The Mental Health Care Bill, which sees mental health care only as a repair job, fails to recognise the value of psycho-neural diversity.

THE HINDU ARCHIVES During a tug-of-war contest in a mental hospital in Kerala, a file picture. It is important that all persons with mental disability are treated as autonomous persons worthy of respect.


IN his classic study on famines, Amartya Sen contended that avoidance of famines did not just require food stocks but also the freedom to raise one’s voice against dwindling stocks. To prove the point, Sen referred to China, where people died of starvation just kilometres from well-stocked granaries because they did not have the freedom to speak of their piteous condition. Sen was arguing for the indivisibility of rights and contending that people could not be asked to choose between food and freedom, and that they needed both as the absence of one could result in the loss of the other. Despite Sen’s highly persuasive reasoning, it is often believed that freedoms are the luxuries of the endowed and there is no point in offering a choice to the deprived as it is obvious what they would choose. Material goods and facilities are not accorded greater importance only when issues of hunger and starvation are discussed. They are also seen to be critical for other survival needs. It is often claimed, not just in India, that in order to promote mental health, the development of infrastructure, personnel and services should be given greater importance than the will and preference of the persons receiving the services; that questions of choice and preference can be addressed after a robust system of mental health care has been established.

The piteous condition of the inmates of Berhampore Mental Hospital and the unanimous passage of the Mental Health Care Bill, 2013, by the Rajya Sabha were two pieces of news that were widely reported recently. This simultaneous surfacing of the problem and the solution causes one to ask, will the new mental health care law improve the life chances of those abandoned in these obsolete institutions? Does the Mental Health Care Bill have an exit plan for the inmates of these hospitals? Does it ensure that such institutions will be phased out?

The Bill starts on an ambitious note, promising every person the right to access mental health care and treatment from mental health services run or funded by the government. This mental health care has to be affordable, of good quality, plentiful, available to all without discrimination and, most significantly, “provided in a manner that is acceptable to persons with mental illness and their families and caregivers”. If for a moment it is presumed that the person with mental illness, the family and the caregivers have identical expectations from mental health care, this generic phrase has the potential to forge a link between services and choice. Unfortunately, this has not happened and instead the Bill has proceeded in the opposite direction.

The Bill allows a person, who so desires, to formulate in advance a direction to the doctors on permissible treatment and the manner in which it may be administered. Considering that the legislation makes patient preference in the manner of providing mental health care a right, it would be expected that the honouring of advance directives would be an article of faith. Instead, the Bill designs both the making of the advance directive and its subsequent implementation an obstacle race for the maker. Successful completion of the race does not ensure that the doctors and the family are obliged to obey the directive; both the doctors and the family can bypass the directive by following the procedure provided in the Bill. The discomfiture with following patient preference also comes to the fore when the doctors are exonerated from any liability, which may arise if they follow the patient’s advance directive.

In a similar fashion, the facility to appoint a nominated representative has been converted from a right of the patient to a power of the state. Thus where the patient does not nominate a representative, the statutorily designated list takes over. This is like asking a student to choose her working partner and as she is weighing her choices, a partner is provided and the teacher believes the student was provided an opportunity to choose.

As already mentioned, there was a possibility to construct the mental health care system premised on the preferences of persons living with mental illness. This required policymakers to accord respect to the choices made by them. Yet, the legislation only refers to drugs and treatments devised in allopathy and other systems of medicine such as Ayurveda, Unani, and homeopathy and yoga. No reference is made to the recovery interventions devised by persons with psychosocial disability, be it peer support, open dialogue, family therapy or culture-based interventions such as faith and temple healing, which even the mental health programmes of the country have admitted to provide relief to some persons with psychosocial disability. The Bill does not bar these preferences; but neither does it permit them. And users relying on these services cannot be sure of their choices being respected as the Bill requires persons with mental illness, unlike the rest of the populace, to prove they possess legal capacity. Just the presence of mental illness does not mean that the persons lack legal capacity, but the presence of mental illness is sufficient to question the legal capacity to make contemporary choices or issue advance directives.

