In November 2012, French President Francois Hollande took one step ahead towards ushering in change into French society, with his liberal-thinking plans to introduce gay marriage and adoption rights. With the gay marriage bill set to be debated in parliament in January, Hollande’s support for gay rights, subsequently led to anti-gay street demonstrations, creating a rift within French society. Thousands of people, including Catholic and other religious groups, descended onto the streets of Lyon, Marseille, and Toulouse to protest against the bill which legalizes same-sex marriages and allows gay couples to adopt, giving them full parenting rights.
Despite fierce opposition from mayors and the Catholic Church, Hollande’s socialist government approved the bill in November, 2012. Hollande’s reform is an extension of existing gay rights, which will allow gay couples in civil unions to marry, since marriage is mandatory for legally adopting in France.
Many countries across the globe, including, South Africa, Canada, Spain, and the Netherlands have legalized gay marriages and France is set to become the 12th. Despite the Roman Catholic’s stronghold in the Spanish society, since 2005 more than 21,000 gay couples have been legally married.
While the flag-bearers of religious sentiments condemn gay rights and still consider homosexuality a taboo, and others define marriage as a “legal union between a man and a woman” only, the truth is that gays have the right to lead a life of dignity. We need to show greater tolerance towards their sexuality.
Recently, in India, hundreds of gay rights activists participated in a protest march in New Delhi where they openly demonstrated their angst at being discriminated against. Although, a 2009 Delhi High Court order decriminalized homosexuality and “recognized sexual orientation as a human right”, the taboo still remains in the remotest corners of the country.
In India, where religion and tradition command our actions and our thoughts, it is difficult to make people realize that homosexuality is not a crime; that religious sentiments cannot be hurt if one is gay. Every person has the right to live with dignity and freedom and we, as educated, thinking individuals have to be more accepting of people’s sexual preferences. As Indians, we need to take an assertive stand on the issue of gay rights in India. Opening our minds will ensure progress not just for us but also for society as a whole. We need to revolt against the conservative oppression that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community is subjected to.
Gays should not feel the need to wear masks and scarves to hide their faces. Hate crimes against homosexuals have to be dealt with rapid and strict action. While the pace of change will be slow people have to realize that HIV/AIDS is not exclusively a gay disease and homosexuals can make responsible parents too.
Our traditional concept of the family as being a father, mother, and child will have to undergo reform and consider the new possibilities of co-mothers or co-fathers taking care of their legally adopted children. It will be quite some time before the tussle between religious sentiments and traditions and sexual freedom will come to an end in India and in many other countries. Until then, we have to seize every opportunity to shun our dogmatic values and embrace with care the new changes in society.