Two plays about the legal battle to decriminalize homosexuality in India.
On September 6, 2018, a decades-long battle to decriminalize queer intimacy in India came to an end. The Supreme Court of India ruled that Section 377, the colonial anti-sodomy law, violated the country’s constitution. “LGBT persons,” the Court said, “deserve to live a life unshackled from the shadow of being ‘unapprehended felons.’” But how definitive was this end? How far does the law’s shadow fall? How clear is the line between the past and the future? What does it mean to live with full sexual citizenship?
In Love and Reparation, Danish Sheikh navigates these questions with a deft interweaving of the legal, the personal, and the poetic. The two plays in this volume leap across court transcripts, affidavits (real and imagined), archival research, and personal memoir. Through his re-staging, Sheikh crafts a genre-bending exploration of a litigation battle, and a celebration of defiant love that burns bright in the shadow of the law.
About the Author
Danish Sheikh is a playwright and activist-lawyer currently engaged in doctoral research at the Melbourne Law School. His writing has been cited by the Supreme Court of India in 2018, shortlisted for the Jan Michalski Award in 2017, and won the Publishing Next Award in the same year.
“Danish Sheikh’s work shows that it is possible to think law, literature, and love together -- and to do so with vulnerability, compassion, and intelligence. These plays bring together incredibly disparate philosophical questions, political movements, and popular culture, anchored by a commitment to justice. In the world of Love and Reparation, the courtroom becomes a place of more than confession and prosecution – it becomes a site of storytelling and the imagination of alternative possibilities for justice.” — Daniel Elam, Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature, University of Hong Kong
“Love and Reparation offers any law teacher a rare opportunity to discuss with students the elusive relations of law and life. Contempt, the first play in this volume, demonstrates the necessity of drawing methods of text and performance together to illuminate how a trial is both an event of law, and also a form of political story telling about how people’s lived experiences are exposed or transformed when they come to law. In my own experience, as an audience member, and as a teacher of the text, this is a work that stages informed, critical engagement with law, and important collective conversations about personal and public responsibility.” — Ann Genovese, Associate Professor, Melbourne Law School
“The text nurtures the reader’s meandering by creating large, subtly interconnected spaces, opening multiple pathways for us to travel. I loved the journey it took me on, loved the writing, loved how it connected the very intimate with the political and legal. As wonderful as it would be to watch this play staged, it fully stands as a piece of writing in and of itself.” — Klaus Mueller, Founder and Chair, Salzburg Global LGBT Forum
“How does law, whether it is the law contained within legal statutes, the law of love, friendship, communitas and strife, or the symbolic in psychology, insinuate itself into our queer lives, loves and longings? Using the conceit of the dialogue and the dialogic in 'The Symposium', Plato’s Greek play on love, Danish Sheikh dramatizes something beautiful, tender and extraordinary in these two plays. The Platonic dialogue on love frames and orchestrates both plays—and through them the playwright makes us witness, participate in and feel the myriad stories through which queer lives shape themselves before and after the sodomy statute was read down. The plays stage interwoven genres through which people find or lose their voices, giving us the fully banal horror of homophobia in the witness statements when 377 was reinstated interspersed with affidavits from queer chronicles, and post 377 being struck down, the jostling montage of different voices, whether that of lovers, organizers and lawyers, friends or therapist and patient, stumbling through courses to lives after.” — Geeta Patel, Professor, University of Virginia
“Because ‘reason will only take us so far’, in these sharp, witty and heart breaking plays, Danish Sheikh immerses us in the affective lives of law—in particular, the law that criminalised homosexuality in India until 2018. Through glimpses of the many queer lives that are shaped in ways both direct and subtle by the violence of the law, Sheikh forces the law to confront the complex realities of these lives. Lurking beneath the frequently self-deprecating humour of his characters is a profound meditation on the weighty afterlives of a law that ostensibly no longer exists (or does it remain forever enshrined in some deepest recess of the psyche?). Brace yourself for a ride through contempt, pride, shame, love, repair and a range of other emotional states for which we do not yet have names.” — Rahul Rao, Reader in Political Theory, SOAS, University of London