Anjana Hareesh (21), a queer-identified student from Kasargode district in Kerala, took her own life on 13th May 2020 while she was in Goa during the COVID 19 lockdown. According to the postmortem report, this was a case of suicide. We strongly condemn the purposeful and vengeful manufacturing of false narratives meant to criminalize Anjana’s life and her death, as well as the lives of other women, queer and trans community people in Kerala. We demand a fair and impartial inquiry into the institutional and social violence that contributed to her suicide.

Sahayatrika is a community-based human rights organization that has an 18-year history of working with queer and trans communities in Kerala. We support sexual and gender minorities who are female assigned, including lesbians and bisexual women, trans men, gender non-conforming and intersex people. In 2002-03, we initiated a series of fact findings about the suicides of queer and trans people in Kerala, which have been documented in the book Midhyakalkkappuram: Swavarga Laingikatha Keralathil [Against the Myths: Same-Sexuality in Kerala] edited by Reshma Bharadwaj. Since 2002, we have received thousands of calls from queer and trans people whose families have either rejected or wanted to “cure” them, whose employers discriminate against them, and who are struggling to survive in a world where violent acts of persecution inflicted against communities are accepted as normal and encouraged.

On March 13, 2020, Anjana went on Facebook live (https://rb.gy/2gf61o) (English translation available here: https://rb.gy/b5sajp) and gave testimony about the forcible psychiatric treatment she underwent in Coimbatore, Palakkad and Trivandrum for two months, starting on December 24, 2019. She described being taken by family members and others by car first to Kannur railway station, and being physically and mentally tortured by her family members in the car. She was then taken to Dr. N. S. Mony in Coimbatore. There she was forcibly sedated, and hit hard on the ear when she tried to resist. She fell to the ground. Anjana stated that her next memory was waking up in a de-addiction centre plus mental health facility in Palakkad [Shalom Institute of Mental Health and Research] where she was forced to live with patients with severe mental health conditions, mentally and physically tortured, and confined in a cell. After three weeks, she was taken to another de-addiction plus mental health centre, Karuna Sai Institute, in Trivandrum, where she was injected with unknown medications more than 40 times. She was constantly dizzy due to heavy medication, being unable to see clearly or speak coherently. She said, “Owing to the medications and injections forced into me, the person named Anjana Harish has now ceased to be.”

Two weeks after being discharged from psychiatric treatment, Anjana left her home. Her family filed a missing-persons complaint. She appeared before the Magistrate on March 13, 2020, and the court freed her as per her decision. The court asked where she would go, and she chose to go with her friends. Many media have ascribed ‘legal guardianship’ to her friends, unable to accept adult women taking agency in their lives without the support of families. There was no legal guardian instruction either by court or by any statute. Anjana choosing the help of her friends over that of her family has been portrayed by some as an involvement in illegal activities, targeting and accusing Anjana of living a wayward life.

We condemn all media/ social media that have depicted Anjana as having an “unnatural lifestyle”, an “urban naxalite”, a maoist, anti-national, Jihadi lesbian, drug addict, terrorist, etc. Anjana took a brave stand by opposing the violence from family and psychiatric institutions. Many media and YouTube videos manipulated reports, misrepresented the postmortem and manufactured fake news. Only a few reported this incident responsibly, taking Anjana’s own words about her life seriously.

We express disapproval and strong opposition to queer phobic, slandering campaigns against those who were close to Anjana. We condemn the media reports like those of Janam TV, Namo TV, and channels and newspapers which forcefully tried to create a mystery around Anjana’s death and criminalize her friends. The friends who provided Anjana a place to live or were present with her in Goa themselves come from multiple marginalised locations — as women, queer and trans people, people living with disabilities, or coming from Bahujan, Muslim or Dalit communities. They became easy targets for hate speech and spewed venom. Furthermore, the media reports that attack Anjana’s friends stigmatise the support spaces that queer and trans people have built through years of struggle, making it more difficult for community people in the future. Anjana’s tragic death and the slander campaign also point to the necessity of speaking out for safe housing rights for adult women and queer people.

We condemn and express shock that certain sections of media/individuals criminalised Anjana’s support system without examining the familial and institutionalised violence which prompted Anjana to leave her family in the first place. Anjana wrote and spoke with many about her experiences of childhood trauma and abuse. During her teens, she was temporarily placed under government custody after a suicide attempt following sexual violence from her stepfather. She referred to this incident on her Facebook profile, (Jan. 14, 2018), and wrote about child sexual abuse and familial violence in many other places on her profile. On May 3, 2020, she wrote an evocative post about smells and their associated memories, including the smell and explicit sexual touch of her relative. On May 7, 2020, less than a week before she took her own life, Anjana wrote on Facebook, “Those who have had good childhoods are the luckiest people in the world.” One can also find writings on Facebook about her earlier suicide attempts, and a long record of suicidal ideation.