So when the Bill refers to an essential drug list or state-of-the-art treatment facilities and medical insurance on an equal basis with persons with physical illness, it is primarily referring to the biomedical interventions provided by allopathy. For other medical systems, the Bill concedes inclusion in the essential drugs list if they have any drugs. Non-drug interventions which are being preferred by a number of people with psychosocial disability have just been ignored. If an ambulance or other means of swift and safe travel is provided to take an individual for the medical or other intervention they desire, then the ambulance service is perceived as support, but if the service is provided to transport an individual to a service they detest, then the home service would be seen as arrest and abduction. If a person with physical illness is provided an emergency treatment and he or she wishes to discontinue it after the emergency is over, they are free to do so. The same freedom is not available to persons with mental illness and this situation has not been remedied by the Bill.

CRPD and the Bill

This is the case even when the Bill is being enacted in order to bring the mental health law in the country in consonance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which was adopted by the world body in 2006 and ratified by India in 2007. Equality and non-discrimination is the centrepiece of the Convention and the full inclusion of persons with disabilities within the polity its overarching objective. Singling out persons with mental disability for legal capacity questioning and allowing such disability to be a criterion in procedures ordering compulsory institutionalisation are provisions that are in breach of the equality mandate of the CRPD. In acknowledgement of the fact that the perceptions of the non-disabled world do not match with the lived experience of persons with disabilities, the CRPD was drafted with the active participation of persons with disabilities. Absence of persons with disabilities could cause prejudice to resurface and stereotype to rule. To avoid this consequence, the CRPD expressly obligated the states to make all laws and policies relating to disability in active consultation with disabled persons and their organisations. The two-member team that drafted the Bill as also the Standing Committee for Parliament consulted disabled persons and their organisations and did introduce some amendments in the 2013 Bill on the strength of those representations. However, all submissions asking for recognition of will and preference, ouster of compulsory care and guardianship have been ignored.

What is the consequence of this selective engagement? The Bill makes some commitment in relation to services, essential medicines, and non-discriminatory medical insurance, but these services and medicines are not linked to actual preferences of persons with disabilities but what professionals and practitioners consider suitable. People with disabilities whose preferences are in line with what the professionals suggest stand to gain; others are left in the cold or made to accept whatever is on offer. Nobody asks whether recovery can result from such forced interventions. During the negotiations, persons with mental disabilities testified before the Ad Hoc Committee of the United Nations on how the humiliation of the forced intervention prevented them from seeking any treatment from the formal system.

If force and compulsion closes communication and drives persons into isolation, then is there not a case to legislate dialogue and negotiation?

The Bill has several provisions addressing the rights to liberty, expression, information and the right to legal capacity. However, these provisions primarily provide for procedures by which these rights may be deprived or curtailed. The legislation does not speak of means and methods by which these rights can be promoted, respected and realised. If this effort is not made, then can it be claimed that the Bill upholds the CRPD when the CRPD states that in no case shall a person with disability be deprived of liberty by reason of disability?

The quality of services is known to improve when the users of the service are empowered persons whose voices would be heard. Inmates of institutions, who have the highest stake in improving the quality of services, can do little in the matter as they enter the service voiceless and powerless. Lawmakers are concerned with wrongful admission, and they do not want institutions to be used if services that impose lesser restrictions on inmates are available. And yet there is no obligation to create such institutions. And the responsibility for ensuring that nobody obtains wrongful admission is placed on a Mental Health Review Commission, courts and legal aid. These are all review mechanisms external to the institution, and the Bill has no inbuilt correction mechanism. It has not built alliances with the natural watchdogs of any institution—the inmates themselves.

To go back to the question raised at the beginning of this piece, will the new law help the inmates of the Berhampore Mental Hospital? Despite all the additional resources the Bill promises to pour into the sector, the answer remains a reluctant no. For the inmates of the Berhampore hospital to have a better deal, it was important that all those with mental disability were treated as autonomous persons worthy of respect. If even one person can be forcibly treated or projected as dangerous or incompetent, then all overt, covert and hibernating persons with disabilities can be so treated. By not recognising this reality, the Mental Health Care Bill has failed to create a regime of universal mental health care.

