Below is the joint statement issued by the International Conference on Gender Equality that concluded today at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, organised by the Gender Park, supported by the Department of Social Justice, Government of Kerala. The Gender Park represents a unique attempt to address gender inequality — understood in non-binary, inclusive terms — through skill-building and entrepreneurial innovation. It is refreshingly free from the burden of cultural ageing that is ubiquitous in Kerala now, and has a very young, dynamic team. The theme of the conference was ‘Gender, Governance, and Inclusion’, and that was not lip-service, as the statement clearly shows. The Statement embodies a vision that seeks to bring back questions of gender freedom and equality back into the heart of development interventions, but speaks of all marginalized genders, and not just women.
The Kerala Government’s Transgender Policy, pioneered by the Department of Social Justice was released the conference and transgender people were a major presence at all sessions. Speaking at the occasion, Kerala’s Minister for Social Justice, M K Muneer, declared that he would monitor the implementation of the policy personally and also fight to end Section 377 on all platforms of the government and outside, at state and national levels.
Their remarkable interventions worked magic: if the pressure of neoliberal discourse is to continuously tie all development to the imperatives of market-led growth and gesture to its Promised Never-Never Land, transgender people’s questions cut through such instrumentalism to join it again with freedom and equality … and the aesthetic in the fullest sense of the world. For the aesthetic does involve a heightened attention to the sensuous and to rhythm, to difference and to fit, to the entire range of kaleidoscopic formations!
And it brought back into the heart of development, Love. Love as understood and celebrated by Alice Walker:
love is not concerned/with who you pray to/or where you slept/the night you ran away/from home/love is concerned/that the beating of your heart/should kill no one.
I do not write on Kafila as frequently as I used to because I don’t want to be writing stories of impending doom all the time. These are times in which we appear doomed, but it does not help to get obsessed with it; in fact, the obsession may actually hasten the downfall.
But these days, we also hear stories which may be told either way. For example, I can tell the story of the mining going on at Mookunnimala in Trivandrum as yet another episode in the continuing story of the destruction of our natural environment and its impending collapse. But I can also tell it another way, foregrounding the resistance that has shaped up there despite the formation of a deadly nexus of Kerala’s political parties, bureaucracy, predatory capitalists and other criminals against local people. Or, I can tell the story of the ‘development’ of the government school at Attakkulangara in the heart of Trivandrum city as another incident that proves the unrelenting march of ‘urban development’ which is nothing but shorthand for the steady takeover of prime urban space by corrupt officials and venal politicians. But it is also a David-and-Goliath tale of how a few dedicated members of the school’s old students’ association, and nature-lovers and environmental activists who go by the name Tree Walk managed to draw the attention of others, alert authorities, and arrest the steady pace of these forces. Continue reading Don’t let the Magic Fade: Thoughts on Kudumbashree’s Sixteenth Anniversary