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The Illegal Citizen – Course Modules – Sexual Citizenship and Claiming the City

Course on The Illegal Citizen

A course that examines the relationship between citizenship, participation and illegality. It consists of two modules.

1. Module on Sexual Citizens

This module of the course will seek to understand if there is a sexuality underlying the idea of citizenship. Citizenship is normally framed in abstract terms with seemingly little or no relevance to the sexuality of the citizen. However when it comes to the matter of exercising citizenship rights sexuality becomes of key relevance.

This module will seek to understand what the sexuality of the citizen should be so that she can access the existing rights framework. Thus this module will examine the nature of normative sexuality as a social system and the rights which flow to the ‘ideal’ citizen , ie the one whose sexuality conforms to the normative ideal of sexuality as coded in Indian law, social mores , media and the practices of the medical establishment . It then moves on to look at the problem that non conforming sexualities pose for those who want to assert their citizenship rights under the Indian Constitution. It will then look at those who are outsiders to the very idea of citizenship by reason of their sexuality , particularly the queer person and the sex worker. Finally it will seek to understand how the normative framework of citizenship is being mobilized by the queer and sex worker community in Bangalore to access basic citizenship rights.

This module is envisaged in sessions.

I. Session 1

This session will look at the notion of normative sexuality and its relations to rights. It will seek to understand how the notions of normative sexuality are constructed and the power of the normative to exclude all those who do not conform. One can understand the power to exclude only if one takes seriously the idea of sexuality as a political and social system.

Compulsory Readings
Gayle Rubin, Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality.

Recommended Readings
i. Michel Foucault , The History of Sexuality Vol 1
ii. Jefferey Weeks , Sexuality
iii. Anna Marie Smith , Sexual Justice, Democratic Citizenship and the Politics of Desire.

II.Session 2


This session will look at the problems that non-conforming sexualities pose for those who want to access rights under the legal system. There is great diversity in the nature of demands for rights by the queer community ranging from the issues of lesbian suicide and the demand for same sex marriage to the demand to recognize hijras as women to the decriminalisation of sodomy. This module will focus on the issue of decriminalisation of sodomy. It will raise questions as to how one should understand the impact of criminal law and look at the need for moving beyond the notion of legal enforcement of anti sodomy law and look at the laws role in constituting and creating a cultural worldview with respect to queer people. It will particularly look at the way the queer community has initiated debates around the decriminalization of sodomy globally and its relevance to the Indian context.

Compulsory Readings
i. Khanu vs Emperor , AIR 1925 Sind 286
ii. Macaulay’s reasoning for why have Sec 377, See Vasudha Dagamwar , Law, power and Justice, (pp. 117-118)
iii. Ryan Goodman, Beyond the Enforcement principle: Sodomy laws, Social norms, and Social Panoptics.
iv. Govt of India’s response to the Naz Petition.
v. Cass Sunstein, What did Lawrence hold ? Of autonomy, Desuetude , Sexuality and Marriage , 2003.

Recommended Readings
i. Bowers vs Hardwick, 478 US 186 (1986). 478 US 186.
ii. Lawrence vs Texas,
iii. National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality vs South African Human Rights Commission , 1998 (6) BCLR 726 (W)
iv. Naz Foundation India vs Union of India ( petition in the Delhi High Court )
v. PUCL Report on ‘Human rights violations against the transgender community’
vi. PUCL Report on “Human rights violations against sexuality minorities in India.’

III. Session 3

This session will examine the debates around the issue of sex workers and citizenship and who has been initiating and participating in these debates. It will seek to understand how the voice of the sex worker in relation to existing feminist legal debates.

Compulsory Readings
i. Rajeshwari Sunderajan , The Prostitution question(s), agency and work.
ii.Andrea Dworkin, Prostitution and male agency.
iii. Carol Queen, ‘Sex Radical Politics, Sex-Positive Feminist Thought and the Whore Stigma
iv. Ratna Kapur, The tragedy of victimization rhetoric: resurrecting the “native” subject in international/post-colonial feminist legal politics.
v. Kamla Kempadoo, Reconceptualizing Prostitution
vi. Cecelia Hoffman , Sex: From human intimacy to ‘sexual labour’ or is prostitution a human right?


    IV. Session 4

This session will examine the struggles of the queer as well as the sex worker community in Bangalore and how they have accessed rights. This module will specifically focus on strategies to be employed in ensuring that rights are indeed universalized across sexuality divisions. We hope to brainstorm creatively on how we can move forward given the history of violence and prejudice against sex workers and queer people. Some of the modes which we would like to critically examine are:

Legal Strategies
i. Courtroom-based lawyering ( in the context of two judgements)
ii. Campaigning for progressive law reform
iii.Interventions at the level of the police
iv. Building up a human rights history of violations by state and civil society
v. Linking up to a global discourse on human rights

Non-legal strategies
i. Formation of collectives and groups
ii. Enabling Media visibility of issues
iii.Public action
iv. Family
v. Dealing with the underworld

Compulsory readings
PUCL Report on “Human rights violations against the transgender community’ pp. 60-73.

2. Module on Claiming the City

In this module of the seminar course, we intend to interrogate certain fundamental issues surrounding law and its application towards an understanding of, what we believe, is the construction of the urban illegal located within the realm of access to land for purposes of shelter and livelihood. The challenge truly lies in trying to develop a framework, within and beyond the law, to understand urban illegalities in the above-mentioned context.

There are few basic premises to such an interrogation. Illegality permeates all sorts of social relations in urban areas – with respect to civil, commercial or criminal law, for example and its forms are undoubtedly observed in all class / caste segments of society. in the present analysis, we will focus on the social processes providing access to land for shelter and livelihood and attempt an understanding of its spread across urban landscapes.

