the longest, and perhaps the most interesting part, discusses the ‘Modern Indian Materials’. Here the subject goes from the letters of Amrita Shergill to Vikram Seth. The data on same-sex love in India is expansive and one can tell the meticulous level of research that must have been invested to put together as well as organise this anthology. Since many chapters are translations from more than a dozen languages and drawn from folk, Vedic, and Buddhist traditions, there is a well-explained introduction before all major chapters which contextualises the terms and subsequently makes it easier to understand the text. The book deals more with abstract love than with sex. The editors, Ruth Vanita resonates, “A passionate attachment between two persons, even between a man and a woman, may or may not be acted upon sexuality. For this reason, our title focuses on love, not sex.” Therefore, those looking for explicit mention of eroticism will be disappointed. Some people may even claim that devotional love, that is an intrinsic component of Sufi-Bhakti traditions, is being misinterpreted as homosexual romance. Overall, for a gender studies student, activists, and for those interested in queer history this book is a must-read.   Feature Image Credits: Palgrave Macmillan Niharika Dabral [email protected]]]>

The Prayogshala Theatre Group performed their first play Kathakaar in The Attic, Connaught Place. Their first project was a huge hit among the audience and garnered rave review.  This play was a collaboration of alumnae and members of Natuve – Theatre society of Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, Deshbandhu Dramatics Society, Memesis – Theatre society of Daulat Ram College, Manchtantra -Theatre society of SGGS and Anubhuti Streetplay society of JDMC.

The play Kathakaar presented the relationship between Kanhaiya and Rishi, and how they struggled with their respective homosexual identities. The character of Rishi struggles with his love for Kanhaiya and his homosexual identity. Kapil Sian as Rishi does an astounding job to bring out the perplexities of his character and leaves the audience wanting for more. The play quickly takes many interesting turns as the audience soon discover that Kanhaiya suffers from a split personality syndrome.The play manages to leave the audience intrigued in the backdrop of murder and dual personality of Kanhaiya. Akshat Chauhan pulls off the character of Kanhaiya or Krishna splendidly, and deserves appreciation for his portrayal.

The play is written and directed by Akshat Chauhan. The script is crisp and deals with the romantic  homosexual relationship between Kanhaiya and Rishi quite delicately and maturely. Kathakaar; as an experimental and intimate theatrical play, does an exceptional job. The director utilised the performance space brilliantly and left no stone unturned in leaving a lasting impression on the minds of people.

There were only a handful people and both, the audience and the actors occupied the same space. A makeshift stage was set up and the ambiance was cosy, warm and relaxed. The dynamics between the audience and the actors was considerably different because of the form of the play.  The audience was as involved as the actors in the performance.

Nimish Nanda, Anisha Baura, and Anshul Mahindru as supporting cast members revved up the energy up of the play with their exceptional acting and deep portrayal of their characters.  The lights by Prashant Ved and sounds by Jyotish Dhanwani and Chavi Sagar left a mark.

Kathakaar tries to bring the issue of homosexuality to the forefront with the sensitiveness that it requires. The relationship dynamics between Kanhaiya and Rishi is explored wonderfully. The play was appreciate by the audience and had two successful shows one after another.

This effort definitely deserves praise as the chemistry between every member was palpable, and the dedication of every member to make this show a success could be seen in every scene of the play.


Feature Image credits:DU Beat

Anukriti Mishra

[email protected]m

The Delhi University Community Radio (DUCR), in association with Sana Fatima, a second year Masters in Social Work student hosted ‘Manzoori’ in a bid to sensitise people on the idea of homosexuality on 6th May, 2016. The primary motive, as in words of Sana Fatima, is to increase the acceptance level towards the LGBT & MSM community.

The program aimed to focus on all aspects of life: the social stigmas homosexuals and transgenders face, economic and financial issues they are forced to battle, their standard of living and health and the big question mark associated with Article 377.

Sana Fatima approached Mr. R. K. Singh, spokesperson of the Department of Social Work of Delhi University after the proposal of such a radio show got approved with the organisation she was associated to for social work. Researching for the show, she interviewed some gays and transgenders from the organisation she was a part of, read articles and journals on the atrocities faced by the LGBT community in this country and followed TV shows like ‘Zindagi Live’ and ‘Satyamev Jayate’ to gain more insight on homosexuality.

“Being a social work student I felt I should make use of every opportunity which is available to me. Indeed homosexuality is a very controversial topic, but that doesn’t call for ignoring it.”, Sana said. After thorough research, Sana, Mr. Singh and two volunteers from DUCR, Ms. Alisha and Ms. Saniya started recording for their program which was titled ‘Manzoori’ that hints at their crusade towards acceptance.

Along with sharing real life incidences and experiences, the program also hosted a few volunteers, working for the rights of the LGBT Community and a few doctors and lawyers for covering the health and legal aspects of such individuals’ lives.

“All we need to do is give ourselves time to get in terms with homosexuality, but do not name it as a disease or something abnormal, because it’s something as natural as heterosexuality. It’s just that homosexuals are in minorities, but we shouldn’t forget that minorities are very much a part of our country and society.”, Sana added.

The program aims to face every challenge posed by the existing regressive ideology of this country head on and the volunteers are motivated to eradicate the idea of ‘homosexuality’ as being something that’s abnormal or not human. They also question the lags and callous attitude of the Indian Judiciary towards section 377 due to which sexual minorities have faced endless violence and marginalisation. They aim to make their voices heard, infuse the idea of how homosexuality has been a part of the society ever since its existence and emphasise on the dire need of having policies for the upliftment of sexual minorities, so that their education, health and employment aspect is not ignored.