We condemn media reports which failed to address Anjana’s own testimony about the forced psychiatric treatment. We urge the investigation of mental health professionals and centres, which according to Anjana’s testimony forcibly treated her against her consent. As per the Mental Healthcare Act 2017, which came into effect in July 2018, an adult person cannot be treated for any mental health condition without their express consent, or by the consent of a nominated representative who can only be nominated by the person requiring treatment. In our crisis intervention experience, it is tragically common for queer and trans community members to be forced into non-consensual psychiatric treatment or conversion therapy to “cure” their sexual orientation or gender identity. Homosexuality has been declassified as a mental illness since 1973 by the American Psychiatric Association (in DSM II) and by the World Health Organization since 1992 (in ICD-10). In July 2018 the Indian Psychiatric Society gave a position statement that “There is no evidence to substantiate the belief that homosexuality is a mental illness or a disease.” The Association of Psychiatric Social Work Professionals in India, the Indian Association of Clinical Psychologists, and the Kerala branch of the Indian Psychiatric Society has recently issued statements condemning conversion therapy.

We condemn the failure of mainstream media to question the role of the Hindu Democratic Front, who has claimed responsibility for ‘helping’ Anjana in aiding and abetting her forced psychiatric treatment. We note that despite the recognition of the constitutional rights of queer and trans people in India as seen in Supreme Court decisions recognising transgender rights (NALSA 2014) or decriminalising consensual same-sex relationships (Navthej Singh Johar 2018), Hindu fundamentalist and right wing groups have vehemently refused to change their attitude to alternate sexualities and genders. With deep disappointment, we also condemn the criminalising narratives created by some left aligned progressive individuals in media/ social media. The past two governments in Kerala have supported the rights of gender and sexuality minorities by supporting the decriminalisation of IPC 377, creating transgender welfare policies and expressing commitment to our rights. We urge the Kerala government, all political parties, civil society groups, and all people concerned with justice to condemn the hate campaign triggered by Anjana’s suicide.

We write as people who are queer and/or trans, or as people who accept and support the various expressions of sexualities and genders as rights. We refuse to tolerate this phobia, exclusion and hatred that lead to criminalization and stigmatization of marginalized sexualities and genders. We demand the Kerala State government and other relevant bodies to:

1. Uphold the 2018 Navtej Johar Supreme Court of India judgment which decriminalizes consensual same sex relationships and make it a mandate for all media.
2. Set up an enquiry into the treatment given to Anjana by the doctors and de-addiction centers, and those who assisted them, and take stringent action against them.
3. Set up an enquiry into the hate speech and fake news peddled both in mainstream media as well as social media, and take stringent action against offenders.
4. Investigate all doctors, mental health practitioners and ‘de-addiction’ centers that advocate or practice conversion therapy, and take legal action against them.
5. Set up a monitoring process to prevent forced psychiatric treatment and conversion therapy, and close those centres that violate their patients’ human rights.
6. Condemn and punish hate speech, derogatory insults, direct explicit forms of discrimination and stigmatization through act, deed, speech and other forms.
7. Develop facilities that offer safe housing for queer people and cis-heterosexual women who face violence from patriarchal and homophobic systems.

Signatories :

1. RAAHI The Journey (Queer Organisation – Bangalore)
2. LABIA – (A Queer Feminist LBT Collective, Mumbai)
3. Sampoorna (Organisation for Trans and intersex Rights)
4. Feminists In Resistance (An Autonomous Collective, Kolkata)
5. Nazariya: A Queer Feminist Resource Group, New Delhi
6. Vikalp Womens Group, Gujarat (Programme director)
7. Orinam (LGBTQIA+ Collective, Chennai)
8. Queerala (Community Organization, Kerala)
9. Queerythm LGBTIQ Community Kerala
10. National Law School Queer Alliance (NLSQA), (Bangalore Convenor)
11. Law Schools’ Queer Alliance (Apoorva Nangia, Member)
12. Kerala State Transgender Justice Board (Members)
13. Samiksha (Fellow at Teach for India)
14. Centre for Constitutional Rights Research and Advocacy (Director)
15. National Law School Queer Alliance (NLSQA), (Bangalore Convenor)
16. Aneka (Human Rights Organisation, Bangalore)
17. Queer Affirmative Counseling Practice (QACP), Mumbai (Counsellor)
18. East West Center for Counselling and Training (Director)