The legislation has not looked at freedom and services as one indivisible whole, and thus services are being created not according to what persons with disabilities want and need but according to what the experts in the field believe they need. The decade of the brain tried to prove that “mental illness” was just a biomedical aberration. It failed. The descriptor “psychosocial disability” on the other hand captured the idea of a differently wired mind which is excluded by social norms, practices and beliefs. The biomedical approach towards mental diversity is concerned with fixing the individual, whereas the psychosocial is geared towards acceptance. Evidently, a robust mental health care law and policy require both. The Bill, in only seeing mental health care as a repair job, has failed to recognise the value of psycho-neural diversity.

With the Bill having such a smooth ride in the Upper House, its passage in the Lok Sabha is assured. However, just because the Lok Sabha has the numbers to enact the Bill is no reason to do so. A psychiatrist colleague has referred to the Bill as a work in progress. I agree. My only submission is to let the progress in the Bill happen when it is debated in the Lok Sabha and not a decade later. There are possibilities of transformation in the Bill, and I hope that those possibilities are seized by the House of the persons so that the most excluded members of the polity get their just due.

Amita Dhanda is professor of Law and Head, Centre for Disability Studies, at NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad.


Railway Stations not Disabled-Friendly yet, High Court warns of contempt action

Seeks Names Of Officials Responsible For Completing Work

The Bombay high court has sought the names of he Western and Central railway officers responsible for ensuring that disabled-friendly amenities are provided at suburban stations. It proposes to ssue them contempt of notice or delaying the work.

“It is a sorry state of affa rs,“ said a bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Prakash Naik, when informed that visits to 12 Western Railway , 10 Central Railway and nine Harbour line stations showed that contrary to the railways’ claim, acilities were found wanting.

The court was hearing a PIL by the India Centre for Human Rights and Law.

On March 11, the railways urged for an extension of time o comply with the HC order to complete work on providing amenities for the disabled, in cluding ramps, and lowheight booking windows and drinking water facilities. The deadline was April. Western Railway sought an extension of a year and Central Railway sought time till June. The judges then asked the NGO to verify their claims of work done and to submit a report with pictures of the conditions at stations on all the three lines.
Senior advocate Gayatri Singh, appearing for the NGO, submitted a report of the visit to the 31 stations. She said toilets were either broken or locked and ticket windows were either not at the appropriate height or closed. She said tactile indicators on the floors were not appropriately placed, adding, “At most places, they do not exist.“

Debunking Tall Claims

The judges said except for providing land for a helipad for emergencies, nothing has been done by the railways. “We pro pose to issue contempt notices to the general managers of Central and Western railways.It is the only way to ensure compliance,“ said Justice Oka.Railways’ advocates, Suresh Kumar and Sangeeta Yadav , sought time to take instructions on the NGO’s report. The judges granted a week, but said they must return with the names and designations of the officers responsible for getting the work done.

Times of India

Love, sex and disability

Love, sex and disability

Author Malini Chib, who was in town recently, wonders why women with a disabling condition are considered asexual and are supposed to be bereft of emotional needs?

When did your family first get to know of your disabling condition?

I was born in Kolkata in 1966. My mother was in labour for a lengthy 40-hour period and during this process, the umbilical cord got entangled around my neck, resulting in a lack of oxygen for a few seconds to my brain. That resulted in me having a severe disabling condition called cerebral palsy. I am told that the paediatrician in charge kept repeating to himself: ‘It was a mistake. I should have carried out a Caesarean… Let’s see if she survives… I am not sure if she will survive… at the most 72 hours”. But I survived and my parents decided that shifting to London would be the best bet to address my condition. So, we went.

How much of what you’ve achieved in life will you attribute to the fact that you come from a very privileged and well-educated family?

I am fortunate that I came from a very well educated family. Both my grandfathers had been educated in England and my great aunt was Lotika Sarkar — the first woman from India to have gone to Newnham College, Cambridge. Both my father and uncle had their higher education at Cambridge too. I educated myself, learnt to type with my one little finger and speak through the Lightwriter. I have two international Masters degrees in Women’s Studies and Library Sciences and Information Management. I’ve traveled extensively in India and abroad and have delivered a lecture at the Sorbonne University as well. I have lived alone in London, learnt to navigate through the traffic with my electric wheelchair, gone holidaying with friends to France and pub-crawling in London too.

