For a country that engages in phallus worship day in and day out, India has been strangely homophobic over the years. The country’s approach to the LGBT community has been shocking, disappointing and at times just plain amusing. We’ve known that homosexuals have always existed in our ‘culture’, we have rock solid evidence (literally) for the fact that homosexuality was not just existent, but pretty damn common at that. Add to that, the fact that the government ever since it attained independence, has been trying to divorce itself from every trace of its colonial past, (to the point where the names of an airport, a major railway station and a museum and not to mention the very name of the city were changed in Bombay itself) and it becomes rather inexplicable how the powers that be ignored all voices of reason to uphold an archaic Victorian law that equated consensual non-peno-vaginal intercourse between two consenting adults (same sex or not). It was almost as if they thought by simply ignoring the issue altogether as if it were a hungry dog begging for a scrap of food, they could make it go away.
Today however, the government finds itself in a precarious position. With the homosexual community in India (which if rumors are to be believed includes several high-rolling socialites, actors, directors, designers and the likes) being as big as India’s largest minority (in a conservative estimate, mind you!), there was simply no ignoring them anymore. On the other hand though, we have a section of the political scene (and a large one at that) that believes that pub-going straight women are dirty as sin. Decriminalizing homosexuality for them, is not just unacceptable, its positively insane. With such cards dealt to them, its unsurprising that the UPA government has taken a non-committal stance on the decriminalization of homosexuality and has instead let the judiciary go ahead and do the ‘dirty work’ so to say for them. Whether or not the government accepts the High Court verdict at this point of time is irrelevant. The question to be asked is, ‘Are the people going to finally stop looking at the LGBT community as freaks and caricatures?’
Not any time soon if you ask Baba Ramdev, a man who with his Patanjali Yoga revolution over the last decade, has many- a-time prompted men of science to rethink whether or not certain maladies can be tagged ‘uncurable’. “They are sick and should be sent to hospitals. Or they could marry…or remain bachelors like me” he proudly pontificated through the ToI today.
The big fish of Catholic and Christian community in India, (a group which by even the most wishful estimate are smaller in size than the homosexual community in India), chose their words with a bit more caution saying that though it was important to respect homosexuals as persons, it was perfectly fine in saying that what they were doing was sinful, unethical and absolutely against the way God intended humans to live and multiply.
That apart, it is not uncommon in Islamic nations that homosexuals are punished with the death penalty itself! I do not know about the stance of the other major world religions when it comes to homosexuality, but I think I can safely deduce that none of them would be too enthusiastic about them.
And it is THIS aspect of religion exactly that perplexes me. I won’t go as far as saying that I’m an atheist, but I will certainly say that the ‘God is all forgiving, all kind and all loving*….Conditions Applied’ approach that every religion adopts does not convince me one bit. But let’s keep my views on religion aside for the moment and come back to my opinion on homosexuality. As far as I am concerned, as a student of Psychology and someone who aspires to be a Counsellor, I can say with complete certainty that the aforementioned subject that I hold dear, is responsible for the worst damage done to the cause of the homosexual community. Up until 1973, the holy book of Clinical Psychologists and Psychiatrists all over the world, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, (DSM), classified homosexuality as a disorder. Though over the years, proponents from the field as well as social workers have shouted their throats hoarse saying that they were mistaken earlier, the wounds have somehow not yet healed. Counsellors too, even today hold biases…some against homosexuals, and some like me, against those who are against homosexuals.
What can be learned from the above example however is that merely repealing or reinterpreting a section in a book does not change the perceptions of the masses overnight, it takes years of sustained effort and above all a willingness to accept those who are unlike us. It’s humanly impossible to never hold biases, but it is certainly possible to acknowledge that we hold them and that our biases can colour our judgments in no small way. Once that is done, it would be diffucult not to be able to accept each other. And that I dare each of you to do!