There is more to celebrate than a parade.
There are voices to be heard
That will keep up the murmur
Even after the songs are sung,
How many threads will you pull apart?
The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
are also on the faces of people passing by
Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
And the dream that you dare to,
Oh why, oh why can’t I?
Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands? ~Ernest Gaines
Homophobia is a term that provides some kind of shorthand for a host of unwarranted behavior against people who engage in non-heteronormative sexual behavior(s). Is it really a phobia- a fear or is it sheer hatred? Homophobia happens to be written into the law- in the archaic Indian Penal Code under Section 377 drafted by Macaulay which dates back to the colonial times- leading to widespread hate crimes and profiling of gender and sexual minorities- homosexuals, transgenders, intersex and queer persons. Sexual violence against transgenders in police custody has been reported. Other than that, same-sex couples are routinely targeted, exploited and threatened by the police. Due to lack of support from families, many are driven to suicide. The active marginalization of LGBTQIH people is one of the darker secrets of our Republic.
All of this is justified by using the bogus classification of natural versus unnatural. Quite recently, former Justice Katju in his Facebook post, flaunted the same mentality by saying that non-reproductive sexual relations are non-necessary and that the only purpose of man-woman relations is procreation. Saying that “a woman has to get hold of a man, not merely to make her pregnant, but also to look after her and provide for her financially while she is performing this role”, he endorsed the same misogynistic attitude that treats women as tools for producing babies as did Member of Parliament, Sakshi Maharaj who called upon Hindu women to produce four babies, to serve the project of turning India into “Hindu rashtra”. That there are numerous human actions- sexual and non-sexual- that are not directed toward procreation and that homosexual behavior has been observed even among animals, is irrelevant to this misinformed ideology.
The historic Delhi High Court verdict in 2009 that decriminalized homosexual activity between consenting adults said, in no uncertain terms, that Section 377 is a violation of fundamental rights of Indian citizens. It upheld the constitutional morality that Dr. B.R. Ambedkar famously spoke of in his draft Constitution speech, as opposed to public/majoritarian morality. The 2013 Supreme Court judgment, however, was a huge setback to the movement as it upheld public morality as opposed to Constitutional morality- stripping homosexual people of their right to a dignified life by criminalizing their identity.
While homophobia has been successfully made part of common sense through institutional discrimination and violence, there’s a need to ask whether “Indian culture” really espouses an inherently homophobic mentality. There are, for example, ancient writing and art that testify to widespread non-heteronormative sexual behavior among Indian people. Indeed, there is nothing ‘Indian’ about criminalizing homosexuality, rather it is a Macaulay sponspored colonial imposition of Victorian ‘morality’ on our people to serve patriarchy. And the self-appointed ‘custodians’ of Indian culture, are wielding this colonial tool to “purify” Indian culture, witch-hunting and rendering invisible any forms of existence other than an majoritarian, upper caste, heterosexual identity. The most organized force against any form of diversity is, of course, the RSS and its affiliates. Inside and outside the campus, there has been a steady rise in violent targeting of disadvantaged and minority voices. Progressive democratic forces have always rejected fascist mindset and vandalism on JNU campus. However, with the rise of the right-wing to power at the Centre, these vandals feel empowered enough to bully LGBT groups outside and inside the campus.
Although the JNU campus offered a united resistance to such retrograde trends, evident in the huge turnout in Rainbow Walk, Rainbow Trees on campus are being targeted and vandalised again and again. We urge the student community to remain vigilant against these misogynistic, homophobic, fascist elements and reject their designs. It is the subversive power of individual’s right to sexual expression and identity, individual’s right to choice and love, the twin challenge that it poses to both patriarchy and caste, that has unnerved those who are vandalizing the Rainbow trees. It is this subversive power that challenges domination and discrimination and speaks for plurality, diversity and dignity of every identity that needs to be upheld in dark times like these.