Everybody now knows about the infamous Section 377 which criminalizes homosexual behaviour, resulting in extreme discrimination against homosexuals in India and making them highly vulnerable. However, I am not going to dwell on this archaic law. There is no question that we need to do away with it, even if it is only to facilitate control of the HIV virus, as is being suggested recently.
Gay rights are human rights. Unfortunately, this statement is not accepted by a lot of people over the world, who consider homosexual behaviour to be repulsive and immoral. From a very young age, children everywhere learn that the natural form of the family is father, mother, and children. They learn that men fall in love with women, and vice-versa. As they become teenagers, they begin to find out that there exist ‘different’ people, who do not experience the same feelings they do. And they sneer, laugh, and make fun of them. Usually, these people grow up to become adults who are anti-homosexual, in varying degrees. Homophobia is rampant in our society, and hardly anybody recognizes it as wrong. Meanwhile, what happens to the teenager who realizes that he/she is ‘one of them’? Or the person who finds out that somebody close to them is homosexual?
Most of the time, especially in India, the person is forced into marriage and is compelled to live a ‘normal’ life, suppressing their own desires. Undoubtedly, this would only bring unhappiness to the person, the spouse, and their family. Alternatively, they could come out with their sexual identity. Many families disown sons and daughters who are homosexual, types of discrimination include name-calling, being fired from their job, and hate crimes. In some places, particularly with homosexuals of a lower social economic background, they are even raped by people in authority. In India, gays live a closeted existence, shunned from mainstream society.
People perceive the ‘aberration’ of homosexuality in different ways. Some are against it because of religion. They say that God intended that society be formed in a certain manner – man, woman and child. Others think that homosexuality is a psychiatric disorder and needs to be cured. Some say that it happens because of a disturbed childhood, and people need to be helped through it. Another common opinion is that it is merely a perversity, and needs to be strongly condemned. A lot of others point out that homosexuals tend to have higher rates of promiscuity, disease, addiction, substance abuse and are prone to depression.
They don’t approve of the gay ‘lifestyle’. If you are looked down upon by most of society, disowned by family and friends, and felt like an outcaste all of your life, what are the chances that you would be a balanced, happy and well adjusted individual? Of course homosexuals would have these problems! Are there any gay couples that we generally see? Even movies which deal with homosexuals tend to portray a doomed relationship, like Girlfriend, and Brokeback Mountain. Other movies make light of the homosexual relationship, something not to be taken seriously, like Dostana.
In India, earlier, homosexual behaviour was not frowned upon – only homosexual identity was. This is probably due to the ubiquitousness of marriage, constricted gender roles with the main aim of family being reproduction. It was only with westernization that homosexuality as a whole was frowned upon.
Why do we, as a society possess this dislike for homosexuals? Perhaps the answer lies in our unquestioning acceptance of gender roles, and the status quo. The current model of family is largely patriarchal and heteronormative. Gays and lesbians challenge our ideas. Their relationships tend to be more egalitarian. Let us redefine the concept of family. When we can have families that may have grandparents as the primary caretakers, where relatives form an immediate family, where roommates and friends become family, then why can’t a family consist of two mothers or two fathers?
Families are built on trust, love, respect and security. Not on one man and one woman.
Celebrate the diversity of people, respect them and judge them by the kind of people they are. You may love them or hate them for their personality and characteristics. They have hopes, dreams, likes and dislikes. Recognize them as people. Not as their sexual orientation. The rest of the world is moving towards an acceptance of gay rights. Bigotry does exist, but they are on their way to being more open. Don’t let India fall behind.