Death by suicide of a 16-year-old queer person: Why don’t you care when we are bullied?

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“Ch*ka” “Hijda” “Baila” “Good”. These were names I was called every day, many times in middle and high school because I was rude. Those were the times when social media was creeping into our lives, and the energy was probably not as fierce and brutal as it is today. I write this piece following the relentless attacks on Pranshu, a sixteen-year-old boy who died by suicide. He faced massive online bullying.

It seems that his only fault is that he wants to be. Following his death, there were campaigns to seek justice like #JusticeForPranshu. But Pranshu was not the first child driven to suicide. Unfortunately, it won’t be the last. I would have been one if not for the right intervention at the right time. While bullying is a lived reality for thousands of queer children in this country, we have no systems in place to deal with it at the school or institutional level.

Queer children are more vulnerable to bullying, especially in middle and high school. Name calling is only the tip of the iceberg. Physical and sexual abuse is common not only by peers but also by the teachers the students are with. The impact on children’s emotional, mental and physical health is immense, and in some cases we lose them to suicide. The data is clear globally: LGBTQ+ youth face higher health and suicide risks than their peers. According to a new report by UNESCO in 2019 DelhiPhysical bullying affects 60 percent of high school and middle school students and 50 percent of high school students. According to the same report, sexual violence in primary schools has reached 43 percent. How long will we put up with this? It’s time to say enough. We cannot accept ignorance. We cannot accept intolerance. We cannot accept name calling. We cannot afford to lose any more children.

Long after I graduated from high school, I wrote to the principal and administration, expressing my homophobia and urging the school to take proactive steps to equip teachers to deal with bullies. Alas, after a few email exchanges, and after planning the details of the school, I was informed that the implementation would take a long time due to some unforeseen issues the school was dealing with. The response was, “What do we prioritize for LGBTQ training on such fundamental issues?” It was, not understanding that the survival of LGBTQ+ children is a fundamental issue – a fundamental issue. It’s been over a year since I last wrote to the school and I haven’t heard anything since. Teachers should be trained in encouraging gifted children, taking steps to improve bullying, and showing acceptance. One of these efforts is the NCERT’s rollout of teacher training guidelines that could be a good first step to help queer children. It was rolled out after protests from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the right wing. Committee members have moved, and some have moved. If the NCPCR is as concerned about marriage equality as it seems to be when it intervenes to oppose the adoption of queer people, why is the death of so many queer children silent? Does the NCPCR mandate only cover cis-gender, heterosexual children? NCPCR has failed in its primary mission of failing to protect queer children.

Sadly, Prance’s death garnered little of the media coverage that the marriage equality hearings received. Queer suicides and deaths are perhaps not as lovable a queer issue as marriage, and an avoidable queer rights issue. But in their wake, these deaths shake the queer community and throw it into turmoil. We are treated as second class citizens without any redress for discrimination and bullying, and our lives seem to be rejected. But the queer community does not forget them; We will not let the world forget them. Say their names after they die. Don’t forget them. Anjana Haresh. Avinshu Patel. RV Malhotra. Pranshu and countless others we will never know.

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The author is a lawyer and biotechnologist at the Supreme Court of India





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