Your book, One Little Finger, mentions the divorce of your parents as one of the most traumatic periods of your life…

After the Centre for Special Education was set up, my mother put in a lot of her contribution. While my mother was eager to spend her free time with my brother and me, my father wanted more of her time so that he could take her along with him when he needed to socialize and network for being in the advertising profession. This led to little time for each other and a realization that they were incompatible in many ways. My parents got divorced and what followed was a traumatic time for my mother, brother and me. I was eight and my brother three. Although I had no friends, my cousins were, and still remain, my close friends.

You’ve also desired a man who confessed to have feelings for another man…

Yes. He was a dear friend called Zubin. He understood me perfectly. We shared a great deal together. One day, Zubin told me that he loves men sexually and had a partner from Belgium. I was devastated. For days, I would weep silently. I was 21 then and wanted male attention like all my other girlfriends. I have had a hard time accepting that I’m trapped in a rejected body that is not sexually attractive. But most men look at me as asexual.

What do you think is society’s assumption about sexual urges of disabled women?

Society thinks it is enough to include disabled people but what about including their physical and emotional needs? Once when I had said that I too have sexual desires, people around me had asked: “Why would you need sex?” I have also written an article on this titled “No Sex Please, You’re Disabled”. I admit to have outbursts too. Weddings often served as reminders that I possibly would never share such an equation with someone.
 Despite all this, you remain a very positive person. What keeps you going?
I believe that life is beautiful. I have my moments when I can’t control my tears. When I go to a restaurant and the waiter offers the menu card to everyone at the table except me, I feel bad. Even today, people who don’t know me automatically address the person I am with. They will talk about me in front of me but never with me! I’m a completely different person on the Net. Social networking has opened a new world for me. I realize I’ll continue to struggle and adjust to the reality of people shunning me. It’s the attitude of people that can make me feel included or excluded. I think, the art of living lies not just in confronting our troubles but minimizing them and focussing on the positive sides. Most of us are swimming against the tide of trouble but we need to make it to the shore and not let the wave engulf us.
Having written an autobiography, what would you want to pen next?

I don’t know. May be, a romance. I love reading romances.

The Times of India

The continuing saga of abortion law in Northern Ireland, bishops in the Lords, street preachers, daft headlines

Abortion in Northern Ireland

In December we noted that, subsequent to his judgment in Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, Re Judicial Review [2015] NIQB 96, Horner J had concluded that the current abortion law in Northern Ireland is in breach of Article 8 ECHR (private and family life) and incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998 because it does not provide adequate protection for the human rights of pregnant women where there is a serious malformation of the foetus or a fatal foetal abnormality or where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

The BBC reported that the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John Larkin QC, has written to Jim Allister QC MLA (Traditional Unionist Voice) suggesting that proposed amendments to the Justice (No.2) Bill which would allow for abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality might not be compatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The Attorney wrote that “providing for a criminal law exception for ‘fatal foetal abnormality’, as proposed by this amendment, provides unborn children diagnosed with such a disability with much less protection under the law of Northern Ireland than those without such a disability”. He also said that he thought that the proposed conscience provisions in the amendments were inadequate. On Thursday the amendments to allow abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality were rejected by the Assembly by 59 votes to 40.

All this leaves open the question as to exactly which international legal obligation takes precedence in a situation where obligations appear to conflict: compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ratified by the UK in 2009) or compliance with the ECHR? We should have thought the latter, not least because its provisions are directly applicable in domestic law – but we’re open to correction on the point.

Bishops in the House of Lords

On Tuesday, the Government replied to an e-petition entitled Remove Church of England Bishops from the House of Lords:

“Changes to the composition of the House of Lords, including Church of England Bishops, are important but, given the very full programme of other constitutional changes, are not a priority at present. The Government has no plans to remove the Church of England Bishops from the House of Lords.

