Being kothi - PhMuseum

Being kothi

Alice Sassu

2015 - Ongoing

India

Raina and her friends are living in Kolkata (West Bengal, India) and they identify as Kothis. This story revolves around Raina, she had been a sex worker and she used

to live in the Hijras community in Delhi. At the time when she lost her parents, she had been deciding to start a new life as a human rights activist. Rania often hosts friends at her house because in their own family’s homes they cannot dress up as women, wear makeup, be themselves.

Most people in the Kothi community (a spectrum of feminine identified persons assigned male at birth, ranging from feminine males to transgender women) seek to live a life within Indian society, but for them it is hard to stay with their families and to find a job. Hijras may be classified as a branch of the Kothi family, differentiated by their kinship system, occupational practices and initiation rites. They live in separate communities with their own rituals and professions (like begging, dancing at weddings or blessing babies). Some Hijra identify as Kothi as well, while not all Kothis identify as Hijra, and pursue a variety of professions although many are marginalized and lack occupational options besides sex work.

Activists say that there are hundreds of thousands of transgender people in India, but because they haven’t been legally recognized, they face ostracism, discrimination, abuse and forced prostitution. In April 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that transgender people should have the right to self-determine their gender, whether as male, female or third gender. The court recognized the presence of several transgender people in Indian society and history, referring to ancient Hindu and Jain texts and to the place of transgender people in India's Mughal courts. This decision was particularly welcome, considering that another judgment in December 2013 reinstated a colonial-era law that labels non-procreative sex as "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" (Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code) and implicitly criminalizes same-sex desiring people. Hundreds of human rights violations against homosexual people have been recorded across India since the Supreme Court’s verdict on Section 377, forcing many to conceal their sexual identity.

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  • Raina was a sex worker and she used to live in the Hijra’s community in Delhi. When she lost her parents, she decided to start a new life as a human rights activist.

  • Hijras during a URUS ceremony of Baba Jalaluddin Sayeed. Hijras of the Indian Subcontinent have a deep and inner connection to Sufi Orders and Muslim saints.

  • Aparna is preparing for an event against Section 377. She is a Hijra activist, she has had a sex change operation and she is translesbian.

  • Dipmalya and Shuawhata have been a couple since 2007, but because their families did not accept their relationship, they often slept on the street. Now they are running a small fashion business.

  • Suphee is working during the day in an NGO but with a low-salary, for this reason at night she worked as a sex worker until she found a boyfriend.

  • Suphee and Rajani at Raina’s house. They are wearing the traditional Indian dress for girls (Sari).

  • Suphee at a Beauty Farm for the laser beard removal procedure. Suphee is working during the day in a NGO but with a low-salary, for this reason at night she worked as a sex worker until she found a boyfriend.

  • The friends Dipmalya and Raina at her house. Raina often hosts friends at her house because in their own family’s homes they cannot dress up as women, wear makeup, be themselves.

  • Dipmalya during an event against Section 377. She is Kothi and she started a small fashion business with her boyfriend.

  • Hijra in a Muslim tomb during a URUS ceremony of baba Jalaluddin Sayeed. The transgender community’s priority is to put Chader in a Muslim saint tomb.

  • Raina and her niece. When Raina lost her parents, she decided to start a new life as an activist and moreover to help her family, in particular, she takes care of her niece.

  • Kayashree is a sex worker. She has many physical problems after a sex change operation. Until now she cannot have sex and she lost her job.

  • Hijras dancing in the street during an URUS ceremony of Baba Jalaluddin Sayeed. Hijras of the Indian Subcontinent have a deep and inner connection to Sufi Orders and Muslim saints.

  • Raina with her niece, Saswata and Dipmalya, during the first birthday of Sophie's nephew. For this event Suphee and her friends were very nervous, Suphee in particular because she had to wear traditional man’s dress.

  • Suphee at a Park where most Kothis meet. Hijras and Kothis often use public spaces like parks and toilets to entertain sexual partners, lovers and even clients.

  • Raina and friends during a traditional beard removal procedure

  • Mona at Raina's house. She is living in a Hijra community in Delhi, but she wants to leave the community because she doesn’t accept the castration and initiation rites.

  • Protest at Tollygunge Railway Station against homophobia. During this project, Raina and some friends were beaten, threatened and sexually harassed at Tollygunge railway station by some local boys.

  • Kothis during an event against Section 377. A colonial-era law that labels non-procreative sex as "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" (Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code) and implicitly criminalizes same-sex desiring people.

  • Tollygunge Railway Station. During this project, Raina and some friends were beaten, threatened and sexually harassed at Tollygunge Railway station by some local boys.


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