Kolkata- The age old adage "Blood is Thicker than Water," suggesting strong family loyalty, takes a different turn for many queer individuals. Violence and rejection from their own families are harsh realities. Recently, a 19-year-old trans man, mistreated by his parents after coming out, was rescued by Kolkata NGO Sappho for Equality. Now, the rescuer, Koyel Ghosh, faces death and rape threats from the survivor's family. This incident underscores the challenges queer people often face within their families, highlighting the urgent need for awareness and empathy.
The Mooknayak talked to Koyel Ghosh from the organization Sappho for Equality, who was actively involved in the rescue mission of the person.
The activist revealed the details of the case. "A trans man faced discrimination and violence from family for being in a romantic relationship with a woman.The youth, in love with a woman, faced the backlash of their family upon disclosure of the relationship," Ghosh said.
The situation took a dire turn when the family, unable to come to terms with their identity and choice of partner, resorted to extreme measures. Learning about the relationship, the family responded with violence, subjecting the individual to physical and emotional abuse. It reached an alarming stage where the survivor was literally shackled, imprisoned by iron chains since January 10.
Amidst this nightmare, the family used bread and water as a weapon against the survivor. Natal family denied access to food, pushing them towards starvation.
The activist divulged “In a desperate plea for help, the individual and their partner reached out to our organization Sappho for Equality, through social media, shedding light on the urgent need for intervention. They told the organization that they will not be able to survive another day in that environment. On 13th January, the organization took a swift action. The collaborative efforts of concerned individuals and the Chakdah police lead to a rescue mission.”
The terror did not end there. During the rescue operation, Koyel too faced threats from the family. They said, “The family started issuing rape and death threats to me. The survivor’s brother literally said since I am assigned female at birth, he can do things to me. They angrily responded by saying they want to keep the survivor as female and no matter what we do, will not let them go with us. The family even tried to assault us as we tried to leave. Parents have said they will come to our office tomorrow. We do not know what will happen then.”
Talking about the force, Ghosh claimed “Police did not help us during the altercation. They were mute spectators. According to them, our motive was to rescue the individual which they helped with. After that it is our responsibility to look after our safety.”
Talking about the survivor’s violent natal family, Ghosh remarked “The family is very hostile and has no sense of understanding nor the willingness to do so. For them, their child is like a commodity. The gender of their child is their choice, not the survivor’s. Outsiders like us can not have an opinion nor provide any help.”
Koyel then composedly opened up about the survivor by stating, “Now the person is with us and seems to be in a better state. We will be focusing on their mental health counselling as they have been through a great deal of trauma. Once that is done, we will admit them into skill building training so that they can find employment for themselves.”
What is Sappho for Equality?
The organization has a history of taking over many rescue cases and then helping to rehabilitate the individuals. Talking to us, Ghosh asserted, “32-35 of such cases happens in a year where Sappho for Equality has to come in and rescue queer people.”
Sappho for Equality is the only registered organization in Kolkata, Eastern India that works for the rights and social justice of individuals with non-normative gender-sexual orientations, identities and expressions, especially persons assigned gender female at birth. It uniquely works to create bridges between the so-called normative and non-normative populations in our society and positions gender-sexuality within existing development discourses.
As an outcome of the constant self-questioning, Sappho for Equality was created in October of 2003; a platform formed as a response to the movement that came from within. The first registered Non-Government Organisation of eastern India was born that openly and specifically began engaging with gender-sexuality (LGBTQ) rights movements in India with feminist perspective.
Their helpline number is +91 98315 18320 (10 am – 6 pm except Mondays)