Every year, since 2000, the entire month of June is celebrated as the PRIDE MONTH. The meaning of Pride may be subjective, but it generally accepted that it means acceptance. Acceptance of who you are and also being proud of the same. This month-long event commemorates and celebrates the (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Queer) LGBTQ+ community. After years of ignorance/bully/forced being themselves in secrecy, this event gives LGBTQ+ people the deserved equality, dignity, and acceptance as a social group.
On 6 September 2018, India decriminalized homosexuality. The Supreme Court did this through a historic judgment calling Section 377 “Unconstitutional”. Although there were many mixed reactions, the queers were more than delighted! Some said “We’re finally given the full fundamental rights to live” while some other said “The country has finally given us Oxygen to breathe”
It’s great that they got their legal acceptance, but what about social acceptance?
There are 4.8 million transgender people, and the gay community constitutes roughly 13% of our population. But, do the society look and treat those people the same way you and I are?
Let’s take a quick journey,back to the past to find the roots of this discrimination.
There’s a plethora of evidence that in Ancient India there have been many references to homosexuality.
- Ancient Hindu texts or preaches containing homosexual characters and themes in them.
- Sculptures of two men at the Khajuraho temples
- Ardhanarishvara – the androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati
- The ancient Indian text Kamasutra written by Vātsyāyana dedicates a complete chapter on erotic homosexual behaviour
- Svairini – Term for an independent woman (Also interpreted as a Lesbian) who refuses to marry a man
- Mention of “Vikriti Evam Prakriti” in Rigveda (meaning what seems unnatural is also natural)
- Bhagavat Geeta made references to homosexuals [Canto 3.20.23-37]
We were a country that practiced and also celebrated Homosexuality, even before the rest of the world gave women freedom or equality! So, when did we start criminalizing the acts of homosexuality? If you haven’t guessed it by now, the answer is when the British set their foot here. When they invaded India, they also brought in their homophobia along and criminalized homosexuality in the 19th Century.
Coming back to the current scenario.
Yes! Section 377 is scrapped and homosexuality has been legally accepted. But, the fact is social acceptance hasn’t kept pace with the law yet.
Coming out in India is still not easy! It is very rare to discuss openly or in families. There’s a constant fear of rejection. The first reaction of many families, even today, is disbelief, and immediately thinking about what the society/relatives would say if they found out. They then try convincing themselves that this is a phase that can be cured. Of course, they consult astrologers, pandits, and priests. Might even suggest psychiatric treatment to change who you are. Some sections of the society may be accepting and welcoming, but they’re too small, to revolutionize our homophobic friends and family.
So, what can people do?
Attend pride rallies, post on social media, but is it really reaching the target audience with almost no coverage on mainstream? Prior to reaching acceptance, there’s another main enemy to be conquered – “Awareness”. How many people are aware that Homosexuality isn’t a choice someone has made and refrain from ridiculing saying “Avana Nee” or it’s equivalent in their regional language? Start with Your family to make a difference! In fact, while penning this piece down, I thought to myself how my family has never discussed this topic and that it might be weird to do so. As the least possible contribution to this vital movement, we the 5 authors from JAL, will initiate a conversation with our parents, ask them for their opinions and let them know that the LGBTQ community deserves acceptance and equality.
P.S. Click HERE, to read some beautiful, heartbreaking and inspiring stories that we hope would be a source of courage to everyone that’s trying to come out and say who they are!
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