June 12, 2016.
Its been 6 months 5 days since a gunman decided that he did not agree with people
of different sexual orientation and committed a barbaric act in the name of religion. He opened fire
at a nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando, US. 49 people were killed while the number of people injured was as high as 53. The attack on Pulse, a night club popularly known to be gay friendly was the deadliest mass shooting in recent history for US. 2:02 am to 5:15 am. 3 hours 12 minutes. 49 lives lost. To intolerance. To religion. To brutality. To us.
A few months earlier…
April 25, 2016.
Its been 7 months 25 days since Xulhaz Mannan was hacked to death along with his friend, Tanay Majumdar by men who thought they had the right to end a life because it was a little
different to their own. Xulhaz Mannan was the editor of Roopbaan, Bangladesh’s only magazine for
the LGBT community. 5 pm. 6 men. 2 lives lost to meaningless, pointless, horrid brutality.
While US have legalized homosexuality in 2003, striking down the same-sex sodomy law, Bangladesh still criminalizes homosexual activities.
These are international actions of terror. Today I want to come a little closer to home. Let’s talk about India.
For those of us who have heard about the Article 377 but haven’t actually read its content, here’s what it says;
377: Unnatural Offences
Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or
animal shall be punished with imprisonment…
The section 377, extends to any union involving penile insertion. Thus, even consensual acts such as fellatio and anal intercourse between a man and a women may be punishable under this law.
Sounds scary right? All those couples who wanted to try anal sex, begin applying for a visa abroad.
India won’t let you do it. Its ‘unnatural’.
Jokes apart, the words used to describe this Section are nothing if not offensive.
Why are they offensive you ask? Because they claim that consensual sexual acts of 2 adult individuals are as criminal as bestiality and acts of sexual abuse on animals.
It is not just homosexuality that has taken the brunt of this fire. The transgender community has suffered equally at the hands of us ”Normals” in India.
In the year 2004, Supreme Court of India dealt with an affidavit, with utmost apathy, submitted by
Kokila – a member of the transgender community – describing how she was raped by 10 men and then further sexually tortured by the police when she attempted to file an FIR. Custodial rape of LGBT persons have been recognised at an act of torture under international law for many years now and still, a legal action of protection against such acts is not taken.
Section 377, our same sex sodomy and LGBT laws make it impossible for such survivors of violence
and assault to file complaints about their experiences without themselves being at risk; because of the law itself and the stigma its perpetuates in the society.
Another rape case that has gripped social media is that of a young man who was drugged and raped by his date, He studies at a reputed Delhi University. Due to the fear of the Article 377, he was denied the most basic right of filing an FIR against his abuser. Not being able to report this abuse, he chose to grieve with a friend in US.
This friend, now recognized as Arnav Barbaad, approached the social media with a few nameless screenshots of their saddening conversation regarding the rape. It kills me to even imagine his plight. He was breached, his body and mind abused by someone he trusted.
He has to watch his rapist walk free while he suffers through physical and emotional pain. After all this,
we also expect him to remain silent or he will be further condemned by the law itself.
What form of democracy is this?
While we see many debates over India’s changing stand on its LGBT laws where we decriminalised
Section 377 in 2009, a judgement that was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2013, once again criminalising Section 377;
Let’s see the origin of this Article:
The section 377 of Indian Penal Code was first introduced in 1860s during the British rule which criminalised all sexual activities that were ‘ against the order of nature ‘. This law took the feeling of
mild neglect towards homosexuality in India and blew it out of proportion, thus intensifying our hatred towards the gay and transgender community.
What is surprising and note – worthy is, LGBT rights in the United Kingdom came into prominence after same sex sexual activity was decriminalised across UK in early 1967 to 1982. The 21st century
only saw strengthening of these LGBT Equality Laws.
Hence, it is disturbing and almost laughable how the British realised the error of their ways and now
have offered their LGBT community their rightful place in the society where as we, are still stubbornly hanging on to the sodomy laws that were not created by us in the first place.
We are dragging the burden of a foreign legacy that tells us to cut off the heads of our own people, who are simply at fault of being different.
Our lack of will to address such issues enrages me but it doesn’t surprise me.
After all, how should I expect people to be outraged over such horrendous attacks of terror when I
see them trying their best to simply eliminate the existence of the LGBT community?
There are two reactions, one comes across now a days, when the topic of homosexuality arises.
Either it is complete neglect or rather denial of such a community or it is disgust in the name of
religion, culture, nature and even science.
Our religion is as intolerant as we ourselves are. Our religion, our culture is a reflection of our thoughts and I refuse to conform to a religion that tells me that I have no freedom to love whom I
want, that I have no freedom to be what I want.
We Suggest You Read: The Bisexual Way
It is outrageous and frankly a lot more depressing that in this age, in 2016, the 21st century era, 2 consensual adults don’t have the freedom to decide – who they want to love, what they want to share with each other within the confines of their own home, how they want to dress their own body with clothes bought from their own money.
It is saddening how we still want to confine the purity of love within the age old boundaries of own rotten minds. Love can take any form, it is free to choose, just like we are free to live. We will never truly progress until we stop dictating terms and clauses for how to be and whom to love. Our identity is exactly that, our own. It is the most personal decision of mans life that demands the respect it deserves.
It’s a falsified image of democracy that doesn’t even respect the choices of its own people. We all have our individual sexual orientation and gender identity and all people regardless of their sexual
orientation and gender identity, should be able to enjoy their human rights.
It all comes back to the same line, ‘Live and let live’.
“Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding
hands?” – Author Ernest J. Gaines
“I hated the word homophobia. It’s not a phobia. You’re not scared. You’re an asshole.” – Morgan
“To deny people their Human Rights is to challenge their very Humanity.” – Nelson Mandela
“Gay people are born and belong to every society in the world. They are all ages, all races, all faiths.
They are doctors and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes. And whether we know
it or whether we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends and our neighbours. Being Gay is not a western invention. It is a human reality.” – Hillary Clinton
Today I call out. I call out for respect, for admiration, for love – for all those who have stood up for themselves.
For all those who have come out of the closet, who have shown the immense courage
to love in the face of hatred we all are conforming to, for all those who have embraced their identity, themselves, I respect you, I salute you. For all those who still struggle, in the darkness, all those have faced abuse at the hands of their own, I love you, I stand by you. I always will. I hope i will help make this world a better place for you.
PS : This article is written in the memory of Juan Guerrero and his partner Dru. They were victims of the Orlando mass killing. I did not know them but their deaths have affected me in ways I cannot
describe. They were good people, lost to us due to misplaced ideals.
You can find their memories on Instagram, their smiles remain frozen there, forever.
@juang0628 and @thedruproject