The debate over Homosexuality is not a debate on the ethics of a society, but is actually a reflection of the society’s moral background. For Homosexuality to gain acceptance in mainstream society, it is necessary for it to be discussed openly. India’s stand on the issue, at present, can be defined as ignorance by choice. Indian society has deliberately closed its eyes to a stark reality, hoping that if ignored, the issue will abate. Consequently, the nation’s social advancement is deterred.
Validity of The Debate
The precise debated over Homosexuality should not centre on its acceptance by society but on the degree of it. Homosexuality is not a disease, as acknowledged by the American Psychiatric Association in the year 1973, but may be defined as a deviance from surrounding society. It is as much of a choice as one’s cultural inheritance or racial background.
The exact numbers belonging to this community could exceed that of Muslims and Zoroastrians in India, non-Muslims in Islamic countries, Asians in western nations and Caucasians in the east. If racial differences are acceptable in nearly every part of the world, why isn’t alternative sexuality?
As far as showing acceptance for 10% of the world’s population is concerned, is it really a matter of choice?
The Flip Side
Not many arguments have been presented by those opposing the Gay Rights Movement, none appear valid. They argue that sexual minorities are sensitive to HIV/AIDS. The same applies to heterosexual individuals and the epidemic, in both cases, can be countered by awareness. In fact, workers from local NGOs that have made efforts to spread HIV Awareness amongst gay people by distributing condoms have known to be arrested by the police for “encouraging homosexuality.”
The opposition also alleges that Homosexuality is “unacceptable” to society. Are homosexuals, roughly composing 6-8% of the population, not a part of this “society”?
Finally, homosexuality is often dubbed as “unnatural”. One would just as much ask Hindu fundamentalists how “natural” they consider chariots flying in the sky and figures emerging from “holy” bonfires. Hypocrisy has always reigned stiff in Indian society and stubbornly persists.
A possible reason for denial of society’s acceptance towards men and women choosing to lead lives that are “off the wall” could harbour in its sub-conscience. A male individual’s role in Indian society is conventionally that of he who supports and fathers an heir to his family. Daughters, on the other hand, are often perceived as a reflection of the “stature” of a family and their marriage into a respectable home is regarded as a duty whose successful completion bears honour. Any deviation from this norm by a person would be a violation of that individual’s obligation to the family. The truth may be unpleasant but stands firm in the conscience of the conservative mind.
The reason behind the invisibility of gay individuals in Indian society is, evidently, discrimination. Today, corrupt policemen use Article 377 of the IPC, criminalising oral and anal sexual-intercourse dubbed as “Unnatural”, against homosexual individuals to extract bribe. This may even be done falsely, thereby deterring sexual minorities from being open about their preferences. These “Unnatural” offences are not confined to same-sex couples and are practiced by heterosexual couples as well. A recent case of false accusation under the archaic law is that of four men that were deceived and framed by policemen in Lucknow in January 2006 over the internet.
What occurs behind close bedroom doors cannot be policed and is certainly no business of any individuals but those involved, rendering the Clause as invalid and merely an instrument of discrimination. Moreover, this school of thought restricts the act of sex exclusively for reproduction and hence, invalidates any pleasure from the act as well as condemns use of contraceptives or condoms. Acceptance of this methodology in its full original form would wreck havoc the world over.
Show of Strength
Nonetheless, more and more gay individuals are coming into the open and discovering support. The Indian film industry and upscale society, characterised by a liberal attitude, is proving conducive to gay actors, journalists, designers and artists. The political spectrum, centred on indulgence of religious communities and the socially backward, is not so inviting. The cosmopolitan cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore have a visible gay scene, in contrast with the havoc-wrecked capital and smaller towns.
Globally, western countries are at different stages of the Gay Rights Movement while in Asia, developed countries like Japan and South Eastern countries are close on-track. Astonishingly, Arab nations, where Islamic law punishes same-sex relations with death, are opening their eyes to reality.
The Media plays a vital role of raising awareness in our country about the plight of discriminated communities. Episodic talk-shows on the nation’s leading news-channel explore the issue time and again with the public. Timely reports of discriminatory acts being initiated against gay individuals provoke readers into action. In a recent incident, a South-based Film and Communication College suspended 4 students for making a short-film on homosexuality, evoking the ire of student communities throughout the country. Similarly, international pressure following reports of the Lucknow incident one and a half years ago catalysed the release of the accused.
History Repeats Itself
Many battles have been waged in World History with the aim of acceptance. The United States went from a nation that openly discriminated and downright condemned people of African origin to one that presently fiercely supports and upholds the rights of those peoples. Indians have faced extreme discrimination at the hands of the English, even on their own land, and continue to do so in small ways. The crime committed by the victims in both cases was simply that they were different, for which they were punished. One would have thought society would learn from its past mistakes, but that is clearly not the case everywhere. Consequently, supporters of Gay Rights must gear themselves for yet another battle in hostile environments for basic fundamental rights that most constitutions in the world promise but society withholds from those who sing a different song.
The Economic Connection
Social development is said to be in concert with Economic Progress. It is unsurprising, thus, that the United States, the most superior economy in the world, has led the Gay Rights Movement. Developed nations such as Canada offer refuge to homosexual individuals the world over who face a threat in their own countries due to their sexuality. Numerous European nations have enacted Civil Union laws, granting rights to gay couples that are similar to those granted to married couples concerning legal issues such as inheritance and adoption.
Homosexual individuals are regarded as particularly creative individuals, attributed to their emotional introversion owing to their sexuality, and hence constitute a significant fraction of a nation’s think-tank. Stigma against them forces widespread suicide amongst their community and migration to more compassionate environments results in brain-drain.
So where does the solution lie? Practical thought suggests that though gay men and women must stand up for their rights to live as independent and secure individuals at present, human rights equalling those of the sexual majority can only be attained several decades later by the sensitisation of the present younger generations. Indian Society’s main cripple, as far as Social Development is concerned, constitutes the majority of our older generations that presently hold relevant offices and exercise influence in policy-making. These are the people who continue to uphold malpractices such as dowry, engage in female infanticide, discriminate their daughters, brand and burn independent women as “witches” and accuse Western Culture of “corrupting our traditions.”
The mindset of these individuals, if one may use euphemism, is “conservative” and “rigid”, rendering them quite incorrigible on their stance on many issues such as pre-marital sex, live-in relationships and inter-caste marriages besides alternative sexuality. Expectation of any support from them would be living in a fool’s paradise.