I woke up this morning, with my Twitter, Facebook and assorted other social networks informing me that Justice Katju had emitted another brainfart, and this one was pretty distinct from his earlier outrageous statements, in that, it actually was homophobic.
Here’s a few lines from what he said:
As someone very interested in actual political activism for LGBT rights in India, it distressed me immensely that even those in the top echelons of judicial power didn’t think twice before airing their homophobia out in public. Turns out, I needn’t have worried that much.
There are, at the time of writing, 563 likes and 231 shares of his Facebook post. While I haven’t gone through each and every one of them, I see that a majority of them are calling him regressive, backward, bigoted and other choice unparliamentary language. Here’s a sampling of comments, and mind you, I’m picking them at random.
And the comments on the shares are no different. Yes, there are a couple of ‘So Trueeeee’s, but overall, people are using the space to write their own ‘open letters’ to Justice Katju, expressing themselves about how wrong he is.
This is a far cry from a long time ago when I wrote an article about my concerns and worries about Article 377 in a mainstream publication, and the comments section, apart from a couple of supportive comments, was filled with vile abuse calling me names. Of course, you haven’t arrived until people have called you names in the comments section of your article, so I wasn’t mighty bothered, but in the short span of a year, I notice Indians have come a long way in how they perceive homosexuality.
Maybe selection bias is at play here, given that the people who follow Markandey Katju on Facebook might be more enlightened than others(?). It however still stands to reason that people don’t think twice before spewing homophobia and chauvinism on Facebook, and the profound lack of such comments supporting Justice Katju’s stance does fill me with delight.
From what I have seen, it doesn’t matter in the long run what the people at the top think, if the populace knows what it wants. Ultimately, the government bows to the will of the people. Why do we think that removal of Section 377 will never pass in the Parliament? It is because we think a large section of Indian voters are homophobic, and their representatives fear that if they seem pro-LGBT, they might lose their votes. The individual opinion of the politician matters little when he has to bow down to his electorate, so even if a politician privately believes in decriminializing gay sex, he can’t go public on that right now.
Now we see, increasingly, that more and more Indians are horrified by homophobia, and while they might have personal issues with homosexuality, an increasing proportion of us believe there is no necessity to criminalize homosexual activity. The responses to a Facebook post aren’t good enough to generalize to the whole nation, but it does show that the nation is ready and receptive to change. And it will take sooner than we think for it to percolate to the highest levels.
There is a very long way to go in abrogating Section 377, but there are good reasons to feel positively about its prospects. There will always be a section of the society which is homophobic, but what is more important is to have a larger section that speaks up and stands up for LGBT rights.