By Gautam Jayasurya:
It has only been a few decades since the global community has started acknowledging the existence of sexual minorities. Entrenched human preference for homogeneity reinforced by religious preaching forced us to be cynical about the mysteries of the human mind and prevented us from accepting the truth. Without a doubt, human rights of the marginalised took a back seat.
On a global level, much has been discussed and debated to arrive at appropriate policy decisions to alleviate the living conditions of members of the LGBT community. Yogyakarta Principles played an important role in arriving at a common minimum programme. Despite all these deliberations at a global policy level, there has hardly been any significant socio-political momentum at the grassroots level barring a few states that have announced official LGBT policies. In this instance, the key question that we need to ask ourselves is whether our society is ready to accept the broader philosophy of inclusive living by open up its hearts to the LGBT community as its contributing members by providing them opportunities to earn their livelihood. The clarion call applies to all the scholars of law and philosophy, as it invokes the issues of human rights abuse and malleability of human tolerance.
The abuses committed by the state and private parties have allowed for the germination of a culture that reeks of superiority complex or a feudal mentality, originating from the deeper realms of human mind. There is an impending need to repeal those laws that prosecute homosexuals for expressing themselves (Read – Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code). It is certain that legal reforms without behavioural change are as empty as a cabinet without a developmental roadmap.
It is relatively easy to repeal the discriminating laws than to bring down the social tension between intolerant majoritarian attitudes and liberal thought that promises space for every narrative. For this, it is important that we enumerate the factors of discrimination, leading to the violation of all the core human rights principle embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other Human Rights Treaties. Centuries of dehumanising treatment of the LGBT population on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity has made oppressors loose whatever little morality they had left in them. The law enforcement machinery should discard their passive approach of following logic extended by anachronistic laws, which portrays the LGBT+ community as misfits and unworthy of deserving an equal place in the society. In this age of economic liberalisation when the state has reduced its role to a mere facilitator and regulator in the sphere of economic activities, it is surprising how interested they are to control the socio-cultural lives of the average citizens. It is best manifested in the form of criminalization of homosexuality justified as ‘reasonable’ on the grounds of protection of public health or morals.
For an anthropological viewpoint, the hostility towards the LGBT community can be traced back to what I would call ‘the mirror hypothesis’. As social beings, we live amidst insecurities, some self-made and some created as a control mechanism by the society itself for us to fall in line. From the base of these insecurities, subconsciously we all are desperately looking for a version of ourselves in people around us. So much so that we forget to appreciate the beauty of individuality. We yearn to convince ourselves that we fall into that group which is most widely accepted, an established human behaviour pattern known as confirmation bias. Hence, the intolerant amongst us would want to hide their low self-esteem by aggressively challenging any alternative models of behaviour and identity.
Somewhere, it also reflects society’s intolerance to non-conformist ideas. Deep down the very idea of peaceful co-existence of the LGBT community among other members of the society represents a different worldview. Some might call it highly idealistic or utopian, but it is an idea worth devoting our time and energy into. The individual liberty of a civilisation is at its pinnacle when one can hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas backed by state’s promise in letter and spirit.
The next important question is to seek whether perpetrators of gender-based violence are seen as criminals or agents of society-sanctioned moral policing. The surge of homophobic and transphobic violence is driven by a desire to punish those seen to be defying gender norms. It is also well known that many of these attacks are organised and has a political angle to it, specifically related to the growth of parties based on right wing ideology. What is more disturbing than the perpetrators of violence, is the intellectual imperialism over victims that programs individuals to identify themselves as outliers and make them consider themselves deserving of beatings, torture, mutilation, castration and sexual assault.
Hence, it is important for us to excogitate our belief system we may have inherited from our narrow-minded ancestors and rise to challenge the status quo to move forward towards a mindful evolution of our thoughts based on a common consciousness and our ability to become a force for good.