When section 377 was abolished recently, a wave of human emotions and support flooded the internet, particularly social media channels. Aside from a handful of straight men, most of the support and joy shared online was courtesy people of the LGBTQ+ community and heterosexual women.
There has been a strong vein of homophobia present in our culture that has always manifested itself in ugly ways.
From schoolyard bullies to corrupt HR managers in the workplace, many LGBTQ+ persons have been discriminated against and have been made to feel ‘less than’. The abolishing of section 377 does not only mark the legalization of gay sex, it also marks the era in which homophobia must step out into the open, be addressed and rectified.
It can no longer be acceptable for people to pass homophobic jokes in classrooms, conference rooms or on the beloved silver screen. The sensitization of people, especially younger audiences is necessary for a collective healthy mindset moving forward.
For decades, one of the major causes for suicide among young people has been bullying due to discrimination.
School and college for most adolescents is the transitional period where they are familiarizing themselves with sexuality in the first place. If these environments become uncomfortable and stressful, that creates the scenario for violence and harassment.
Organizations like Mingle and Sarthi are working towards destigmatizing homosexuality so that there can be a level playing field for a community that has had to always exist in the shadows. But the efforts of these originations and countless others is dependent on the combined support of the people within the LGBTQ+ community and those outside of it.
Against a patriarchal background such as ours, most young men and women are raised within the confines of gender norms and sexuality. As a result, anything outside of these norms is viewed as something ‘less than’ and is then attacked. Abolishing section 377 also means abolishing bullying and stigma at every level.
While lawmakers and the judiciary board have taken steps in recognizing trans people as third gender and decriminalizing homosexuality, the steps to protect their safety still remain in our hands. Trans people and others have been victims of sexual abuse at the hands of heterosexual men for far too long.
Perhaps it’s the patriarchal mindset and gender stereotypes that are so engraved in the minds of straight men, that even speaking out against homophobia has become a fear in itself. Even if they want to participate in the joy of leaving section 377 behind, many will second guess themselves.
It is precisely for this reason, that more heterosexual men need to be brave enough to speak out against the crimes that have been committed, so that ghastly crimes like abetment of suicide, rape and propagation of rape culture discontinue. Unless adequate effort has been made to end stigma, harassment and discrimination the work of abolishing section 377 will only be half done.