Lost in contradiction

On 22nd April, this year, ‘Kashish’ – The Queer Film Festival, in Mumbai, kicked off. A four day festival, aiming to sensitize the audience towards homosexuality and to lead to a more open dialogue on gay and lesbian rights. It  screened films that focused on the issues and obstacles faced by the homosexuals. In a country like India, where the idea of homosexuality being legal is still young, such an event signified the changing times and the changing attitudes of the people.

Correction: Changing attitudes of ‘some people’.

“This is a violation of the divine laws of Nature.”    “This is unnatural, abominable, and unacceptable.”        “Men mating with men is a genetic dead end.” “Gay equality is an attack on the nation’s soul.” “India has fallen victim to covert invasion from the West.”    “By indulging in such acts, we go against the natural cycle of life that God created.”

In India most of the orthodox population still believes this and cold shoulders the LGBT population.  A year has passed since the Delhi high court amended article 377 of the constitution and legalized sexual contact between homosexuals, and still we see little change in the attitude of the people towards homosexuals. Sure, the law has decreased the number of assaults faced by the gay and the lesbian population – while on public marches and demonstrations. However, the social stigma still remains. Well, considering the 150 years of complete prohibition of such acts, I guess we should give society some time to open up their minds.

There are a large number of us who say that legalizing homosexuality is the right step. After all, they too are a section of our society. We can’t deny them their rights. The Indian society needs to accept the fact that such people exist.  Ruth Vanita, co-author of ‘Same sex love in India’ rightly said, “Homosexuality is not a fashion that can be introduced from one place to another; it is a facet of human existence, attested in all societies throughout history.”   Sexual orientation is one’s personal choice and we have no right to stop them from existing or to stereotype them and make their life harder.

Yes, there has been a remarkable change. Gays and lesbians, who were earlier forced to be discreet, have started opening up about their relationships and that requires great courage. This law promotes equality, in its most basic form, supporting the building block of our constitution that, “All are equal in the eyes of the law”.

Yet, a simple question lingers on…How would you react if you found out that your own sibling or your best friend isn’t straight? Wouldn’t you feel dishonored? Like they’ve done something wrong or committed a crime? Questions will flash through your mind like- “What will we do if everyone finds out? The whole family’s name would go down the drain… All the respect our parents worked so hard to earn…” You would probably break down and beg them to stop; to stop loving someone just because the society doesn’t think its right – and the parents? Oh! Well, they would probably just disown their own child.

Isn’t all this an exact antithesis to what we said earlier? What happened to all our ‘open-mindedness’, when the situation came close to home? Why do we contradict our own words?

The simple fact is that we don’t want to deny these people their rights. However, neither do we want someone close to us, adopting such a lifestyle.

On most issues we say, “It is the system that has to change.” But in this case, the system might’ve changed, but the society hasn’t.

Rhythm Mehta

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