19. Dr. Jayasree.A.K (Professor. Community Medicine)
20. Urvashi Butalia
21. Devika J (Feminist Scholar)
22. Mary E John (Centre for Women’s Development Studies New Delhi)
23. Anand Patwardhan (Filmmaker)
24. Reshma Bharadwaj (Department of Social Work, Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Assistant Professor)
25. Rekha Raj (Assistant Professor, MG University)
26. Maya S. (Assistantt Professor, Kerala Varma College )
27. Reshma Radhakrishnan (Researcher)
28. Deepa Vasudevan / Sahayatrika (Managing Trustee)
29. Sunil Mohan (Transman, Independent Researcher Alternative Law Forum & RAAHI)
30. Rumi Harish (Transman, Independent Researcher Alternative Law Forum & RAAHI)
31. Chithira Vijayakumar (Independent Journalist)
32. Gee Imaan Semmalar (Activist and Artist )
33. Sonu Niranjan ( Kerala Transgender Board Member)
34. Vihaan Peethambar (Board Member, Queerala)
35. Faisal Faisu C (Queer Activist)
36. Chinju Aswathi Rajappan (Transgender Justice Board Member)
37. Sheethal Shyam (Transgender Justice Board Member)
38. Bittu K R, Trans Rights No (-Associate Professor of Biology and Psychology)
39. Dr. L. Ramakrishnan (VP, SAATHII)
40. Arvind Narrain (Lawyer and Writer)
41. Shruti ; Mariwala Health Initiative (Chief Advisor)
42. Chayanika Shah (Member, PUCL Maharashtra)
43. Shals Mahajan (Writer)
44. Pawan Dhall, Varta Trust (Founding Trustee)
45. Meera Sanghamitra (National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM))
46. Rajashree, Queerala (Board Member)
47. Prijith. P.K (Founder of Queerythm)
48. Muhammed Unais
49. Aryakrishan (Sweet Maria Monument )
50. M.R. Renukumar ( Writer)
51. Dileep Raj (Assi. Prof. Brennen College Thalassery)
52. Maitreya (Retd Social activist)
53. K.P. Sasi, Visual Search Film Maker
54. Kani ( Actor)
55. Abhija S Kala (Performance artist)
56. K.G. Jagadeeshan (Gandhi Smarkam Desheeya Samithy Angam)
57. Bindu Menon (Azim Premji University)
58. Sonia Joseph, South Asia Solidarity Initiative (Collective Member)
59. Adv Abhilash A J (Advocate)
60. Deeptha Rao (Advocate)
61. Smriti Nevatia (Freelance Researcher-Writer & Documentary Professional)
62. Praveen Nath (Student, Trans Activist)
63. Samira Nadkarni (Maritime journalist)
64. Bhoomika D. Pandhare (Advocate )
65. Beena Anish (Sahayatrika)
66. Sreekanth Kannan (Community Member)
67. Nathaan M (Journalist, Trans Activist)
68. Ketki Ranade/ KP (Tata Institute of Social Sciences,Faculty)
69. Jolly Chirayath ( Social Activist, Actor)
70. Asha Achuthan (Faculty, TISS, Mumbai)
71. Muralidharan Tharayil
72. Sujata Patel, Savitribai Phule Pune University (Distinguished Professor)
73. Shewli Kumar (Tata Institute of Social Sciences,Associate Professor )
74. Elizabeth (Feminist Activist)
75. Ahana Mekhal (Community Organizer – Sahayatrika For Human Rights)
76. Jenny Sulfath ( Researcher)
77. Mythri Prasad (Researcher)
78. Jayasree Kalathil, Survivor Research, London (Writer and campaigner)
79. Meena Gopal (Academic)
80. Dr.K.S Sudeep Kozhikode
81. Sarath Cheloor (Social Activist)
82. Ramlath Kavil, Feministsindia (Feministsindia )
83. Dr. K Ashraf / University of Johannesburg (Researach Fellow)
84. Debolina Dutta (Assistant Professor)
85. Renjith Kumar (Film maker)
86. Darshana Mini (Assistant Professor)
87. Josephine Varghese (Academic)
88. Gutta Rohith (Human Rights Forum, Andhra Pradesh)
89. Seena Panoli (Research Scholar and Activist)
90. Sahana Mehta / Equality Labs (Political Organizer)
91. Bindhulakshmi Pattadath (Associate Professor)
92. Ranjita Biswas (Psychiatrist )
93. Kolika (Researcher)
94. Ujjaini Srimani (Mental Health Professional)
95. Sujata Gothoskar (Forum Against Oppression of Women, Member)
96. Sandhya Gokhale (Activist from Forum Against Oppression of Women and Peoples Union for Civil Liberties)
