Trigger warning: rape, suicide, abuse, queerphobia.
India is believed to be the ‘land of diversity’. Yet, we’re far from being the land of ‘acceptance’. Discrimination against a person due to his sexual/gender identity and orientation follows him in employment, relationships, adoption choices and general acceptance in the society. Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is embedded into people’s minds leading to a whole spectrum of derogatory practices. From refusing to acknowledge the LGBT community to outright violence, killings and conversion therapy, we read such news on a daily basis.
Paradoxically, ancient Indian texts such as Kamasutra, Mahabharata, etc. have accepted and encouraged homosexual practices. The text ‘Vikriti Evam Prakriti’ taken from the Rigveda means “what seems unnatural is also natural”; recognises homosexual/transsexual dimensions of human life. We can still see erotic sculptures of men and women in Khajuraho Temples.
Then what brought such a negative skew in people’s mindsets? History suggests that the British Colonial Rule in 18 th century criminalized homosexual activities calling them "against the order of nature"; (Section 377 of IPC) leading to a fast decline in their acceptance.
As it turns out, majority of Indian population is still living in the 18 th century. A BIZZARE survey, conducted by Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance in 2019, across 12 cities in India, revealed that 56 percent of Indians would REFUSE an organ from a homosexual person while 54 percent believe that LGBTQ persons should not be allowed to donate organs at all 1 .
In urban India where awareness of LGBT rights is prevalent, the scenario looks a little more positive. People are willing to accept and hear their voices through social media, pride parades and meetups. Far away from this acceptance, families in rural India indulge in secret honour killings of gay men, lesbian women are subjected to family-sanctioned corrective rapes, which are often perpetrated by their own family members. Refusal to marry brings more physical abuse.
LGBT people are scared to come out because of stigmatization and parental reaction towards homosexuality. Most LGBT people are acceptable to family only if they agree to behave like heterosexuals. The lack of family support deteriorates their mental health and the pressure to conform often leads to depression, thoughts of suicide and psychosomatic diseases. A study published in 2009 compared gay, lesbian, and bisexual young adults who experienced strong rejection from their families. They were 8 times more likely to have tried to commit suicide, 6 times more likely to report high levels of depression and 3 times more likely to use illegal drugs. Homophobic landlords refuse to lend their houses to gay and lesbian couples because of the society and instruct their children to stay away because they’ll convert them into a homosexual.
The widespread practice of family members forcing LGBT people to undergo “conversion” therapy which ranges from conditioning and giving shock treatment to hormone replacements and surgery precipitates more stigma. It’s important to note here that these therapies have NO scientific evidence to back them up and lead to serious ethical violations.
Transphobia is another pressing issue in today’s times. A study by Stanford in collaboration with Civilian Welfare Foundation, a non-profit in Kolkata took interviews of 300 doctors to check their biases. It was found that DOCTORS find it hard to believe that transgenders get raped and refuse to prescribe anti-HIV medication to them (even though they are a high risk group for HIV) 3 . These core beliefs stem from childhood where children are told to BEHAVE or hijra or eunuchs will come and take them. Unapproving stares, rejection of entry in public places and associating them with prostitution are constant struggles faced by them.
Biphobia is experienced in more subtle forms, nevertheless, is extremely regressive. Comments such as ‘You’re just confused’, ‘This is just a phase’, ‘You’re widening your horizons to spice things up’ and the worst- ‘Will you be interested in a threesome?’ are downright pathetic. A bisexual person is anyway in a mental turmoil of neither being ‘gay enough’ nor ‘straight enough’ which can deter them from seeking romantic relationships and then hearing such statements stems anger, sadness and hostility.
Through this article, we want to showcase the harsh reality of LGBTQIA+ struggles and extend our support to them. It’s high time we start acknowledging our privilege, use gender neutral language and EDUCATE ourselves to make this society inclusive of diverse forms of LOVE because at the end, LOVE IS LOVE!
- Homophobic India? Survey Finds 56 Percent Respondents Would Refuse Organ from LGBTQ Donor (2019) Retrieved from: https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/survey-finds-over-half-of-indians-would-refuse-organ-from-an-lgbtq-donor-2384117.html
- Stigma and Discrimination (2016) Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/msmhealth/stigma-and-discrimination.htm
- Pallival, A. (2017). How could you have been raped?’: New study on how India’s transgender people face bias from doctors.
Retrieved from: https://scroll.in/pulse/856285/transphobia-among-indian-doctors-study-aims-to-uncover-reasons-for-bias-against-transgender-people
- Varma, P. (2018) Where Is The B in LGBTQ? On Experiencing Biphobia
Retrieved from: https://feminisminindia.com/2018/05/07/exclusion-experiencing-biphobia/