Monday, April 2, 2012

India’s own private Idaho

(A version of this appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

One of the most difficult tasks in today’s world is to get politicians to take a stand on something, especially politicians running the UPA government. Getting the UPA government to take a stand on something is like trying to impregnate the statue of David. They are so neutral on every issue they make the Swiss look like Fox News. Even on the most obvious of issues, all you can get from them is the perennial why-cant-we-all-get-along plea of a wounded kangaroo trying to save her child from being killed by a larger animal.

So when it finally happened this week, hell froze over, there were more pigs in the sky than planes belonging to Kingfisher airlines, Imams were issuing fatwas calling for treating women as equals, Pundits were eating beef on a Tuesday and the only thing Priests in the catholic church were allowing choir boys to suck on was an ice cream stick. The UPA government had finally taken a stand on something! Even though the Supreme Court had to put a gun to their head to make them do it, but it’s the thought that counts, doesn’t it? They could have pivoted to the ignorant amongst us and taken a wrong stand, but they ignored Ghulam Nabi Azad and finally spelt out their support for the Delhi High Court judgement decriminalising homosexuality.

The fact that in 2012 human rights in this country are still up for debate is appalling. We treat our LGBT population like they are another species. Until July 2009, when good sense prevailed and the Delhi High Court read down section 377, the LGBT community in this country was technically still under colonial rule. Because unlike what the bigots proclaim, the only western influence present in this debate is institutionalized homophobia. Homosexuality has existed on this planet as long as life has existed on it.

One of the most popular hobbies of Indians everywhere is discriminating against people who they perceive to be different, but nothing unites all communities like their hatred of homosexuality. Gay people in this country have achieved something that even the ‘great’ MK Gandhi couldn't achieve; get all the crazy, bigoted people on the same side of an argument. These bigots predict that since the Delhi High Court has opened the floodgates, no one will want to love anyone of the opposite sex anymore. This will result in decreased male descendants ultimately causing the untimely demise of this young, vibrant nation whose people will then disappear from the face of the earth and take with them their ancient culture, their movies, the secret recipe of Chicken Manchurian and the ability to convince users of Dell computers to buy more RAM modules every time they call in to report a faulty keyboard. And then China will take over the vast empty wasteland and turn it into a nation of four year old child factory workers making smartphones whilst facing a working environment which probably violates a few provisions of the Geneva convention.

One doesn’t flick a switch and magically turn gay. Just like you don’t change the colour of your skin no matter how many tubes of fair & lovely you use, you can’t change the sexuality you were born with, no matter how much anybody else thinks that you will find the ‘right girl.’

Some countries punish all their gay citizens with death. In some countries bigots brutally murder gay citizens while the authorities look the other way or even encourage such vigilantism. In some countries you get sent to jail on the mere suspicion of being gay. In some countries legal sanctions can be brought against you for simply talking about homosexuality. In some countries, members of the gay community are raped by society's ‘moral guardians’ under the pretext of wanting to ‘fix’ them. In some countries you can be a self-hating homophobe tricking young gay men into feeling ashamed of who they are and still be married to a candidate running for President.

In India, you will get harassed by the police, bullied by the people around you and shunned by your family. Being gay is probably the number one item in the totem pole of things that upset Indian parents. It is even above marrying a person of a different religion or having a child without getting married first. Even our pop-culture is littered with rancid homophobia. Whether it is news channels who give credence to quacks like Ramdev who claim to heal homosexuality (If he was such a miracle worker, why can’t he stop his eye from constantly winking? What, is there no yoga app for that?) or celebrities who pretend to be gay for cheap laughs on award shows or even a lot of twitter users-who escape to the moral high ground when someone famous says something homophobic-have no qualms in mining bad stereotypes for re-tweets. The so called ‘macho’ leading men in popular movies prove how tough they are by mocking exaggerated stereotypes of gay men. Dude, you just bullied someone who has probably been facing discrimination every day of his life! Congratulations, here is your bravery award! This is not just limited to ill-informed and the uneducated, though. Even erudite ‘intellectuals’ will talk about promoting gay rights and then betray their ignorance by using ‘gay’ as a pejorative.

You know who else thought it was okay to discriminate against people for who they are?

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