Homophobia In India Explored By Photographer Through A Series Of Powerful Photographs

Coming out of the closet isn’t always an easy experience.

For some, societal pressures and family values instill enough fear in an individual to cause them to hide their true identity; their true sexuality. But in a day and age where, in the United States, for instance, gay marriage is legal in all 50 states, it is hard to comprehend a world where homosexuality itself is a crime. As opposed to a growing number of Western countries that have adopted progressive ideals on same-sex marriage, to afford equal rights to all citizens, many Eastern nations remain staunchly opposed to such acceptance. In India, for example, homosexuality is illegal. Accordingly, many individuals choose to stay in the closet in order to avoid persecution. Section 377 of the Indian Penal code, which criminalizes consensual sex between people of the same gender, was previously questioned and overturned, but India’s Supreme Court hasn’t come to a final verdict on the matter just yet.

The law is as follows: Whoever voluntary has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with man, woman, or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine. In response to this reality that has undoubtedly plagued the well-being of many Indian residents, photographer Arjun Kamath shot 30 photographs for the series “Coming Out” to expose, through a fictional narrative of two women coming out to the world, the pain of being banned from loving who you want. It’s the type of story that will surely open your eyes to the archaism of such laws. “It’s a free world.” “Maitreyi opened the door for the first time...The unending fog hung in the air like a suffocating sheath, blanketing the land with its ghostly glow.” “A cold wind blew mercilessly, chilling Alpana to the marrow, as she opened the creaky closet door.

The overhead dark clouds skimmed past the orange sun from time to time, throwing the little patch of forest into blackness. Flashes of lighting in the distance made the already nervous Alpana not want to step out...“ “The twigs cracked under Alpana’s feet as she stumbled out of the closet; Maitreyi’s calm presence gave her the hope that the forest was a safe place. As the two girls trudged ahead, the winds of the forest roared, blowing an eerie chill past the endless line of dying trees...” “The wildlife held its breath as Alpana embraced Maitreyi; the girls had been in love for the longest time ever. And although the leafless trees stood like witches over their petite figures, they stood there undeterred.

They had finally come out of the closet and now there was no looking back...” “As Maitreyi and Alpana grew comfortable in each others arms, the glowing sun started to reveal itself through the perilous clouds.” “The love between Maitreyi and Alpana overflowed and changed the mood of the forest.

The mischevious sun peeped through the clouds and washed the forest with a golden glow as the girls trudged forward.

The tree’s soft whispers against the wind was like a gentle lullaby, comforting them along the way...” “An atmosphere of calmness and peace pervaded, and the beauty was quietly stunning.

The soft green grass under their feet stretched to the horizon and the song of the river was gentle. Alpana and Maitreyi had left the closet behind and stepped into a new world.

The sky above them stretched as far as the eye could see in an arcade of turquoise-blue, punched with fluffy clouds.

They walked hand in hand, observing the screeching swallows as they chased whirring dragonflies in a dance of life and death.

The golden sun had evaporated the fear in their hearts and filled it with hope...” “The cute little shrubs of the forest cast their reflection on the water forming buttery silhouettes; it was still early in the morning and the music of the birds floated in the air. Tiny fishes broke the surface of the water causing the water ripples to glimmer in the Sun’s reflection.

The girls smiled in their newfound comfort and decided to play a game of hide and seek...” “Alpana whispered, ‘Now I can do whatever I want.’ Maitreyi smiled and said, ‘I’ve never stopped you.’“ “The forest turned to pale copper as the rays of the sun pulled itself across the horizon and slid in between the grey clouds. Alpana tightened the knot one final time. ‘Good luck, Mai’ she whispered...” “The greys began to fade, as liquid gold crept up from leaf to limb. Maitreyi and Alpana had never been happier...” “Maitreyi surrendered to the beat of her feet against the rocks that littered her path. Her laughter, breathless and sporadic mingled fluently with the morning chorus of the birds. Sweat spread itself across her forehead, causing her hair to cling to it as her throat pined for more air.

The delicious rush of wind skimmed past her face as she ran around the forest trying to catch Alpana. And as the canopy overhead thickened, her steps grew muffled because of the leaves that blanketed the forest floor; the ground was no longer cold beneath her soles...” “Suddenly during the game, Maitreyi collapsed to the ground as she felt the pain as strong as a hundred daggers sinking into her feet. Squirming with anguish, she sat on the damp grass, clutching her feet. Her eyes were watery with the sheer pain and her breathing was heavy. Sweat dripped down the side of her face and covered her forehead in a thin sheen. A nasty thorn had penetrated her leg and she was in great pain...” “Seeing Maitreyi in pain caused Alpana’s chest to swell with melancholy. However, Alpana willed herself to comfort Maitreyi and pull the thorn out of her flesh. She ignored the ringing in her ears, the heat from her cheeks as she felt the need to cry; it was her idea to play hide and seek after all.

The small punctures in Alpana’s heart slowly filled with anxiety, knowing that she didn’t have long before she completely lost it. She sucked in a breath and held it there. She had to be strong. For Maitreyi. For her.” “Maitreyi’s thumb caressed Alpana’s earlobe softly, her fingers supporting the back of her head as she leant in firmly, yet seductively, placing her lips over Alpana’s nose. Ragged breathing and dancing heartbeats brought a fiery heat to the cold forest air. ‘It’s not your fault...’ whispered Maitreyi.” “Parivala, very much like Maitreyi and Alpana had found freedom in the very same forest a few days ago. So when she saw the girls embrace each other, her heart was overcome with joy. She observed them from a distance and was glad that they had come out...” “Parivala blessed the girls and walked away..” “It was a new day and the glimmer of hope strengthened with every passing minute.” “Maitreyi and Alpana’s joyful laughter echoed through the forest... But somewhere in the distances, maybe miles away, maybe just a few feet, they heard something moving. Once, twice. Something heavier dropped, crashed into the rubble, echoed off the trees.

Then silence again...” “The Rakshasas of the forest had heard Maitreyi and Alpana’s laughter...” “The only love that was allowed was between man and woman...” “Maitreyi and Alpana would pay for their sins..” “Maitreyi and Alpana were dragged through the forest mercilessly...

Their biggest sin was that they had loved each other, and not a man.” “The love that brought them together, was the love that tore them apart...” “Maitreyi and Alpana were shoved back into the closet...” “Nobody heard them screaming, nobody wiped their tears. Maitreyi clutched Alpana’s hand tightly as the doors closed on them...” “Silence hung in the air like a bereaved soul as Maitreyi and Alpana embraced each other one last time...” “Plumes of black smoke filled the closet and the searing heat slowly made it difficult to breathe; Maitreyi and Alpana held onto each other, their nails almost digging into each others flesh. All the wonderful moments that they spent together flashed before their eyes as the closet erupted into flames...” “God wept a silent rain as Parivala screamed and cried... but it was too late. She sobbed as she sank to her knees, not caring for the damp mud that dirtied her dress; she had blessed the girls a few days ago and now they were gone.” Images And Words: Arjun Kamath .

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