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Rainbow Designs: Using Architecture to Sensitize People for the Rights of LGBT Community

The sensitisation hub, shaped like a pizza slice, seeks to make the point that the environment can "remedy the shortcomings" of India's LGBT community

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The rainbow pride flag of the LGBT community. wikimedia
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  • 23-year-old Abhyam Shukla’s design of a sensitization centre for the community takes gender-tropes head on
  • Kolkata-based Shukla’s interest in designing the sensitization centre was triggered when a friend from the community committed suicide last year
  • Cities like Paris, Madrid and New York have hubs for the LGBT community and there is no reason why Indian cities should also not have umbrella centres

Kolkata, July 21, 2017: It’s shaped like a pizza slice and seeks to make the point that the environment can “remedy the shortcomings” of India’s LGBT community. Taking gender tropes head-on, 23-year-old Abhyam Shukla’s design of a sensitisation centre for the community, his undergraduate architectural thesis, makes it a dissertation with a difference.

Kolkata-based Shukla’s interest in designing the sensitisation centre was triggered when a friend from the community committed suicide last year.

“The idea came to me when a friend from Lucknow committed suicide and that’s when I realised how I could use architecture to benefit the community,” Shukla, who identifies himself as a bisexual, told IANS.

The Lady Ga Ga fan says the hub traverses the gray areas and eschews the binary perspective in architectural realms in the sense that it brings about a balance between masculine and feminine elements.

“In the last five years that I have studied architecture, I have been involved in theatre and making short films. So when I had to submit my thesis, I wanted to do something that had not been done by universities in India before,” Shukla explained.

Shukla, who has just concluded his B.Arch from Jadavpur University, says cities like Paris, Madrid and New York have hubs for the LGBT community and there is no reason why Indian cities should also not have umbrella centres.

Set in the satellite township of Rajarhat in northeastern fringes of Kolkata, the blueprint of the pizza-slice shaped, slightly dented triangular hub includes queer museum spaces, healthcare and housing plans amid a landscape replete with a “healthy mix of sharp angular edges as well as soft undulating curves”.

To shape his vision and to be fair to the community’s needs, Shukla conducted a survey of as many as 250 respondents from the LGBT community (15-25 year olds) spanning 24 states.

“I asked them if they would like such a centre in their city and I also asked them what functions they would like. Based on their feedback, I started my design,” said Shukla, for whom Danish architect Bjarke Bundgaard Ingels and India’s Charles Correa are inspirations.

A majority of respondents — when queried on how effective queer museums can be in educating society — backed the idea of queer libraries and museums in helping society draw inspiration from the past. Similarly, there was a thumping “yes” on the presence of judicial services and trauma cells for assisting the community in rehabilitative measures.

“What I wanted to do was to use the stereotypical notions of masculine and feminine and show the world the concept of a third gender. Nothing in the world is binary; there is a spectrum of gray. I tried to use the male form, the female form and then create a hybrid form. So my design has all the three mixed together to show that society is supposed to live like this,” he elaborated.

Some of the built spaces that were analysed by Shukla as case studies are the National Centre for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, the Welfare Centre for Children and Teenagers in Paris, the Proyecto Hombre in Madrid and the BE Friendly Space in Hanoi.

ALSO READHow did Rainbow Flag attain the Prestige of representing the LGBT Community?

Three main aspects — awareness, housing and healthcare — underpin the design elements of Shukla’s version. “In the awareness aspect, which encompasses queer museums and libraries, people can go and learn about the community. This gives will inform people that India has had a long tryst with homosexuality and debunk myths that it is a Western concept,” he said.

The housing facility provides shelter to the homeless and estranged members of the community,” added Shukla.

Gender activist Pawan Dhall felt a sensitisation hub was a great idea.

“I can just say that the idea is excellent. But I would be sceptical about housing plans. I’m not much in favour of people living in exclusive domains, unless it’s for people with special needs. Or because of old age and there is a need for institutionalised caregiving. Otherwise, a sensitisation hub idea is great. It would be even better if there are some elements of intersections with other social issues at the hub,” Dhall told IANS.

According to Gita Balakrishnan, Chairperson of the Indian Institute of Architects, West Bengal Chapter, the design indicates “sensitive handling of spaces that respects privacy while allowing freedom”.

However, activist Meenakshi Sanyal, questioned how a physical hub would function given the dichotomy in the legal perception (Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code) about the community in India.

