Trigger Warning: Suicide, Depression, Abuse
Dormant emotional reminders stirred up for Queer India after the suicide of Anjana Hareesh. The 21-year old Keralite was found hanging from a tree on the 14 of May. One can speculate that persistent vitriol against the LGBTQI+ community triggered her to such extremes. 2018 was a monumental year for India, as it finally scrapped section 377, a colonial-era rule which criminalised gay sex. Despite the improvement in the legal status, the queer-folk of India still face discrimination that proves to be detrimental. From workplace to home, these individuals temper down their technicolor personalities to fit into a black-and-white shoe box. And when they refuse to, some sparkle in the monochrome while some fade away. Sadly, Anjana faded when trying to sparkle.
The Turmoils of Anjana
Anjana Hareesh alias Chinu Sulfikar is reported to have a difficult relationship with her parents. About 4 months ago, her mother is said to have filed a missing complaint with the Hodsburg police. Further, she’s said to have forcibly been taken to multiple de-addiction centres and mental health centres to “cure” her of her bisexuality. When she left early March to attend a college reunion, her mother filed another complaint.
This time around Anjana told Judicial First Class Magistrate Court that she was not interested to go back with her mother and was permitted to go live with a friend. Wanting a breather, she went to Goa on March 17th with her friends. Due to the commencement of a nationwide lockdown, they got stranded in a resort. Her friends found her hanging from a tree on a lungi.
A live video, put on the 13th of March, revealed her turmoil during these attempted conversions. She confessed crying her heart out every night when secluded in the cells of these centres. Having been heavily sedated and doused with injections, she said, “The medication made me dizzy. It impaired my vision and speech”. Anjana exposed the aftereffects of these impressionable experiences that took a toll on her mental health. It’s heartbreaking to hear her say that she was let down by people who were supposed to protect her – her parents. The friends who saw her condition first hand confirmed that she was subject to domestic abuse and mental torture. She was apparently depressed for a long time with recurring suicidal thoughts.
Detrimental Consequences of Conversion Therapies
Despite Indian Psychiatric Society’s reiteration in July 2018 about homosexuality not being an illness or anything unnatural, “conversion therapies” which aim at “curing” such individuals still take place. Uninformed guardians who try to “fix” their children transmit the message of rejection and disappointment to these vulnerable individuals, subtracting the unconditional from the “love” they try to express. Movies, articles, and studies insist on the detrimental effects of these therapies. Left with a range of traumas and phobias (Anjana’s would be of the dark), these individuals resort to self-harm due to their battered self-worth. These “reparative” programmes can lead to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, homelessness, and suicide.
Statements from international and nationwide mental health organisations such as The Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists (AICP), The Association of Psychiatric Social Work Professionals (APSWP) and Centre of Mental Health Law and Policy try to normalise diversity of sexual orientations condemning practises that try to cure any non-heterosexual orientation.
Nonetheless, many practitioners make this pseudoscientific attempt to change such individuals. Looking at these statistics, the need of the hour would be to educate and normalise the spectrum of sexual orientation on not just a legal but a social level. According to a study, highly rejected LGBTQ young people are 8 more times as likely to have attempted suicide. In regressive attempts that try to police love, things snow-ball to become matters of life and death.
Just like Anjana, many others have tried to end their lives due to parental and societal rejections. It is, indeed, imperative to educate the uninformed and persuade the belligerent. Yet, it is also necessary to gently remind the queer-folk, in the words of Harish Iyer that, “You will find people in the queer community who will be willing to speak to you. People with non-supporting families understand that there are families beyond families.” And perhaps, Anjana serving as an iconic reminder of this sustainable approach will grant her justice.
Featured Image Source: Manorama Online