Law at the Intersection of Caste, Gender and Sexuality in India
Featuring Sumit Baudh, Michael D. Palm Fellow, The Williams Institute
October 14, 2014
UCLA School of Law
*Lunch provided. RSVP to attend.
Abstract: In this talk Sumit Baudh will explore the interface between caste, gender and sexuality and investigate how and to what extent legal remedies have been or can be mobilized to protect against violence and discrimination suffered by queer Dalits in India. A puzzling moment in the legal understanding of gender and sexuality in India persists while the curative petition in Suresh Kumar Kaushal v. Naz Foundation remains pending in the Supreme Court. In that case, the Supreme Court in December 2013 upheld the constitutional validity of Section 377, IPC a colonial era law criminalizing consensual non-procreative sex. Merely four months later, another Supreme Court judgment, National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India granted legal recognition to transgender persons as “socially and educationally backward class” and extended affirmative action to them. This understanding of gender and sexuality is puzzling because – on the one hand it creates a protected category for transgender persons like hijras, while on the other hand placing them within the purview of criminality for their sexual acts. This confusing moment is witness to disparate reading of acts and identities, and to analogous comparisons with caste and tribal groups in passing. It is missing intersectional scrutiny of caste, gender and sexuality, especially as that relates to transgender Dalits. Attention to transgender Dalits is not just an identity claim or a claim of recognition, it is a deeper critique of law; and it portends greater consequences for more than just this particular group. Dalit literally translates as downtrodden. In its narrowest sense Dalit refers to those who are considered “untouchable” in the Hindu caste system. Dalits are also understood as “Scheduled Caste” in legal parlance. Queer refers to non-heterosexual and non-gender-conforming persons, including those who identify as hijra, kinnar, kothi, aravani, jogappas, jogtis, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender; as well as those who challenge heteronormativity in other ways through sexual desire and behavior.
Bio: Sumit Baudh is a candidate in the Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) program at the UCLA School of Law. He earned his Master of Laws (L.L.M.) from the London School of Economics, and graduated with honors from the Bachelor of Laws and Arts from the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore. His areas of interest include caste, gender, sexuality and human rights.