Recently, I watched Hansal Mehta’s much acclaimed movie ‘Aligarh’ starring Manoj Bajpayee. Based on real life events, it is the story of a 60-year-old homosexual man Dr. Siras, who makes you feel the sense of isolation and alienation, one would feel working and living in a hostile, judgmental and suspicious society. While watching, you understand his struggle when every window he opens, gives him nothing but disappointment, when people are ready to label him, all because of his sexual orientation. Indeed, congratulations are due for Manjo Bajpayee: he made us feel Dr. Siras- the victim of society, we were him, we were in his mind; which got me thinking is India, like US and Ireland ready to accept homosexuality? Probably not.
In his much anticipated memoir ‘Unsuitable Boy’, Karan Johar, the famous Bollywood director, producer openly talks about his sexual orientation and the struggles he has faced because of it. How the society, especially because he is a celebrity repeatedly thrashes, mocks and questions him because of his sexual orientation. He speaks about his first sexual encounter at age 26 in New York where he had to pay for sex. He says, “I came out feeling guilty and miserable because the encounter felt artificial.” He further writes that he is not in love with anyone, rather not capable of loving anyone. Why? Because the Indian society taught us that love can only happen between people of different genders. It also taught us how a girl or a boy need to behave. We are constrained by societal ideologies about how we are supposed to act and whom we are supposed to love.
In October 2015, ‘The Caravan’ published an article, ‘An indefinite sentence,’ a part of Siddharth Dube’s memoir who faced the challenges of being a homosexual in 1988 India and does so even now. He was questioned, ridicules and treated as a criminal all because of his sexual orientation. He repeatedly asks the question, “why are my bedroom affairs anyone’s business?”
US and Ireland last year made a historic change by legalising gay marriage and respecting the right of ‘equal dignity’ of its citizen. However, in India, coming across stories of people hiding their sexual orientation, because it is a criminal offense is disappointing.
The issue of LGBT in our country is more moral than legal. Despite the fact that we boast ourselves of being the world’s largest democracy, our society of 1.2 billion is not yet ready to accept homosexuality. We fail to give our citizen the rights our forefathers fought for: equality, privacy and liberty.
Our judiciary is not conservative but our mindsets are. Even in the 21st century rather than believing in what our religion prescribes we believe in religious adornment, which a few conservative people choose to tell us. They claim that homosexuality is not a part of our religion and history. Whereas, homosexuality was accepted in the entire Indian continents until the British introduced Sec 377 in 1861.
It is saddening to see that India that accepted homosexuality much before the world today is under the authority of ‘liberal’ men, who term anyone who supports LGBT rights as “anti-nationals.” People like Baba Ramdev claim they can ‘cure’ homosexuality with yoga, terming it as a disease, disregarding that fact that it is an individual’s right to choose who he/she wants as a partner. We fail to give basic fundamental rights to our citizens if we make their private bedroom affairs state and judiciary’s business.
Considering all this, stories such as ‘I am gay. I am married to a woman,’ confessed in an article by a journalist in ‘Firstpost’ should not shock us. He professes, “I am gay. I am married to a woman. It has been a remorse-filled 12 years, traversing two entirely different worlds – one fake and the other original but secret.” He further writes about his guilt and pain that he suffers from after coming out to his wife, “we spent many nights talking, trying to find answers to the whys of life. There are no clear answers. Why did I propose to my wife? Why did I marry a woman? Why didn’t I have the guts to face myself and realise that I am gay in time? That would have saved two lives, mine and her.” He feels more than the lack of sex it is the betrayal and her pain that hurts him. He is not the only one, there are many such hidden stories in India, all because we are a long way from accepting homosexuality as natural, let alone legalizing gay marriage. Before, fighting for it in the court we as a society need to liberalise our mind-set. If not then we are just a democracy for namesake, that fails to give its citizen basic fundamental rights.