Monday, July 27, 2009

Human Rights Professor is Anti-gay!

I came across this article in Feministe, which talks about a Singapore professor, Dr. Li-ann Thio, who was invited to teach human rights at NYU Law. Dr. Thio has extreme views on LGBTs. Her comments are quite shocking. It is amazing that someone who teaches human rights believes in suppressing the rights of a certain group of people.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Gay is as Gay Does

The Delhi High Court has decriminalized same-sex relationships. That is indeed a great leap in terms of the law, but what about Indian society? The majority of Indians still view homosexuals with open horror and disgust, with religious leaders condemning this amendment. According to them homosexuality is unnatural and against god's plan because they cannot procreate.

I would like to ask these so-called religious heads who appear to believe so deeply in god and the fact that god is responsible for earth and all its creatures: Well, if god was against homosexuals, then why are there homosexuals in the world? If god thought that homosexuality was "unnatural" then how come it has figured in his "plan"?

Homosexuality is not a choice, it is innate, it is just how a person is born. It is so natural that it also occurs in the animal kingdom - "
some same-sex birds do do it. So do beetles, sheep, fruit bats, dolphins, and orangutans." And the gay penguins in a New York zoo are also quite well-known now. All these animals are also following their own natural instinct. The big difference between these animals and us being that they are not castigated for their actions by their own species, they are not made fun of, or regarded with animosity and disgust.

I certainly don't buy the argument that gay people lead to a breakdown of the family system. The family
system today has already broken down, what with the steep increase in the rise of divorce all over the world. And there are so many dysfunctional families out there, who do nothing to provide a stable environment for children to grow up in.
Another argument is that a gay couple cannot possibly have a "normal" family because they cannot have children. Well, gay couples can adopt, or have children through a surrogate or sperm donor. And how can one say that they will not make good parents?
There is bound to be some confusion when their children see that other families have one father and one mother, while they have two fathers or two mothers. But it shouldn't be too hard to explain to children. Children are naturally receptive to new ideas. In fact, children of gay parents could grow up to be less prejudiced and more open to new "radical" ideas.

Another bone of contention is that gay people give rise to more cases of HIV/AIDS. As we all know, HIV is passed on through four different way, one of them being indiscriminate sex with unknown partners. Because gay people are persecuted, they seek out unsafe methods of obtaining sex. This is one of the reasons why HIV/AIDS is high among the gay population. Now, if people would just be more tolerant towards homosexuals and not compel them to hide in the closet, they would hopefully not indulge in risky behaviour, as they could seek out a single partner for themselves. This is of course, a hypothetical situation. If a person, gay or straight, wants to indulge in high-risk sexual behaviour, then that person is going to have to deal with the consequences.

As is the case, people are afraid of anything that they cannot understand or relate to. Trying to explain to homophobic people that gay people are, well, just people, is very frustrating! I have noticed that men, especially, are extremely wary of homosexuals. They are afraid that just by being in their presence they could be "bitten" by the "gay-ness bug"! In fact, a cousin of mine refused to get his hair cut by a gay hair stylist. When I asked him, why not, he said, "What if he 'tried' something?" To which I replied, "You sure do have a high opinion of yourself!"

The situation is not really all that much better in so-called developed countries, such as the USA, where a Massachusetts school librarian was told that she might lose her job over a reading of 'And Tango Makes Three' - a "
fictionalized children’s picture book based on two real-life male penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo."

I have begun to look at 'conservative', 'orthodox', 'old-fashioned', and 'traditional' as synonyms for 'intolerant', 'unprogressive', 'backward' and 'bigoted'. And I'm not about to change my opinion anytime soon.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Intolerance Only Breeds More Intolerance

"If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children." - Mahatma Gandhi

The Bajrang Dal seems to have taken Gandhi's words in a quite literal, but skewed manner. It holds an annual week-long training camp in Delhi to teach young boys and men to "protect Bharat Mata" from the Christian and Muslim "infidels".

If you read the Tehelka article cited above, you would see how well the Bajrang Dal and VHP fundamentalists are succeeding in brainwashing these young boys and men. They are told to beware of the "six Ms...
Muslims, Missionaries, Marxists, Lord Macaulay, foreign Media and Maino [UPA President Sonia Gandhi’s middle name].”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is how religious bigotry is spread through the veins of a people. The policy of catch 'em young seems to work wonders for religious zealots. Islamic fundamentalists are doing the same thing, preparing their young men for jihad. I have not really heard of any Christian groups indoctrinating their young to be prepared for a "holy war". But I guess one could say that the Bush administration had filled up that position pretty neatly.