The Government considers that the relationship between the Church and the State in England is an important part of the constitutional framework that has evolved over centuries. As senior members of the established Church of England, 26 bishops are appointed to the House of Lords. Bishops provide an important independent voice and spiritual insight into the work of the Upper House and while they make no claims to direct representation, they seek to be a voice for all people of faiths. The House of Lords also contains a number of other senior faith representatives.

People have a right to conduct their lives in accordance with their faith insofar as this does not unlawfully interfere with the rights of others and it is important to strike a fair balance between religious freedom of expression and the rights of, for example, lesbian, gay and bisexual people not to be discriminated against. Therefore, the law protects the rights of both these groups. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which received Royal Assent on 17 July 2013, extends marriage to same sex couples in England and Wales, while protecting and promoting religious freedom.”

Regardless of one’s opinion on the presence of bishops in the House of Lords, the Upper House might benefit were it to adopt legislative constraints similar to those applicable to the Lords Spiritual: a fixed number (unchanged since 1847); equal numbers of men and women within the next 10 years; and mandatory retirement at 70.

The Charity Commission and the Jehovah’s Witnesses

The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain has been in court again. On Wednesday it sought permission from the Court of Appeal to challenge the Charity Commission’s statutory inquiry which it describes as an “unlawful investigation”. Following the hearing no decision was reached. A spokesman for the Charity Commission told Civil Society News that the Commission was arguing for the case to be heard by the Charity Tribunal instead of in the High Court, on grounds of cost:

“Watch Tower is appealing this investigation for the fourth time but if they are allowed to win and have the case heard at the High Court, it could be confusing at best for charities and at worst, it could be that charities feel they have to go to the High Court rather than the Charity Tribunal. That would defeat the whole object that the Charity Tibunal is cheaper for charities. A charity like the Jehovah’s Witness can afford the High Court but most charities can’t.”

Religious harassment charges against street preacher dropped

Premier reported that the Crown Prosecution Service has decided to drop charges against Michael Jones, a street preacher arrested in Beverley in December after comments he made about Islam and Islamic State: he faced two charges under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. In a letter telling him that the charges were being dropped the CPS said that there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.

Readers may recall that in December another street preacher – Michael Overd, from Taunton – successfully appealed against his conviction under the Public Order Act 1986 for reading part of a passage from Leviticus 20 that condemns same-sex relationships. He had been fined £200 and ordered to pay £1200 in costs and compensation. At Taunton Crown Court, HHJ Ticehurst upheld his appeal, with costs.

On vesture

We noted the current consultation by the House of Bishops on vesture: about what folk may wear when officiating at services in the Church of England – and not to be confused with the sixteenth century Vestiarian Controversy, which was about what folk may wear when officiating at services in the Church of England. Oh: hang on a moment…

Antonin Gregory Scalia RIP

Yesterday it was announced that Justice Scalia of the US Supreme Court had died at the age of 79. An originalist on the interpretation of the Constitution and probably the Court’s arch-conservative, Nino Scalia was not a man to mince his words. Of the majority opinion in Obergefell v Hodges 576 US ___ (2015) he commented at note 22 to his dissent:

“If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag.”

The judicial stance of his successor will depend on who gets to make the appointment: will President Obama manage to appoint a liberal Associate Justice before his term of office comes to an end, or will his candidate be blocked by the Senate? But however it turns out, though a court without Scalia will be less overtly political (maybe), it will also be less interesting.

Misleading headline of the week

In view of the forthcoming session “Law, Religion and Media Reporting” at the 2016 Law and Religion Scholars Network (LARSN) Conference to be held on Thursday 5 and Friday 6 May 2016 at Cardiff University, we have been further sensitized to the reporting of religion by the media. Whilst not matching the Christian Today piece in July 2014 which proclaimed “Clergy may ‘dress down’ after CofE relaxes rules on vestments” (which was incorrect on a number of levels), this week’s confused headline comes from the Coventry Reporter’s assessment of Re Coventry Road Cemetery Bedworth: “Incredibly rare ruling means man’s body can be reburied beside his beloved wife at different cemetery”. Whoopiedoo!

