What is your first reaction on hearing the words homosexual, transgender or bisexuals? For most of us raised in different parts of India it is most likely to be fear, disapproval, anger, or may be even hate. And I do not blame you.
Such an aversion towards issues that do not follow rigidly established societal norms has been deeply ingrained in our mind-sets by the so-called puritan or self-proclaimed guardians and saviours of the society. This combined with our ignorance and less or no interaction with the LGBT community makes us fall into their traps and regard such people with antipathy. Some even develop a fear of homosexual people which has been termed as ‘homophobia’. Let us quickly look into the history of our country and see where such a belief originated from.
Hinduism or Islam, no religion in India has ever endorsed anti-LGBT beliefs and the proof of this lies in our rich history. In Vedic India, homosexuality was recognised as a third nature and fully accepted in the society. During Gupta period, India’s Vedic culture blossomed and many Hindu temples were built across the country with openly erotic images carved across them, epitomized by the temples of Khajuraho, where many images depicted homosexuality as well. It was during the Mughal Empire with its principles of Islamic extremism that homosexuals began to be mistreated. But this victimization reached its zenith with the establishment of British rule in India and its enforcement of the so-called ‘superior’ western culture and thinking on us. Human rights took a backseat when for the first time in the history of our country, homosexuality was criminalised in India.
Now, 65 years post-independence, we are stuck with the same old thinking believing something that has never been a part of our culture. It is note-worthy that whereas Britain decriminalized homosexuality long back in 1967, India legalised it only in 2009.
Though the society is opening to the idea, the popular belief in our country regarding LGBT is largely the same. Homophobia in our country is mostly state-sponsored. The only way to decriminalise it from the minds of people is by educating the masses by campaigns and prohibiting hate speech by political leaders. Movies and other forms of entertainment also play a major role in influencing people’s mind. The advent of pride parade in our major cities few years back is a positive step towards independence from such societal dogmas. I do not have to repeat that every human being has a right to live a decent life with respect; we all know. After all we live in a presumably civilised and democratic society. It’s a question of how we follow what we preach.
A place where sex education is not given the importance it should be and any issue challenging the established norms becomes a taboo; acceptance of homosexuality has a long way to go.