Bengaluru-based activist Romal Singh was recently reported to have said that after the Supreme Court's judgment on Section 377 of the IPC, people working on LGBTQ rights will 'barge into' public offices to sensitise them about the issue. This statement is, at first glance, worrying. However, in all fairness, it is probably an expression of frustration over the official stand on the matter.
In the coming days, if authorities do not take steps to sensitise people about diverse sexual orientations, it would defy the very basis of the judgment, which became seminal as it recognised that sexual proclivity is linked to fundamental rights. If any elected official or bureaucrat or religious leader stokes prejudice against sexual minorities, or denies them basic civil rights, he or she should be penalised. The law has spoken, and there is no going back.
That said, the likes of Singh would be well advised to exult in the victory of LGBTQ rights, but choose their words carefully, so that they are not open to misinterpretation. For people from sexual minorities, it will be an uphill task to gain acceptance in the public psyche, even after the apex court's judgment. People from these groups should reassure society at large that decriminalising homosexuality is not a license to break any other law. If one transgresses the law, one has to face the consequences — irrespective of sexual orientation.
Also, such statements, even if taken out of context, perpetuate negative stereotypes. Like anyone else, people from LGBTQ communities want to work, raise families, pay bills and take up various occupations. Thus, activists representing these communities should respond to the apex court verdict in a sober and mature manner.
It may not be appropriate to entirely blame the people of the country for the marginalisation of sexual minorities. Section 377 was perpetuated by the British primarily to impose the values of the Church of England on the non-believing natives, to "cleanse" and "civilise" them, and to create a deep hatred for same-sex relations. The fact that England itself repealed the law in 1967, and now even allows for same-sex marriage, indicates how deeply our well was poisoned. So, while young Indian males might hold hands and walk around with arms around each other's shoulders in non-sexual camaraderie (much to the surprise of the rest of the world), sexual relations between people of the same sex are unacceptable.
Indeed, so deep is the brainwashing that even Rahul Gandhi, who speaks on any and every subject, will skirt this one and lie low. At the most, we might get a small sound byte, but nothing more. Similarly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Mann Ki Baat is not likely to embrace the "others" with any great enthusiasm.
The poison of prejudice against these communities has to be cleared away through tact, patience, harnessing opinion from eminent scientists, media; the use of cinema, TV and radio; documentaries that break the mould, opinions of men and women of substance, and education at all levels.
Hopefully, then, no one will have to barge in anywhere.
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Updated Date: Sep 09, 2018 17:15:00 IST