Nice one, Kirill

And another one: the meeting between the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow has given rise to a certain amount of media confusion. The Wall Street Journal, for example, reported it under the headline Pope Francis Moves to End a 1,000-Year Rift: “The leaders of the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches took a major step toward ending a 1,000-year split between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy by identifying areas of common ground amid broad challenges for both churches.” Which is absolutely true: but maybe the meeting was not quite so groundbreaking as all that.

The Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia was not established as a Patriarchate until the late sixteenth century – though, admittedly, prior to the Patriarchate there had been a Metropolitan of Moscow since 1461. But, as most readers will be aware, the senior bishop of Orthodoxy is not Patriarch Kirill but Bartholomew I, “His Most Divine All-Holiness the Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch”. The First Council of Constantinople declared that “The Bishop of Constantinople shall have the primacy of honour after the Bishop of Rome, because it is New Rome” (Canon iii) and in 451 the Council of Chalcedon established Constantinople as a patriarchate with ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Asia Minor. The first meeting in modern times between a Pope and an Ecumenical Patriarch was in 1964, when Patriarch Athenagoras I met Pope Paul VI in Jerusalem and, in doing so, initiated the gradual thaw in Roman Catholic-Orthodox relations. None of this is to deny the importance of the meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill – but it’s by no means as significant as that meeting in Jerusalem some fifty years ago.

Quick links

And finally …

Still on the theme of media reports, Ash Wednesday is the annual signal for a spate of (often slightly nutty) articles reporting on the weirder aspects of the practice. Fr Z’s blog is always a good start, especially if one wishes to know whether it’s OK to eat alligator during one’s Lenten fast; the unambiguous answer is his earlier post Abstinentia de carne lacertina aut crocodrillina is in the affirmative. This explanation is augmented by a helpful information “Muskrat can be eaten on Fridays in some parts of Michigan. I’m told it tastes of dirty dishrag and has the consistency of very old, thick asparagus.”


People with intellectual disabilities demand sexual rights

PEOPLE living with intellectual disabilities have cried foul over their alleged discrimination on sexual issues and being “often overprotected” from enjoying their sexual freedom.
By Phyllis Mbanje
This was brought up during a recent panel discussion held in Harare on access to sexual reproductive health (SRH) and HIV services for youths with disabilities.
“There is a thin line between Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act that regards a sexual encounter with a ‘mentally incompetent’ person as rape and a person with intellectual challenge choosing to have sex,” ZimCare Trustofficial Farai Chinyowa said.
Chinyowa said people with intellectual disabilities were generally regarded as being incapable of making sound decisions and needed to be protected from sexual abuse.
He said the constant “protection” also denied them access to SRH services which was key in availing information that could be critical in avoiding getting infected with HIV or falling pregnant.
“Persons with disabilities are regarded as perpetual minors no matter how old hence have no access to SRH services,” Chinyowa said.
Speaking at the same event senator Anna Shiri, who represents people with disabilities said issues of sexual reproductive health and disability should receive a holistic approach.
“Let other Senators and MPs who do not represent the disability sector also be part of this advocacy campaign. It will give a lot of weight to sexual reproductive health issues for youths with disabilities,” she said.
Harare provincial Aids coordinator for the National Aids Council (NAC) Adonija Muzondiona said the organisation hadset up a special desk to ensure persons with disabilities had equal access to reproductive and HIV services.
Meanwhile, chairperson for the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health, Ruth Labode, has challenged the disability sector to continue demanding their rights.

Railways says disabled-friendly counters problem for others, earns court rap

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Thursday chided the railways for saying that providing low-height booking counters for wheelchair-bound commuters on the suburban stations will inconvenience others.  The reaction came from a division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Anil Menon after a reading of the Central Railway affidavit handed over by advocate Sangeeta Yadav.

The affidavit stated: “The low height booking counter is inconvenient to the normal passengers. Considering the volume of traffic, exclusive counters for wheel-chaired passengers is not desired.”  It said that though every day 1,800-2,000 passengers were inconvenienced at counters meant for passengers on wheelchairs, at least one low-height counter was being provided at stations.  Advocate Gayatri Singh, representing petitioner India Centre for Human Rights and Law, said the same was repeated in the Western Railways affidavit.