97. Koyel Ghosh (Teacher)
98. Madhurima (Business Owner)
99. AK Dave (Member, LABIA LBT Collective)
100. Madhurima (Student)
101. Shaju V V (Writer)
102. Ammu Abraham (Forum Against Oppression of Women, PUCL Maharashtra, Member)
103. Poushali Basak (Sappho for Equality)
104. Rachana S Yajur (IITM Student)
105. Sindhya Saji (Student)
106. Vidhya Sindhya (Student)
107. Radha Gopalan (Independent Researcher)
108. Swathi Shivanand (Independent Researcher)
109. Johanna Lokhande (National Co ordinator )
110. Niharika Banerjea (Teacher)
111. Dimple Oberoi Vahali (Independent Activist)
112. Amrita Shodhan (Housewife)
113. Matt (Consultant)
114. Payal Dhar (Journalist)
115. Muskan (Supporter)
116. Avaneeth Aravind (Software Developer)
117. Amrutha Barsa (Student)
118. Padma Velaskar, Tata Institute of Social Sciencess (Professor (Retd) )
119. Brinda (Researcher)
120. Gurpreet Kaur (Researcher)
121. Sangeeta Chatterji (Postdoctoral Fellow)
122. Reva Y (Sociologist)
123. Anuradha Kapoor /Swayam (Director )
124. Pallavi Gupta (Researcher)
125. Sasi Kumar (Freelance)
126. Jinu Mariya P P (Social Work Trainee)
127. Ritambhara
128. Pavel (Social Activist)
129. Ruhaan Ali (U.P.)
130. Pamheiba Rajkumar (Quality Executive)
131. RK Chingkhei (Dentist)
132. Vihaan, Programme Manager (Nazariya :A Queer Feminist Resource Group)
133. Nelson Deb/The Eco Hub (Social Entrepreneur and Founder)
134. Johnson Joseph (Film Media)
135. Anoop. V.R ( Advocate, Activist)
136. Srija U (Student)
137. Rinki Chorasiy (Student)
138. Mathilde Rouxel (PhD Candidate in Humanities)
139. Mándala Sanga
140. Abdul Kareem UK
141. Annette Jacob (Filmmaker)
142. Anand R (IT Professional)
143. Gadha (Psychologist)
144. Pamela Philipose (Journalist)
145. Kamal (Social Activist )
146. Arjun (Student/ Writer)
147. Sathyakala KK (Activist)
148. Astha Kalarikkal (Queer Activist)
149. Prasannakumar Tn (Publishing)
150. Rahul Mahesh (Film maker)
151. Rituparna Pal (Dancer)
152. Sathya Seelan Junior (Film maker)
153. Ishan Mehandru (Student)
154. Anshad PP (Student)
155. Rex Mathew Mathew (Software Engineer)
156. Eric Nayanan (Queer Activist)
157. Amal S (Queer Activist)
158. Renju ( Writer)
159. Sanjina Gupta – (Founder, Rangeen Khidki Foundation)
160. Srija (Engineer)
161. Hansa George Muthalali (Artist)
162. Nisha T (Researcher)
163. Ropsan (FOE)
164. Mx Sap M (Artist)
165. Ammu Thomas (Student, St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai)
166. A V Sherine (Journalist)
167. Saritha (Project Manager)
168. Abdelatif BELHAJ (Artist)
169. Deepak O Nair (Research Scholar)
170. Anupama (Student)
171. Prameela K P (Research Scholar)
172. Aparna Maikkara (Software Developer)
173. Swetha Narayanan
174. Munidarsan VG (Executive Director Fortune IAS)
175. Sravanthi (Student)
176. Joby Joseph (Associate Professor)
177. Kartikeya Jain (Freelance)
178. Saranya (Student)
179. Anisha Sheth (Journalist)
180. Chokila K.V. (Student)
181. Subaid ( Student)
182. Sarath Prakash (Student)
183. Remya
184. Vishnu Raju (Student)
185. Vishnu Prasad P P (Artist)
186. Zarika H (Student (MS))
187. Liba (Student)
188. Elizabeth (Student)
189. Priya (Homemaker)
190. Pushpa Ajantha (Writer)
191. Sruthy
192. Madhu. J – (Social Worker)
193. Ambika (Freelance Editor )
194. Malavika S Gopan (Student)
195. Maansi Shah (Student)
196. Aravind R (Freelancer)
197. Catrinel Dunca (Independent )
198. Anoop Mohan (Indian National Congress)
199. Aparna (Student )
200. Arun Ganesh (Student)
201. Anika/Breakthrough India (Senior Manager Campaigns)
202. Anis Raychaudhuri (A Gender-Sexuality-Sexual Health Rights Worker)
203. Arjun Raj V (Student)
204. Dhaneesh. T (Artist)
205. Anusha Mithra(MBBS Student )


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