Sunday, Sep 23, 2018 | Last Update : 09:44 PM IST

LGBTQ: Social verdict still a mirage?

THE ASIAN AGE. | NILOFAR SUHRAWARDY
Published : Sep 12, 2018, 12:08 am IST
Updated : Sep 12, 2018, 12:08 am IST

The preceding point may be supported by drawing attention to another, largely ignored issued.

A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court unanimously decriminalised part of the 158-year-old colonial law under Section 377. (Photo: PTI)
 A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court unanimously decriminalised part of the 158-year-old colonial law under Section 377. (Photo: PTI)

The Supreme Court’s decision regarding Article 377 may certainly be viewed as a major legal step forward with respect to LGBTQ community’s right to equality and freedom of living. The decision has not taken long to receive substantial media coverage and also dominate headlines. But it is as yet too early to expect the Supreme Court’s decision to accelerate a revolutionary process in the Indian society as a whole. Rather, the same may be said about the world at large. The community does not have equal rights in most parts of the world. Yes, the revolutionary process should not be expected to be complete till countries like India, the United States and other democratic nations display no qualm in displaying their support for a strong leader of this community as their governments’ heads. This stage still seems like a mirage.

Yes, the representatives of this community have been on extremely few occasions shown in movies and television serials, but largely in comical roles. This in itself is symbolically suggestive of the prevalence of a certain attitude of discrimination against them. They apparently are not considered normal human beings. Who is to be blamed? It would be wrong to assume that any member of this community falls in this group by choice. Rather, they are so by birth. In other words, they are not at fault for being born so. But so is each and every human being for being made so by the almighty. Herein, the question of what status they are accorded by different religious groups and/or authorities plays no role. The entire group does not belong to only a specific religious, caste, class or any other social group.

Certainly, the so-called “discrimination” against them does not prevail at all levels. But yes, they are certainly not viewed as “normal” by the majority here. That the Article 377 was ever introduced in the Indian Constitution is just a minor indicator of this harsh reality. And this demands analysis of this issue from another, larger perspective. It would not be wrong to view the world at large as fairly conservative where sexual ethics are considered. This also suggests that members of LGBTQ community are not to be blamed for their status. But the rest of the world is responsible for holding a “negative” approach towards them.

And till this global mentality prevails, it would be wrong to expect any major, revolutionary upheaval in the attitude towards them. It takes generations for any revolution to display its decisive mark on people’s social attitude as a whole. To a degree, this point may be countered by talking about jubilation displayed by members of this group following the Supreme Court’s decision regarding Article 377. Yet, it cannot be ignored, that of these majority displayed no qualms in acknowledging their sexual status prior to this decision. In all probability, many have not come forth in openly accepting what their status really is. Fear of the “negative” approach prevalent against them apparently restrains them from doing so.

Paradoxically, while there is no dearth of leaders from diverse backgrounds championing causes of down-trodden, including women, different castes and also religious groups, the same cannot be said about their being any strong leader from outside this group speaking for their grievances. To a degree, their minimal representation in the Indian population is responsible for this. Statistically, they are believed to constitute less than a percentage of the Indian population. In other words, their electoral importance is not considered as significant. But this is not the only reason. The fear of “negative” approach held towards them restrains these leaders from speaking in their support. And this trend prevails throughout the world.

The preceding point may be supported by drawing attention to another, largely ignored issued. Yes, this refers to appearance of celebrities in condom ads. While Bollywood film stars are visible in ads for virtually everything other thing, from soaps, shampoos, locks, spices, paints and numerous other items, they are hardly there in condom ads. Also, the tendency to add “porn” label with ladies appearing for these ads cannot be sidelined. Yes, here too, conservatism regarding sexual ethics apparently restrains the celebrities from appearing in condom ads. And this trend prevails across the world, including countries such as the United States. Besides, minimal display of condom ads in most countries is just a mild indicator of this reality.

While celebrities have no hesitation in spreading news about whom they are dating, their married life and so forth, they prefer maintaining a dead silence regarding their use of condoms. Even ads on government-controlled services regarding birth control talk of steps women must take do not refer to condoms. At least, not at present! What does this suggest? This only further highlight the negative approach held by society as a whole regarding these sexual issues. The same has fashioned their attitude over generations towards members of LGTBQ community.

Thus, members of LGBTQ community are likely to suffer from complexes such as “fear, shame and stigma” and so forth till a negative approach prevails against them. The Supreme Court’s decision is a legal step but not the social verdict.

The writer is a senior journalist. She has come out with two books Ayodhya Without the Communal Stamp and Image and Substance: Modi’s First Year in Office

Tags: lgbt community, section 377, supreme court