With Inputs from Sana Fatima

Image Credits: theodysseyonline.com

Arushi Pathak
[email protected]

The debate surrounding freedom of expression in India turned a deeper hue of red when a performance by the dramatics society of Shaheed Rajguru College of Applied Sciences For Women, Mukhauta, at The Great India Place, Noida, was interrupted by the mall authorities on March 1. The play, which was being performed as part of Manthan 2016, the Annual Dramatics festival of Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies, was stopped by the coordinators after being pressurized by mall authorities claiming that the play titled ‘Voices.Choices’ about homosexuality dealt with too sensitive and controversial an issue. Another major concern for the authorities was the image of the mall. Following the rift at Jawarhalal Nehru University, the authorities did not want to get involved in any controversies and put the image in a spot and decided to stop the play being performed in the mall premises.

The students of the dramatics society were understandably gutted after the incident, sharing their thoughts through a Facebook status that said,

[quote] “This is with regret that we announce that our play, ‘Voices.Choices.’ was interrupted midway, by the authorities of GIP Mall during our performance at Manthan Mahotsav.
The coordinators stepped in our ongoing performance, on being pressurized by the authorities and stopped our instrumentalists, for the authorities felt ‘discomfort’ with a ‘sensitive’ issue like homosexuality, which shouldn’t be the subject of a play meant for the commonwealth.
This sort of behaviour was sad rather disappointing, since neither the coordinators nor the hosting venue played along. The reaction simply demonstrates the tendency of the so-called vocal powers to get away from any sort of ‘controversies’.
The incident puts us in a position where we question, for how long will the street plays remain prohibited from the streets ?
However, our message will stay as solid as the wall of numbness in the minds of the intolerant.
It’s a choice of love, and we voice it.” [/quote]

The mall authorities were informed about the performance with details about the play in advance. A report was submitted and the organising committee was granted permission for the event said Chhavi, a member of Manthan 2016 OC. The matter was resolved by compensating the society by arranging another performance by them.
The incident, along with many others happening in the country today, prove that Manthan’s unique concept of reaching out to a large audience with the plays by using roadside stops, NGO’s, malls, parks etc. as venues is only as effective as the society’s perception of “non- controversial” topics.


Photo from the Facebook page of Mukhauta.

Indraprastha College for Women organised a lecture on homosexuality recently which welcomed participants in huge numbers, including students from Miranda House and LSR. The Gender Sensitisation Committee in association with the Women Development Cell of the college invited speakers Dr. Akhil Katyal and Angana Sinha Ray to address students on the idea of visually defining homosexuals.

The talk began with a presentation by Dr. Akhil Katyal where he discussed the “roles protocols” that the society uses to recognize homosexuals.The idea he described was to visually apprehend and identify the homosexuals, thereby distinguishing them from the rest of the people. He established his point by drawing parallels from the contemporary world and elaborating the foundations of such judgements in the history of popular culture. He concluded his talk by debating the rationality of people in Law and Medical designing prototypes of a homosexual lifestyle and how the overarching moral code of our society still dictates our ideas of homosexuality.

The point was further elaborated by Miss. Angana, who is pursuing her final year of studies in Sociology from LSR. She opened her talk by discussing how the terms used to describe homosexuals are clinical and how India inherited this notion from the West. She describes how the society wishes to fit all its members into the normative design of this identity. It’s rare to grow up in an environment with representatives of the LGBTQ community and even rarer to see homosexuality portrayed on media screens in a tasteful manner. Owing in no small part of this, it has proven difficult to talk about homosexuality without the stereotypes attached to the concept. It is these stereotypes that form the foundations for visually configuring the homosexuals.

The discussion inspired several questions, a few of which dealt with the the effects and repercussions of this idea of visuality, the idea that the queer are distinguishable in their body language and intimate traits and can thus be seen as being different from the rest. While in reality, they are identical to the common populace and hence cannot really be “seen” as different from their peers. Not only does this divide needs policing but it’s time the society shed off the historically construed concept of a homosexual’s identity.

Feature image credits: Akshita Rawat

Surbhi Arora
[email protected]

Hello, Amma! I am a guy and I am in a relationship with another guy for the last one year. Things were well till he recently told me he hooked up with a girl when he went to Goa with his friends a month back. He said he liked it a lot and now he thinks he might be bisexual instead. Is this his way of suddenly realizing he is straight actually? Or am I over thinking? Help!

Aiyyo! Macchi, I know this must be really confusing for you. Our world is such a cruel place anyway for lovebirds like you and your cherukkan.  The only men who ever rejected Amma’s offers were those of the ‘happy’ types and Amma still lusts over them. But you did not write to know about that (or did you? *winks*).

See my vaazha koombu, sexuality is a spectrum and not something that is necessarily static. In my expert opinion, most people never realise their true potential and so remain inside the boxes they have discovered for themselves. But a lot of people do play around the court. Amma did and still yearns for some vadas at times. Your boy did the same too. People cannot ‘change’ their sexuality and your cherukkan maybe just realized something which was the reality all along!

Even if your boy is into both dosas and vadas, it still does not mean that he does not love you! If he did not then he would not have been with you. His heart and his dosa are different from each other. He just realised that his tastes are more varied than what he thought before. Actually, going by your less-than-outraged reaction to his hookup, Amma suggests popping in a vada from time to time in your play times to make things a little spicier. Because having idlis with sambhar everytime is okay but with rasam even better.  😉