US verdict on gay marriages 'empowering', say Indian activists

| Thursday, July 2, 2015 - 10:55
First Published |

US verdict on gay marriages 'empowering', say Indian activists

NEW DELHI: While there was a flurry of Facebook profile images doused in the colours of the rainbow indicating solidarity with the US Supreme Court's legalisation of same-sex marriages, LGBT activists say the landmark judgment has done much to boost the morale and foster the empowerment of the community in India.

"There is a lot of positive things to talk about this landmark verdict. Whether it is about the sati system being abolished in India, or homosexuality being legalised in US, I think such things give great insights about the human psyche and the way the oppressed are empowered," Harrish Iyer, the only Indian to be listed in the World Pride Powerlist 2013, told IANS.

Reflecting on the positive effect of the ruling on the global LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, Iyer said: "We need to start thinking of the world as one community because I don't know about heterosexual, but the homo community is well connected." (Also Read: This mother faced troubles in matrimonial advertising as she searched for a partner for her gay son. A ‘male’ partner!)

He, however, added that it would take much time for India to completely accept the LGBT community as society also has "other dynamics" like caste and religion to look into.

"To expect India to wake up tomorrow and say that the US has done something, so let's say that being gay is okay is a little too unrealistic. We have a lot of other dynamics to look into, like caste and religion. We have to fight out these battles first," he said.

But on a bigger level, Iyer believes that there are "more battles to win" before fighting for equal rights in marriage in India.

"Homophobia is imported. It is not our culture to be homophobic. What is more Indian is the caste politics and to wipe that out, we need more time. We have more battles to win before we battle the fight of equal rights in marriage," Iyer said. 

"My marriage to a man might not be legal in India, but it is going to make a statement. It will strike a chord with people and give a fillip to the whole movement," he added.

Reiterating Iyer's opinions on the subject, LGBT activist Sonal Giani of NGO Humsafar says support to the verdict brings a "very positive effect" in India.

"It's a very positive judgment and it will impact India positively. Whatever happens in the US does have a global impact. It highlights the fact that India is standing and supporting this verdict. It has a very positive effect," she told IANS.

"It's not just about changing your profile pictures to a rainbow. A lot of LGBT people felt empowered when people changed their profile pictures. Some people may have done it for fashion, but it was still a morale booster for us," she said.

An organiser of the Pride March, which took place in Mumbai in January, Giani says the verdict "has given sanctity to same-sex marriages".

"In India, you are living in a shell and saying that LGBT is a western phenomenon and you suddenly give them hope, a change. A lot of queer people are now thinking of moving to the US. The queer people now think that it should happen in India too," she said. 

Homosexuality remains illegal in India after the Supreme Court upheld Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in 2013 and refused to read it down to exclude same-sex relationships between consenting adults, calling the LGBT community "miniscule".

LGBT activist and independent filmmaker Shridhar Rangayan, director of the ongoing KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, said: "I personally feel that while marriage equality rights are important, I am more concerned about decriminalization and anti-discriminatory laws being in place. Others will follow, but section 377 has to go first as it violates basic rights of the LGBT community.

"If these are not in place, it is too much of a utopia to dream about same-sex marriages."

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