All religious fanatics think that their religion is under attack from other religions. The Hindus think that Muslims and Christians are up to no good and are ready to destroy their culture at the drop of a hat. Muslims feel that all Christians and Hindus want wipe them out; and many Christians seem to have a morbid fear of all things Muslim and Hindu.

(I'm talking about just these three religions because they are in the news more than any other!)

I'm not going to profess that I know everything about these religions, but I do know that none of these religions preach hatred. They do not ask their followers to go out and bomb innocent people, just because they do not pray to the same god.

Religious text is open to interpretation. This, I feel, is one of the main causes of religious bigotry. Certain 'holy men' claim to understand religious text, but they are interpreting them in a manner that they deem fit. They preach their hate messages to a populous that does not know any better. Of course, political agenda also plays a big part here. Politicians target vulnerable populations and promise voters that they will keep them safe from the fearsome Hindus/ Muslims/ Christians.

Christianity and Islam have a common ancestry - Abraham/ Ibrahim, Moses/ Musa, Jesus/ Isa Masi. How many Muslims and Christians acknowledge this fact? And even if they do, does it really make a difference to them? Does it give them more food for thought? How can two races who share a common ancestry not see how similar they really are?

Strip away the religious identity of any group, and what you will get is a bunch of people with similar dreams and aspirations. Everyone wants to have a family and enough money to provide for that family.

Why do people have a need to wear their religious identity on their sleeve and condemn those that belong to an allegedly
opposed religion? When scripture asks you to "believe in the one true God" it is not asking you to denounce all other gods. Why should your belief in a certain god, a certain way of life be better or greater than another's? You practice what you want and I'll practice what I want.

It is sad that more people would rather abide by intolerance than try and have an open mind. It is difficult to have someone come up to you and tell you that what you have believed in all of your life is not true - not all Muslims want to kill Hindus and vice versa. But to try and change your point of view is an even more arduous task. And I think despite hate camps, like the Bajrang Dal one, there are people all around the world who are waking up and smelling the coffee for the first time in their lives. May their tribe increase!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

To Wear or Not to Wear

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy has declared that Muslim women cannot wear a burqa in France, as it is "a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement" and that it "will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic".
Read the article here.

While I do agree that women should not be forced to wear burqas, I also believe that women have a right to wear whatever they want. I'm personally not pro-burqa, but I do know of some Muslim women who wear burqas because they choose to, and not because they are being forced to. Therefore, it would be subservient or debase only if women were being coerced into wearing burqas.

The argument that in France the stat is separate from religion is no excuse to ban overt religious symbols. This is religious intolerance in reverse, extremist secularism, if you may please. Though I do see the point that wearing a burqa may come in the way of getting assimilated in a foreign nation, all people, no matter where they choose to live, should have the right to dispay their religious identity.

Perhaps the problem here is not that it prevents burqa-clad women from being more social, but what the burqa is associated with - Islam. This is conjecture on my part, but many people are uncomfortable with conspicuous demonstrations of religious identity.

But I dont't want to talk about religion here, I want to talk about women in general.

On the one hand, we have M. Sarkozy who wants to ban the burqa as he thinks that it is against the basic rights of women, and on the other, we have dubious groups like the Sri Ram Sene, who would prefer it if women cover themselves from head to toe to maintain "decency".

Who is actually upholding the "rights of women" here? Both the individual and the group are telling women what they must do and how they must be dressed. How about letting women decide how they ought to dress? No matter what I wear - be it a short skirt or a burqa - no one (not least some stranger) has the right to tell me how I should dress.

It's a sad state of affairs indeed when people still think that women need to be told how to dress and how to conduct themselves. The rights of women go beyond cultural differences. Women have dealt with oppression since time immemorial. Forget about developing countries, women are subjected to subliminal (if not blatant) oppression even in so-called developed countries. Even now, in the 21st century, there are just a small hand-full of women who truly enjoy freedom - freedom to dress as they please, freedom to behave as they deem fit, freedom to work at a job they want to, freedom to marry or not, freedom to have children or not, etc. These may seem like small, superficial freedoms, but they add up to a freer life.

I don't see these freedoms extending to all women on earth, at least not in my lifetime. And maybe it won't be possible for several generations to come. But, there is always the hope that some day, all women from New York to Zambia, from Saudi Arabia to Japan, from Ireland to India would enjoy freedom from self-proclaimed moral and social guardians.