By Aamir Qayoom:
The Indian Supreme Court has decided to review a law criminalising homosexuality, and the transgender bill recently passed by the Indian parliament represents a change in thinking about ‘unnatural’ sex and sexuality of transgender people. This opens up the debate about the Section 377 of IPC in the public sphere. The decadal census data has already introduced the ‘other’ as a third gender since 2011 census. Educational institutions also have started offering the ‘other’ option while declaring one’s gender. It speaks volumes about the focus on the sexual minorities.
“My name is Imaan Khan (name changed) and I feel proud to call myself gay.” This was a comment by a boy at a recent conference on the topic ‘Islam and Homosexuality’. I was also present at the conference. The issue at hand has a double twist: first, homosexuality as per the secular law of the state is criminalised and second, Islam also has a prohibitory mention of the practice.
My two minute ‘Maggie intellectualism’ urged me to show a mindless reluctance to such a response. Things change if one moves out of this narrow cultural capsule and adapts to a multicultural and tolerant world outlook. Homosexuality in such ambience transforms itself to the status of ‘movement’, and there is much politics that needs to be done on the issue. This compels one to consider sex not merely as a private, but a political category.
With a large vault of intellectual dynamism, homosexuality as an issue finds great articulation and expression in gender studies, where students are not only taught LGBTIQ issues but their classrooms resound with such discourses by scholars and intelligentsia. The academic scholarship and activism (both radical and silent) on such issues at the higher seats of learning and in the public sphere is bound to produce an effect which catalyses the expressions of gay and lesbian identity. Hence, what boosts such discourses is the rise of LGBTIQ as an international movement which not only advocates but also fights for the cause of these sexual minorities globally. The fact that people are involved in such discourses internationally supports the idea that such an attempt aims at seeing through this issue, beyond thinking of it as an engineered western concept.
The mushroom growth of organisations, debates and discussions on the issue speaks volumes about the intellectual tsunami it has managed to create in the public psyche. But, the one major hurdle to the movement is that there are significant differences in the acceptance of homosexuality across cultures and societies.
Some countries provide asylum to people of different sexual orientations, others outrightly reject the legitimacy of such discourses (a few Muslim countries come to one’s mind). There are, therefore, two groups: one is supporting it and the other condemning it as unnatural, disgusting, immoral and above all un-Islamic. The varied reactions become a matter of personal freedom vs. categorical rejection of such practices as serious moral corruption and cultural terrorism. The negatively charged and infectious ambience opens up the issue to advertisement and discussions across book clubs, social gatherings, and online chats on social networking sites where one witnesses considerable activism in the form of dissent and concord related to such issues. A cursory analysis of the rise of this movement and its support from intellectual and political tycoons should be enough to take this debate to a serious level.
What needs to be pointed out is that the people upholding such ideas are influenced by the postmodernism and deconstructionism. By operationalising those categories and language, their titanic spirit questions the idea of ‘natural’, thereby making this issue more interesting and morally contentious. Can we delude ourselves into not thinking about this issue? The movement under the umbrella term LGBTIQ has already received political recognition as well as intellectual and ideological support from various corners of society.
There are competing conceptions of homosexuality leading to questions like: is there a gay gene? Is it an abnormal psychic condition? Is it a result of exposure to western infectious socialisation? These questions need to be debated. If one assumes that homosexuality is an outcome of socialisation or an exposure to a different world view. If this were the case then one could begin by establishing ‘conditioning centres’ where a provision can be made to ‘recondition’ or ‘un-condition’ their brains like drug rehabilitation and de-addiction centres. Still, a humane approach would be needed to tackle the issue. But, such steps should only be taken if they are scientifically declared in need of such treatment. Doesn’t it become a duty of the state to handle such issues? I wonder.
The flashbacks of the above-mentioned conference remind me that a prominent gay rights activist confessed that he was never attracted to the opposite sex. In fact, he had to visit sex workers to confirm his sexual orientation. What followed my interaction with him was an outright rejection of any connection of homosexuality with mental conditioning or exposure to the so-called western way of thinking and cultural terrorism. What we witness today is a growing phenomenon and a rising number of such individuals. Online and offline gay networking has prompted them to openly declare their sexual orientation. The motto of such networking is to continue their struggle for their identity.
The issue needs serious attention, where we cannot neglect the e-fights, unending frustrating chats on social networking sites, protests and demonstrations in support of such issues? How long will we continue to nurture the idea that it is a form of infectious cultural terrorism? One waits to see the Supreme Court’s decision on revisiting the law criminalising homosexuality. I wonder how long it would take. While coming out of that conference, I could hear a voice saying, “no use in defending ourselves, they are all sexists.” On the Supreme Court’s decision hang the hopes for serious engagement with this issue.