Two years after the landmark Delhi high court ruling that decriminalised homosexuality between consenting adults, the Lesbaian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community is set to the streets once again. But this time, it won’t be in celebration but in protest against the Indian health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s recent ‘homophobic’ comments.
“Over the next few days, several organisations working with the LGBT community will be demonstrating on the streets of Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore,” said Udayan Dhar, the convenor of Mission for Indian Gay & Lesbian Empowerment (MINGLE).
“However, we have realised that the noise made at these marches never reach the right ears. So we have also decided to file an RTI application with the health ministry, seeking clarification on the government’s stand on homosexuality since the same government was instrumental in repealing section 377 two years ago,” Dhar added. MINGLE has also initiated an online petition, voicing the concern of the gay community, which they intend sending to the prime minister’s office.
Meanwhile, a campaign called ‘Its good to be out’ on Youtube is also in the pipeline. “We are encouraging people to talk about their feelings on the subject and post the videos on the channel,” said Deepak Kashyap, psychologist and the brain behind the initiative.
“It is unfortunate that the health minister of the largest democracy in the world thinks that homosexuality is a disease. I guess now we will have to sensitise politicians just like we sensitised policemen about gay rights,” Kashyap added.
On Monday, Azad was speaking at the national HIV/AIDS convention of zilla parishad chairpersons and mayors when he said that the “the disease (of homosexuality) has come from abroad” and that the gay population in India is now increasing. He added that it is difficult to identify MSM (Men having sex with Men) unlike sex workers who live in a community.
His remarks sparked off sharp criticism from the LGBT community already struggling against prejudice. “I am not ashamed of being a gay man but I am now ashamed to be an Indian,” said Harish Iyer, gay rights activist. He feels that he has made a mistake by electing the present government to power.
The outrage was not restricted to the gay community, with several straight supporters coming out strongly against the minister’s remarks. “How can we have a health minister who says gay sex is a disease?” asked Bollywood actress Shahana Goswami. “The uneducated ministers of India should stop making such factually incorrect statements,” she added.