“Oh my God, my son will be a gay now”Jul 19th, 2009 | By editor | Category: Readers Say, Viewing News
Misconceptions that handicap society from accepting change
Shah Alam Khan
Legalising LGBT relationships have two entirely divergent angles. It is both an issue of religious faith and a matter of human rights. Unfortunately, as a bystander, I have seen on more than a single occasion that religion and human rights do not go hand in hand. Our experiences with the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Church’s posturing on abortion and, in recent times, with the forces of Hindutva in Gujarat are more than ample evidence to prove the point.
So do we expect that major religions of this country would go all out to embrace the LGBT community with open arms? Not really. Hinduism is full of verses depriving those who indulge in a homosexual relationship. Manusmriti talks of loss of caste or Gatibhramsa for those who are in such rapport. Being a Muslim, I know that Islam prohibits homosexual relationships. But then Islam also prohibits alcohol, pork and idol worship. Should Muslims go all out in India asking the government to ban these?
Personal and public
The restrictions imposed by a vibrant democracy teach us to rein in our religious thoughts and practices to a more personal level. Whenever the boundaries of personal and public discourse on issues of faith get blurred, the country is engulfed by a squall of blood. How commonly have we seen the eruption of violent conflicts started by the carcass of a cow in a temple or a pig in a mosque? Expectedly, the most severe condemnation on the Delhi High Court judgment has come from the Islamic seat of Deoband. Having said this, it is interesting to note that Muslim scholars in the U.S. and Europe have never spoken in so harsh and ruthless language against the LGBT community in these regions. Possibly, acceptance of a practice takes time and scholars in those countries are more evolved on the social understanding of sexual orientation of people.
This brings us to the issue of public morality. How many times have we heard the use of this word in all public debates on the legalisation of LGBT relationships? Public morality in India, as I understand, is a weapon of a class to be used without much justification on the most downtrodden creatures of society. Public morality goes for a toss when a girl is burnt alive by petty eve-teasers. Public morality is thrown out of the window when issuing censure certificates to Bollywood movies which would be good enough to be labelled as pornographic. Public morality is raped and molested each day on Indian buses, Goan beaches and red light areas. Public morality is burnt and thrashed in the name of dowry and female foeticide.
Yet, we, Indians, accept public morality as a shield against any act of human upliftment and social change. In my opinion, the real context of the LGBT issue is a matter of human rights. We live in a democratic country, governed by a Constitution which imparts equal rights to all irrespective of their religious faith, class, gender or age. Although the impartiality of this statement can be questioned, the essence of the it remains pristine.
Matter of human rights
In legalising gay rights in India, the Delhi High Court has shown its abject acceptance of a community which has long been eschewed in our society. To me, this is an empowerment of kinds. It has nothing to do with religious decrees and narrow social fiats through which our lives are governed. This is accepting those who live life as they think is good and natural for them. If we cannot accept this change, then we should have reservations on orders prohibiting Sati and child marriage. By supporting the legalisation of gay rights, we do not accept the practice (at least I don’t), but we accept a broader relevance of human rights.
It is wrongly felt that the Delhi High Court has opened the flood gates for such relationships. “Oh my God, my son will be a gay now”, screamed a man from inside his new Skoda on a TV channel. I wish I could tell him that his son will be a gay or a heterosexual not because of the High Court order but because of his sexual orientation and preferences.
These are misconceptions that handicap society from accepting change. Good or bad, social changes need time to manifest their full impact.
(The writer is Asst. Professor, Dept. of Orthopaedics, AIIMS, New Delhi)