By Sukanya Sarkar:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and identity. What does identity mean? The literal meaning of identity is the state of being a specified person. In this category of identity of individuals, one’s sex comes into being, whether one is male or female. But do we recognize the identity of the LGBTQIA section of the society? No! What is all the more alarming is that some religious groups make the existence of these people difficult. As for example in Uganda, conservative Christian groups influenced President Yoweri Museveni to pass an anti-gay law. The law toughens penalties against gays and defines some homosexual acts as crimes punishable by life in prison. The bill also proposes life in prison for anyone who tries to reach out to gays and lesbians.
In justifying his act of declaring the anti-gay law he had said, “there’s now an attempt at social imperialism, to impose social values of one group on our society. Then our disappointment is now exacerbated because we are sorry to see that you live the way you live.” When Rev. DR. Kapya Kaoma, Senior Religion and Sexuality Researcher, was asked that how did conservative Christian groups influence the declaration of such a kind of law, his response was astounding. He was of the view that various groups were involved in this. It had started three years back when fundamentalist Scott Lively, with Abiding Truth Ministry, in conjunction with the defunct Exodus International Board Member, had gone to Uganda and spoke about how the international gay agenda was set to take over the world but they were trying to focus on Uganda because it was the heart of Africa. Some researchers say that pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Baptist Church had also gone to Uganda and was involved in Church Politics of Anglican community where he supported the Ugandan churches for opposing LGBTQIA rights. The contradiction lies in the fact that, according to an African anthropologist who studied African culture and wrote in 1970, the people of Central African Republic respected same sex marriage in the same way that they respected heterosexual marriages. So, this was another African society that did accept same sex marriage before the arrival of Christianity in Africa. The Christian groups, with their homophobic agenda, have been successful in bringing about such a drastic change in the society.
India, LGBTQIA AND SECTION 377
While talking about Ugandan anti-gay right, one should not forget India and its criminalizing section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was enacted by the British colonial regime to criminalize ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’. It was rooted in the Judeo-Christian religious morality that abhorred non-procreative sex. This section was declared as unconstitutional by the Delhi High Court on 2nd July, 2009. The Supreme Court had overruled this decision on 11th December 2013, with the court holding that amending or repealing this section of the IPC was now the responsibility of the Indian Parliament and not the Judiciary. The Supreme Court hence dismissed a Review Petition filed by the Central Government, Naz Foundation and several others, against its verdict on Section 377. So, till then the Parliament had not made any effort to repeal this draconian section of the IPC thereby considering homosexuals as criminals.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual , transgender etc. have not been some recent modern sexuality choices. Prince Manvendra Singh Gohli recently spoke at the United Nations Young Mind Changers Conclave, where he said that kamasutra, which was written in between 400BC and 200BC, spoke about homosexual intercourse. Additionally, “hijras” have been part of the society for a very long period of time. Then, how are their rights not secured? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which India has ratified, grants every human being the right to marriage and to start a family. Article 14 of the Indian Constitution also guarantees Right to Equality. Does this mean that the LGBTQIA are not human beings? Do they not fall into the category of respected human beings with their rights being secured?
Homophobia and Global Gay-Rights – A Contradiction
The negative feeling towards the LGBTQIA leads to homophobia. Antipathy, contempt, prejudice, hatred based on irrational fear and religious beliefs lead to such a phobia. United Nations, in its research, has found that apart from discrimination, the LGBT are constantly faced with brutal violence, kidnapping and murder. 1990 onwards, out of the 76 countries that had criminalized same sex relationships, only 40 countries have legalized them. Even though there are a number of gay rights movements globally, yet the level of discrimination faced by the community is nothing less. Few of the global gay rights movements that should be mentioned are – International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Youth and Student Organisation (IGYLO), Global Action for Trans Equality (GATE), International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and many others.
Sexual Minority Uganda is a non-governmental organization in Uganda concerned with LGBT rights and youth issues. But the contradiction that lies is that the organization, even while acting as an umbrella to protect the rights of the community, could not stop the anti-gay legislation from coming into being. Same applies in the case of India. The Asian Lesbian Network, which was formed in march 1986, was intended to create awareness regarding lesbian rights, even this organization equally failed in the case of section 377.
So, the question that arises is – Are the LGBTQIA rights’ organisations weak or the feeling of homophobia so strong that it cannot prevent any kind of legislation against the LGBTQIA community? No matter what the actual reason is, our main focus should be on protecting their rights and respecting their identity.