“In 2009, the Delhi High Court had decriminalized homosexuality. That time a lot of closet LGBT members had come out. When the Supreme Court had set aside that verdict in 2013, many became invisible again. I am not saying the hub is not a good idea but there is a need to focus on the accessibility of a physical hub.

“In that sense, digital fora are more accessible. Also, with the Supreme Court recognising the rights of transgender people, there is a gap in the community… the ‘T’ from LGBT is removed… so we have to factor in all these aspects,” Sanyal, who runs LGBT community support group Sappho for Equality, told IANS. (IANS)


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Section 377 : Does It Really Has Anything To Do With Indian Culture?

The modern Indian approach towards homosexuality is hardly the one derived from Indian culture

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Gay pride Flag
Rainbow Flag represents LGBT community, VOA

By Ruchika Verma

  • Section 377 of IPC is one of the most controversial matters in India
  • The law criminalises the unnatural acts of sexual activities
  • Homosexuality is illegal under the IPC Section 377

Section 377, which criminalises sexual activities “against the order of nature,” which includes homosexual relationships as well, has been a matter of debate for a long time now. In a rather progressive nation like India, this section represents nothing but backwardness.

Section 377 is one of the reasons why LGBTQ community gets harassed.
Section 377 is one of the reasons why LGBTQ community gets harassed.

The modern Indian approach towards homosexuality is hardly the one derived from Indian culture, rather it is a product of British colonialization, which brought the section into being during their rule over India.

LGBTQ rights are used as nothing but a propaganda by political parties to gain votes. The media coverage is also about nothing else, but either community members getting harassed or a politician spewing out absurdities about the LGBTQ community. The reasons which the rigid nationalists of our country give in support of Section 377 are even more absurd. they try to create a connection where there is neither scope nor need.

Also Read: Section 377 criminalising ‘unnatural sex’ may be scrapped, says Sadananda Gowda

Indian Culture and Section 377 – Is there really a connection? 

The truth is, there isn’t. Those who go against homosexuality in the name of Indian culture are surely not properly aware of our ancient texts. Indian culture, especially Hinduism has always been more fluid in its ideology than the British who ruled India for more than a century.

Indian culture has always recognised sexuality properly. Our scriptures are a great example of that. Be it the famous Kamasutra or the Vedas, sexuality was never a taboo until Mughals and Britishers came into the picture.

Indian culture nowhere says that homosexuality is wrong or unethical.
Indian culture nowhere says that homosexuality is wrong or unethical.

Nowhere in Indian culture, there is a scripture which validates the ill-treatment of LGBTQ community. What we don’t release is the fact that the weight of colonialism still hangs heavily over our heads, suspended in mid-air, dividing people who believe in totally two different ideologies.

Our ancestors recognised the need for changes in their law, sadly, our modern generation can not. Section 377 of the Indian penal code dates back to 1861, and it is now high time that a change is implemented.

LGBT community needs to be accepted just as much as any other community. Pixabay
LGBT community needs to be accepted just as much as any other community. Pixabay

It is no hidden fact that Indian culture was far more modern in its approach than the Roman or British one. However, that’s the case of the past. With time progressing, India has only regressed in the matters relating to sexuality and women.

Be it society’s way of controlling a certain section of society, or politicians who never step back from banking upon such matters, India needs to recognise that the Section 377 is totally wrong in its approach of homosexual people.

Section 377 and the problems with it

Also Read: How did Rainbow Flag attain the Prestige of representing the LGBT Community? 

Section 377 goes against the ‘unnatural’ sexual activities, which involves unnatural sexual acts performed on humans and animals. the key term in the section is “against the order of nature.”

Homosexuality, unfortunately, is against the nature in India. It is not treated as an identity or the orientation of a person, rather many radicals claim it to be an ‘illness.’ What’s more interesting, is the fact that there is no norm which defines these ‘unnatural acts.’

The IPC Section 377 is the reason why homosexuality in India is a taboo today. Despite, several protests and peaceful rallies, India’s pride just keeps on going down. Homosexuals live in a constant fear which is a violation of humanity in itself.

pride flag
The rainbow pride flag of the LGBT community. Wikimedia Commons

The law needs to be constantly modified in order to be effective. With the change in time, a modification is law is also needed. However, Indian Supreme Court seems to be ignoring the fact. It is going along with the old beliefs which are better cast away.

The IPC Section 377 needs not to get removed, however, an amendment is definitely needed. Homosexuality is not a crime, it is just human nature which needs to accept. To be or not be is not a choice, it is an orientation. And orientation doesn’t see legal or illegal.