project: decriminalising 'love'

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project timeline: May 2014 - Jan 2015

in cooperation with: Amnesty International

participants: 4 volunteers from berlin

jokers (facilitators): utz ebertz & mir mubashir

premiere: to be announed 


love and crime - with these two words together, the first association one usually has is that of homophobia. sadly there are many other examples in the world we live in, where many other forms and orientations of love are seen as 'unusual', 'unnatural' or 'against the norm', and hence 'criminalised'. inter-social-status, inter-caste, inter-ethnic, inter-racial, inter-generation, and inter-gender are some examples. the act of criminalising, in strict legal terms, ranges from imprisonment to death sentence. in more generic terms, it ranges from ostracising from family to honour-killings.

those of us who deem such criminalisation of love atrocious, tend to blame the norms, value-systems and structures of society - religion, patriarchal systems, older generations, etc. and the people that cling to these systems. but why are these systems and structures so prevalent? why do we find it difficult or impossible to change them? why is working on social change on this issue so challenging?

here are some (possibly provocative) thoughts on the above questions:
  • these systems didn´t just grow out of thin air; they are composed of social constructs that have evolved and sustained over time; there is no simplistic way of looking into these rather complex, multi-faceted systems
  • we may complain that we are more or less powerless against these systems since they are too old and rigid to be open for change; but do we try hard enough? have we explored all possibilities... employed enough creativity?
  • we - every one of us - in one way or the other are part of these systems, it is our patterns of behaviour that let these systems sustain. can most of us deny, e.g. that we never had a twitch of an eyebrow when we see an old man walking down the street holding hands with his very young partner? if this bothers us for whatever reason, it can most possibly be traced to the social constructs constituting the systems that we talk about; the source is the same, the manifestation and intensity vary from person to person
  • if we can break out of the thought pattern of us (the good guys) and them (the bad guys that we think solely 'run' these systems), and think only in terms of us - the larger system that constitutes us all - creative opportunities for dialogue may open up to nurture collaborative efforts of transforming the relationships we have with each other in this larger system and transforming the patterns of behaviour that cater to the sustenance of unhealthy systems
  • these collaborative efforts of transformation would require us to explore and unravel the complexity of the systems; honour killing e.g., as atrocious as they might be, have complex social constructs underlying them - emotions such as 'fear' for one is one common driver of atrocities
  • as we reasonably (and patiently) move forward in understanding these underlying elements that build up the complexity, options to address them become clearer

in an interactive-theatre process based on theatre for living, we embark upon this exploration of the complexity of criminalisation of love. the primal emotional language of theatre has the energy and means to trigger a deep level of conscientisation and emotional empowerment that paves path for transformation.

a typical part of this theatrical process are public 'forum theatre' plays, where certain aspects of criminalisation of love would be portrayed with its various layers of complexity, and then the spectators or rather 'spect-actors' would be invited to intervene with their ideas of creating a safe space where love of any form is nurtured.

** this initiative is part of amnesty international's campaign on rights of sexual minorities (LGBTI).