A brand new 2017 is here and though the world is still tilted towards the Right, and the wars are still raging and Donald Trump will still be President of the most powerful nation on Earth (while we wait in line to withdraw Rs 2,000-notes we cannot use), today is the first day of the new year and we are filled with irrational optimism.So here are some things that I, a feminist, queer, single, ‘upper’ caste, urban woman hopes 2017 brings for all of us.
To party without prejudice
New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest party nights of the year and the day after is a blissful holiday that no one has any social obligations or peer pressure to celebrate – no pujas to perform early in the morning, no relatives to meet, no pressure to put on heels. Even your boss expects you to roll into office hungover. Sadly, not everyone is allowed to party where they want, even if they have the resources to do so.
Clubs, restaurants, in fact all public spaces can be an alienating space for queer people and especially queer couples. It can get very difficult to find a place where one can romance one’s partner without other people staring and asking uncomfortable questions. According to a recent report by DNA (Issue dated: 18.12.2016), high end clubs in Mumbai, Delhi and NCR had refused reservation for same-sex couples, before being publicly shamed into accepting them. So I hope 2017 see many more clubs, restaurants and parks and many less judgmental pairs of eyes where we can have fun, dance and romance.
A home of our own
Now many people just want to stay home and have their friends over, but have you tried that in a place you rent in Mumbai? It’s harder for a single person (of any gender) to find a good rental place in the city than it is to find alcohol in Gujarat.
If one is single (‘Bachelor’ as housing societies like to call us), gender queer and has the odd practice of having joyous friends over, it a freeway to frequent homelessness. Often housing societies place so many unnecessary restrictions (‘No male family members allowed’, really?) on tenants that it is almost impossible to live without breaking a few rules. A recent documentary by Shikha Makan, called ‘Bachelor girls’, covers the issues faced by single independent women trying to place a roof over their heads. The situation gets much worse with each axis of marginalisation.
So may the All-Merciful, Great Genderless Diety (AMGGD) of 2017 light joy in the hearts of the curmudgeons sitting on housing society boards and make them scrap their ‘No Bachelor’ policy.
And since we have AMGGD’s attention, we would also like stupid rules like: ‘No girls/boys Allowed’, ‘No drinking/smoking allowed’, ‘No pets allowed’ etc to be dropped too. Because the only rules in a home should be made by the person living there. And anyway, in case of damage, the landlord always has the security deposit.
Women flood the road
Speaking of living spaces, one of the best initiatives of 2016 was the Pinjra Tod: Break the Hostel Locks campaign, which revolted against sexist rules imposed on female students across universities in Delhi. It highlighted the restrictions borne by female students just to avail affordable university accommodations and gain an education. The curfew time for some hostels in the capital are so ridiculously early that the students have to sacrifice supplementary lectures and time in the library.
In 2017, I wish to see more women in India’s streets, parks, on public transport and wherever the heck they’d like to be. I wish the notion that “protection” equals “confinement” is dispelled.
No tension. Just travel
As we are wishing for freedom in public, we’d like safe and accessible public transport to get there, please. Every women strategises her moves when getting on a train, metro or in a cab; All senses are on alert for sexual harassment; and the potential of every fashion accessory – the handbag, the file, shoes – as a weapon is assessed. So the cheapest, most convenient mode of transport erodes a woman’s sense of well being every day. Cis men have no such equivalent experience in their daily lives. They don’t steel themselves when a male teenager wanders into their compartment; they are not alert to the cab driver needlessly adjusting his mirror. No one should be afraid of being pulled back by the collar while getting into a train compartment because they don’t “look like a girl/boy”. Not to mention the sheer humiliation of co-passengers laughing at one’s expense and helplessness.
2017, bring us more dignity for gender benders in public transport. Let them not be afraid of what could happen when a mob of people decide they don’t want you in their compartment.
The safety to marry my sweetie
In 2017, will we still believe in inter-breeding within our caste, sect and religion? Will we believe that men don’t play with dolls and women can’t have short hair and love another woman? Are we going to lynch people who marry people we don’t approve of? How 1817 of you, Bharat.
People have to fight legal battles to exercise their rights as independent individuals. Remember, Section 377 is constitutional and it criminalises sex between two consenting adults. Our laws also require the husband’s permission for a woman to have a hysterectomy!
Here’s wishing for good sense in 2017 for letting people conduct their lives as they see fit, as long as it doesn’t harm anybody.
(The author is a PhD scholar in Tata Institute of Social Sciences)