What is it like to be a lesbian in India? To be a gay person in the country that criminalises homosexual activities? Needless to say, it comes with its own set of struggles and challenges.
Avantika Shaikh, a resident of Hyderabad, narrated the story of standing up for her own rights and the harrowing experiences she went through and why she hadn't visited her home even once in the last 6 years.
Here's her story in her own words.
On Eid, my father called me. We greeted each other and asked about our lives. Then before hanging up, he asked me when would I be visiting him?
I was at home with my father. The Maulvi had come and asked me what were my plans in my life. Unnecessarily, he kept hinting me to get married to a boy from Dubai, who earned well.
I simply tell him that that's not what settling means. To me, settling means achieving your dream. But he doesn't stop. He just doesn't. My father knows I'm a lesbian.
That's it. This was enough to click him. He goes mad. He almost gets a heart attack.
I look at that joker. I simply tell him that he cannot do anything about it because this is not a disease. We argue. He keeps shouting over his voice. Abusing. I too, fight him verbally.
I look at him while tears flow down my eyes.
All shouting. But I don't lose this easily. I keep fighting. With words. I'm being called names. I'm being harassed. But I don't back out. It's 50 hooligans against me alone. My father doesn't say or do anything. I then called the Maulvi a fuck face. He keeps insisting that he can cure my homosexuality.
He is just blind. Meanwhile, the number of men starts declining. Most leave. And there are hardly 5–10 men including the Maulvi. I look at my father and ask him: “ Dad why don't you say something?”. I cry.
I know what happens to women who go to Dubai and get married to men out there. I have a life and I will do whatever I want to. I don't care about you or your so religious teaching or beliefs.
Very, very difficult. One of this girls family would keep her locked inside her room for days and not allow her to touch her younger brother because they thought the disease would spread and he would become gay.
Which is not. I've tried tested every medical and Ayurvedic method. No, it's normal. And you're not getting any threat from us.
Your society is not in danger because of us. Neither are any of your religions in threat because of us.
Avantika moved to Mumbai and has been doing well for herself. No person should have to go through so much for being who they are. Avantika's story is a grim reminder of our society's ugly face and that India has a long way to go before we can treat everyone with equal respect and love.
Design credits: Lucky Mehendiratta.