The bench, hearing a PIL for making the railways disabled friendly, asked if the railways had any choice but to provide the facilities mandated by law. “Is it your discretion to provide facilities? You feel because they are few [in number], you need not provide it,” Justice Oka said. “You say it is not desirable. You decide whether you want to provide the facilities or not? Can it be the stand of the railways?” The judges said the CR also states that it is not possible to provide low-height water taps at Masjid and Cotton Green stations. In their order, the bench noted that in August 2007 the high court had recorded the Centre’s statement that the railways was bound to provide facilities for the disabled.

Rosy Sequeira, TNN | Jan 8, 2015, 11.30PM IST

Call for submissions: Anthology Of South Asian Queer Erotica [title forthcoming To be published by Tranquebar Press in 2012

Please circulate widely and also write a story!

The spaces for expressing queer concerns have increased across South Asia in the last decade. Much is being written about sexuality, rights and queer lives. Yet, in all of this, sex itself doesn’t get written about very much and there is a dearth of queer erotica from South Asia. Contemporary queer erotica with a South Asian focus would make these queer lives apparent in newer and compelling ways. This anthology is an attempt to present queer, sexual, regional literature that pleasures and satisfies. It is about queer sex lives, erotic experiences and passions. Queer in this anthology represents non-normative genders, sexualities, lives and perspectives. It aims to bring out voices that have been limited to smaller groups or never heard before.

What we want:

We want stories of queer love, lust and craving. Sex, however you may define it, should be a big part of the story. We want gender play, auto-eroticism, dark fantasies, monogamous and non-monogamous sex, stories of bondage, domination, sadism and masochism. We are looking for stories of deep passions, stories that complicate sex. We want stories of desire, fulfilled and unfulfilled. Stories that defy the gender binary. Stories of how you sexed up your aids and appliances. Stories on masturbation or the pleasures of paid sex. Stories of how you steamed up a bus ride, ended a clandestine affair or fucked with sex toys. Share with us stories that confront, redefine, dispute and reclaim what sex is. Let your stories queer erotica itself.

We invite you to write short stories with South Asian themes, characters and places reflected in them. We are looking for a wide expression of experiences across age, region, class, ability, gender and sexual identities. Stories can be fictional, semi-fictional and non-fiction, but we are not looking for academic or solely autobiographical writing on sexuality. Your stories will shatter the silences around queer erotic lives and encompass their diversities, so let us have them.

Who can write:

We want to foreground the queer voices of people living in or originally from South Asia. Queer includes but is not restricted to identities like lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, intersex, hijra, kothi, questioning, gender-queer, gender fluid and pansexual. Authors do not necessarily have to identify with one or more of these identities but the stories they submit should reflect non-normative genders, sexualities, lives and perspectives.

How to submit:

  • We are looking for short stories with a word limit of no less than 3000 words. We regret that we are unable to include poetry.
  • All submissions should be in English. Translations from other languages are allowed as long as the author owns the rights to the translation as well.
  • Please submit the story as an email attachment on a word document. Please include a title and word count.
  • Do not include your name or any other identifiers in the word document. As we are using a blind submissions process, we will have to reject submissions that indicate the author’s identity in the body of the story.
  • Authors will be informed whether their work is selected by mid-October. At that time, we will request you to provide a name under which you wish to be published and a short bio.
  • All selected authors will receive a one-time payment. The copyright of the story will remain with the author.
  • The deadline for submission is 15th September 2011.
  • Send your stories to

Now get writing about the kind of sex you have wanted to read about. And get us swooning!

About the editors:

Meenu is a queer feminist activist. She has been involved with issues of gender and sexuality through women’s rights organisations and autonomous collectives for the last six years. She lives in Delhi and is an avid reader of erotica.

Shruti is currently based in Bombay. In the last eight years, she has actively engaged with the women’s and queer movements in the country. Over the years, she has worked as a researcher, social worker and counsellor.