Homophobia in Kerala Takes a Toll on LGBTQIA+ Community, with Cases of Suicides Rising

The recent suicide of Praveen Nath has drawn attention to discrimination and homophobia faced by the queer community in the state, especially in online spaces.

Kerala, a state known for its scenic beauty and cultural heritage, is sadly becoming a grave for the LGBTQIA+ community. Reports of harassment, physical abuse, cyberbullying, and moral policing are rampant in the state, leading to many queer members losing their lives. The recent case of Praveen Nath, a young trans man body builder  and Mister Kerala, who committed suicide on May 4, after experiencing cyberbullying, has shaken the entire community.

Transgender activists claim that, a new organization has emerged very recently, adding fuel to the fire, openly spreading homophobia across the state. The organization announced its stance against homosexuals and propagated their views. 

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"It's appalling that such an organization could be registered under the Kerala government, which has policies in place to protect the LGBTQIA+ community" says Mansoor Kochukadavu, the former state president of Bhim Army. 

Tragic end for a promising youth 

The situation of the LGBTQIA+ community in Kerala has taken a tragic turn with the death of Praveen Nath, who committed suicide after facing homophobic cyberbullying. 

Praveen, originally from Nenmara in Palakkad, was also the advocacy coordinator of Sahayathrika, an LGBTQIA+ organization based in Thrissur. His journey to winning the title of Mr Kerala involved several hurdles. His trainer at the gym in Thrissur's Ayyanthole, Vinu Mohan, had to convince the Body Building Association of Kerala to create a new category for transgender bodybuilders in the competition. 

Praveen won gold in the transgender category of body building championship in 2021.
Praveen won gold in the transgender category of body building championship in 2021.

In the transgender category of the 2021 state bodybuilding competition, Praveen won gold and was awarded the title of Mr. Kerala.it was received with jubilation by the trans community.

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Praveen had gotten married on Valentine's Day this year, and since then, the couple's Facebook posts had been flooded with homophobic comments by trollers. His death comes less than three months after his marriage to trans woman Rishana Aishu, who is a model and winner of the Miss Malabar beauty contest. The recent rumors about the couple's separation had led to bullying and cyber attacks against Praveen."

Praveen & his model wife Rishana got married in February this year.
Praveen & his model wife Rishana got married in February this year.

Perhaps, the couple had some arguments like any normal married ones, and this prompted Praveen to post that they had separated. However, in no time, the post was taken back, and on May 1, Praveen announced that the problems between the duo have been resolved, and they are united. But a certain group of people continued their scathing attacks, which proved to be unbearable for the young bodybuilder and cost him his life.

Prior to his suicide, Praveen wrote on his Facebook wall, "There are a lot of online news that my wife and I have separated. We are not separated. We live together. I made a post like that, and it was deleted within an hour (I had to write like that in some special situations... it's totally personal). I don't know what there is to celebrate. Anyway, don't spread the news that we have broken up... Let's live a good life... Malayalam news pages have degraded so much.... ".

Speaking to Malayalam Manorama Online on May 2,  Praveen said, "The comments below the news stories were too much. It really affected our mental health. I was already on the verge of suicide due to other reasons, and this news was unbearable. It seems like everyone is happy to highlight problems within the trans community."

Meanwhile, unable to bear her partner's demise, Rishana Aishu ,too attempted suicide. She was admitted to Thrissur Medical College on Friday after being brought in a poisoned condition. 

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Mansoor Kochukadavu, the Bhim Army leader, has rightly called for human rights intervention and a serious judicial probe into the matter. He lists a series of suicides in the past, where trans men and women had committed suicide unable to bear the family and society rejection, constant cyber attacks and trolling on social media.

  • Anannyah Kumari Alex, a notable figure as the first transwoman radio jockey in Kerala, took her own life on July 20th, 2021. Her family and friends believe that the cause was medical negligence following her sex reassignment surgery.

  • Thahira Azeez, a transgender activist committed suicide in 2021.

  • Anjana, a 21-year-old queer student from Kannur district in Kerala, was discovered deceased on May 12, 2020, under unclear circumstances in North Goa.

  • In 2018, a 22-year-old student jumped off the terrace of the hostel she was staying in Trivandrum. The student's family was against her decision to undergo gender reassignment.

People extend support to trans community 

Praveen's friends have alleged that the bullying and speculations around the couple's separation were the reasons behind his death. Anaz NS, his friend, wrote on Facebook, 'This country has become a place where queer relationships, bickering, breakups, and reunions have become interesting news. The people who mocked you by dissecting your private life must be relieved now. Being bullied by both queer and non-queer people alike robbed you of your peace. You were a great inspiration to me. There is a lot of hard work behind the name 'Trans man Bodybuilder'. I still can't believe it. This society is toxic, anti-queer, and we are sentenced here without reasons (sic).' 

"It's disheartening to see that even in the 21st century, intolerance, and hatred against the LGBTQIA+ community are rampant. People still don't understand that sexuality is a personal choice, and individuals have the freedom to choose their partners without any fear of persecution." Jane Kaushik, a teacher and transgender activist says. 

The youth of Kerala needs to be educated about LGBTQIA+ rights, and members of the queer community should be protected by the law. This tragic incident should serve as a wake-up call to the government, civil society, and the public at large to take action against homophobia and promote inclusivity.

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