Of Rights & Wrongs

Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) meetings almost always end up being esoteric affairs. Rarely do they attract attention of people outside the community and it’s even more difficult to find a straight proponent of the cause.

Published:March 29, 2009 2:31 am

Premankur Biswas in conversation with advocate Ruby Mukherjee who has earned the reputation of being one of the most vociferous supporters of the LGBT issue

Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) meetings almost always end up being esoteric affairs. Rarely do they attract attention of people outside the community and it’s even more difficult to find a straight proponent of the cause.

People like Ruby Mukherjee,however,are exceptions to the rule. At a recent LGBT gathering at Coffee House,this advocate with the Calcutta High Court,was not just a fringe presence. She was an active participant in a debate on LGBT issues.

“As a legal practitioner,I feel compelled to talk about these issues. The truth is that in India,homosexuality is still treated with a lot of disdain. Law,in many ways,has the capacity to destigmatise. I think it’s important we realise this,” she says.

Mukherjee woke up to these issues a few years ago when she was approached by a gay activist for help.

“He wanted legal aid to fight discrimination. He told me how people from the LGBT community are victimised by those who are meant to protect them. Though I was not a specialist on the issue,I decided to pursue the cause and conducted extensive research,” she says.

Today Mukherjee has earned the reputation of being one of the most vociferous supporters of the LGBT issue.

“People from the LGBT community,especially the kotis,are mercilessly harassed in public places such as parks by both policemen and rowdies. There have been numerous cases where I have had to argue with homophobic policemen who seem to derive sadistic pleasure out of harassing them,” she says.

Recently,Mukherjee was summoned to a South Kolkata police station where a few members of the LGBT community were detained on grounds of “obscene behaviour”.

“They had no solid reasons to arrest them. It was quite distressing. I had to shout my lungs out to get those boys out of the place,” she says.

Little wonder Mukherjee is considered to be the unofficial legal representative of the LGBT community in the city.

“She is just a phone call away. Whenever we are harassed by the police,we don’t hesitate to call her. No matter how late in the night,she always comes to our rescue,” says Parjanya Mukherjee,an LGBT activist.

“The minimum penalty for same sex behaviour in India is ten years rigorous imprisonment. It’s a draconian law which is against humanity. How can we dictate sexual preferences?” she asks.

The apathy of the government towards this issue also distresses this legal practitioner.

“The common belief,which seems to be attested by the government,is that same-sex acts between consenting adults in the privacy of their rooms will encourage delinquent behaviour and tarnish our culture. This is exactly the kind of attitude that is holding us back,” she claims.

The best way to counter such regressive thoughts is to create awareness,feels Mukherjee. This is why she is setting up a legal body to counter Article 377.

“I am encouraging other legal practitioners like me to join the cause. This is a fight for human rights and all of us should join it,” sums up Mukherjee.

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