In 2011,filmmaker Chitra Palekar was among 19 parents of lesbian,gay,bisexual and transgender people who came together and filed a petition in the Supreme Court to lend their support to the 2009 Delhi High Court verdict decriminalising homosexuality.
On Wednesday,when the Supreme Court set aside that verdict,the Palekars struggled to come to terms with the new reality.
“My daughter Shalmalee,who is a professor of post-colonial literature at University of Western Australia,wrote to me saying that the fight will continue,” said Chitra. “She said the Supreme Court has dealt a huge blow to progression of human rights in the country. It is an opportunity lost and I am both sad and furious.”
Amol Palekar said the verdict was disturbing and not just for personal reasons. “The Supreme Court’s verdict is deeply saddening and a regressive step in human relationships. It’s clearly about majority and minority,a game of numbers and how ‘their’ choices are different from ‘ours’. It is not just about being parents to a homosexual child but something that threatens the core of human existence. I sincerely hope that we not just learn to accept differences and offer pity but see it with empathy,” he said.
“There was such immense scope for a positive verdict,especially with other countries passing same sex marriage laws. How is it that the Supreme Court did not take cognisance of what’s happening across the world? Does this now mean our children will be considered criminals?” Chitra asked.
Meanwhile in Kolkata,at a protest meet held in front of Kolkatas historic Academy of Fine Arts,parents joined their children. I am worried about my son now again. What if he lands up behind bars now?asked Subarana Chanda,a 67-year-old housewife who attended the protest meet with her son Moloy Guha,a Kolkata-based make-up artist.
Two years ago,another homemaker,Bina Guha Thakurta,went to weigh in on the debate over same-sex relationship,in support of her son Tirthankar Guha Thakurta. Today,she is shattered. I am really upset about this, she says. As a parent,I can’t abandon my child. And I firmly believe that each person has the right to choose his or her partner. Societal pressure cannot work in personal matters, she says. Bina Guha Thakurta was one of the 19 parents who had filed the petition in the Supreme Court in 2011.
For Sulekha in Kolkata (name changed on request),who attended the meet to support her lesbian daughter,Mithila,life has come to a full circle. I had seen her struggle with her identity and then finally come out more than a decade ago. I remember how as a member of a LGBT support group she would attend meetings,hand out fliers in all gatherings Then the Delhi High court judgment happened and I was relieved. But she has to do it all again,it seems, said Sulekha.
Amrit Ramaswamy,26,a hospitality executive from Bangalore,said if the 2009 verdict encouraged him to come out to his parents,the Supreme Court’s reversal has shocked him and his family. His mother Anitha Ramaswamy,54,who runs a garments export business,called it “a dark day” in the history of the LGBT movement in India.
After much prodding by his friends,Amrit had opened up about his sexuality in 2010. “We were watching the Delhi Pride March on TV when he told me he liked men,” says Anitha. “It took me weeks to get used to the fact that he would never marry or,worse,that he would be treated like an outcast by society.”
Minna Saran’s son Nishit was a gay activist and filmmaker who died in a car accident in 2003. Carrying on the fight for her child,she was the lead signatory in the petition filed by the parents.
“At the moment,I am too shocked and hurt to participate in TV shows or street protests. This is very unfair and too drastic. We will have to sit together and decide what to do next. Maybe it’s a long fight,but it will continue. And I don’t think parents will be discouraged. Parents who supported it will carry on. We had gone to file the petition with the hope that our children can lead the lives they want to,and be accepted easily in society.”
Usha Rajaram,57,doesn’t recall having “the conversation” with her daughter Poorva.
“There wasn’t a dramatic ‘moment’ but rather a gradual sense of where she was in life,and what the politics of her sexuality was,” said Rajaram,who lives and teaches in Pune,while Poorva is a post-graduate student at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
“At the time,I didn’t have the language to talk about it,but that changed with my academic work and hers. We both grew into an understanding together,” she said,adding that the Supreme Court verdict is saddening.
“It is not only because I am a parent of a queer child,but I have many friends in the gay community. And while people are talking about Article 377 as a human rights issue,I think the discourse has become problematic because of the scrutiny on gay people.
“The very act of being interviewed because my daughter is queer is discriminatory and would not have happened to the parent of a straight child,” she said.
(with inputs from V Shoba,Sankhayan Ghosh & Anushree Majumdar)