Despite its all pervasive presence, what is witnessed is that law treats different forms of illegality differently. This indicates to what we like to call the “differential application of law”. It could be safely argued that more often than not the gaze of law and its stringent application is concentrated on if not reserved for the urban poor. The abstract figure of the illegal citizen materializes as the ragpicker, street child, beggar, pavement dweller or for that matter the slum dwellers and not the developers who flaunt building and zoning laws besides having the sufficient influence to get them altered if need be. The illegal would also be the cyclists on MG Road, facing the risk of punctured tyres, thanks to the police, and not those who drive / ride around with / without licenses, inevitably polluting the air besides also probably breaking all traffic rules. These are just few examples though the attempt through the course would be to elaborate on others.

What logically appears inferentially then is that some forms of illegality tend to be more accepted and tolerated compared to others, both by the State and public opinion. This leads us to another premise what Fernandes and Varley essentially term as “degrees of illegality”.

The above then creates a distinct image of an “illegal” as it were. The ensuing denial of rights in the form of access to basic services results in an obviously lowered standard of living with minimal tenure security. All through this, the illegality is reiterated, confirmed and reconfirmed to mould an undeniable status of the illegal as one. This status is manifested in every manner making the illegality obvious to the subjects and the others as well. Therefore, though the slum exists for decades on end, the resident citizens are consciously denied access to basic services as a means to illustrate its illegality and to reinforce this notion continuously.

There is also the anointment of the illegal in popular media and the marketing of this status in the domain of public opinion (including cinema, TV, newspapers, magazines, etc) as well. An interesting illustration could be drawn from the representation of certain characters in cinema creating a stereotypical yet distinct image that is quite impossible to then break free from. These could be the forever fighting slum women, drunken lazy, rowdy, thieving poor, dirty ragpickers, deviant street children, commercial sex workers with loose morals, poor slum people in need of help, etc.

Added to the above process of illegal construction is the important role played by the adoption and active promotion (in every sense of the word) of a particular image for the City that implicitly offers no space (spatial or otherwise) to certain sections of society. rather crassly put, this implies that those who cannot comply with this image or who are not desired for this image will have to be put away somewhere or invisibilized. Take for example what happened in Hyderabad when Bill Clinton visited the City on the invitation of Chandrababu Naidu. The State government went whole hog in removing all encroachments (read homes of urban poor) along the route to be taken by the Clinton convoy. Further, thousands of vendors were dislocated in the process without any mention of compensation to the displaced. The only ray of hope was that as soon as Clinton departs they would resume their activities. Even beggars were not spared in this cleansing exercise as at least 5000 of them were hauled up with the totally disabled ones sent to some make-shift homes and the remaining threatened of lock-up time if they were to be caught venturing out. A similar occurrence was when Tony Blair was to visit Kolkata, “Operation Sunrise” was launched to rid the streets of hawkers and illegal encroachments.

The adopted image has numerous attributes, each implicitly letting in or outlawing certain sections of society. The “clean” image serves no space for the squalor of the sums or pavement dwellings as evident from the Supreme Court ruling in February 2000 that banned any fresh encroachments or unauthorised occupation of public land for dwelling resulting in the creation of a slum. The “fast” image results in cycle free zones. The “consumer” image results in hawking free zones and massive eviction drives against roadside hawking. The mother of all such images is of course the “global” image, which from the Bangalore context, is the Singapore Dream. Like any other desired image, this appears to emanate from a rather distinct sense of disillusionment with the present image and represents a move towards to discarding present identities and adopting others.

Course OutlineSession 1: To develop an understating of the premises underlying the construction of the urban illegal from the following entry points.

• Law and its differential application • Image outcasts

Reading material
i. Cities and Citizenship by James Holston and Arjun Appadurai
ii. Law, the City and Citizenship in Developing Countries: An Introduction by Edesio Fernades and AnnVarley
iii.Partha Chatterjee – The Legal and the illegal Citizen – Jorge Hardy and David Satterthwaite – Essay of Alain Durand-Lesserve – Introduction to The Other Path – Hernando de Soto – Bhaktavar Case – Bangalore is not a Sinagpore – Janaki Nair – Vajpayee Statement that Mumbai must become Shanghai – Traffic in Democracy – Michael Sorkin

Session 2: A critical look at the usage of pavements and the various illegalities associated with pavement encroachments. It is also intended to look at the hawking that takes place on pavements and the associated legalities.

Reading material:
i. Photo essay
ii.Important judgements on Pavement dwellings / hawking
iii. Press Clippings
iv. Manushi articles
v. Informal Trade by Hernando De Soto

Session 3: To understand the issue of illegalities that is associated with access to housing.

Reading material:
– Revenue layouts – ALF – Revenue Layouts – Real Estate Reporter and press clippings – National Slum Policy (draft) – Interview of Jan Sahyog and arranging of visit – Important Court judgements on Slums – Migrant Women and Urban Experience in a Squatter Settlement – Saraswati Haider – Welcome to History: A Resettlement Colony in the Making – Emma Tarlo – Legal pluralism in Caracas, Venezuela – Rogelio Perdoma and Teolinda Bolivar – International Trends and Country Contexts – From Tenure Regularization to Tenure Security – Alain Durand-Lesserve and Lauren Roston

Session 4: Claiming the City.

Reading material: – Jobs, Land and Urban Development – Solomon Benjamin – Spaces of Insurgent Citizenship – James Holston – Visit and discussion on Vyalikaval Slum (Chowdiah Hall) – Slum Organisations and Politics by Stealth – ALF introduction to SCE report