A brief note on the Indian Supreme Court’s recognition of transgender rights

Trans Indians celebrate after the Supreme Court's landmark verdict. Photo via MSNBC.
Trans Indians celebrate after the Supreme Court’s landmark verdict. Photo via MSNBC.

After the Indian Supreme Court’s historic ruling to recognize the legal and constitutional rights of transgender citizens, I noticed many people express surprise at the fact that this comes not too long after the same court upheld a colonial-era law making homosexuality a crime. In the United States, at least, social acceptance of the L, G, and B in ‘LGBT’ has generally preceded that of trans individuals, and we take it for granted that justice progresses in this order (and that such justice is linear). I think that underneath the surprise at witnessing the inverse in India lies an assumption that Western gender structures are universal; besides this basic misunderstanding, a knowledge of colonization’s pervasive impact on regimes of gender and sexuality in colonized lands could also lead one to believe that such structures in the Indian subcontinent would more closely follow Western ones (the anti-gay law was an artifact of the British colonial system, after all). However, non-binary gender has already been recognized by the governments of Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal as well, while homosexuality is illegal in all but the last. Although ideals enshrined in law do not necessarily always reflect the views of society or the reality of marginalized groups’ experiences, from these facts we can sense that gender and sexuality may be approached quite differently throughout South Asia as compared to Western societies.

When I heard about the ruling in India and how these rights would not be extended to gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, I was reminded of something I learned not long ago about another country we know to be regressive on the issue—Iran.

Continue reading A brief note on the Indian Supreme Court’s recognition of transgender rights

Ibrahim Project, June 9: Dimensions of old & new Dubai

← Previous: Ibrahim Project, June 8: Sociopolitics during an excursion to Abu Dhabi

This is part of a series of posts on my participation in the Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue Project during June 2012.

This is an especially long post on an especially packed day, so here are some internal links if you want to navigate quickly to a specific section: (1) Tour of al Bastakiya village (2) The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (3) “Little India” at the Dubai souq (4) The pride of Dubai (5) One more mall & final reflections

Tour of al Bastakiya village

Our exploration of Dubai started in a traditional community that seemed out of place among the surrounding fast cars and glittering skyscrapers. This was al Bastakiya, one of Dubai’s oldest villages that has managed to preserve itself in the face of industrial expansion and development.

Continue reading Ibrahim Project, June 9: Dimensions of old & new Dubai