Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Dumbledore is Gay--Why it Matters

Author of the Harry Potter series J. K. Rowling has outed a very popular character, Albus Dumbledore, as being gay or homosexual. I don't know if this is a big deal for Indian readers, but it has led to much discussion in the western media. For one thing, tolerance of different religions and lifestyles is a major issue--the US has been discussing the issue of gay marriage, whereas the UK already permits same-sex partnerships. The issue of AIDS has forced the gay community to tackle its problems head on and look for stability in relationships.

However, this is not the case in India, where a) homosexuality is seen as a "lifestyle choice" rather than as an integral part of one's personality or the way one relates to the world or b) as a fad imported from the west. What many people, especially the conservatives in the Shiv Sena and the BJP, who created such a furore over Deepa Mehta's Fire, fail to realize is that homosexuality thrives in societies where the separation of sexes is the norm. So it's not unusual to read about homosexual relationships in prisons or hostels, where you have separate facilities for men and women. The problem arises when society closes its eyes to these realities. For instance, there was a programme in Tihar Jail, when Kiran Bedi was in charge, to distribute free condoms to the prisoners. It's a well-known fact that the use of condoms can prevent AIDS. However, this programme was stopped, due to pressure from the moral police.

Because homosexual relations between men in India are seen as a criminal act under Article 377, it is almost impossible for AIDS activists to find men who have sex with men and give them the essential information they need to safeguard their health. I'm sure that, if Article 377 has been retained as a safeguard against paedophelia, it has failed in its purpose. It should be scrapped and replaced with a law drafted specifically against paedophelia.

However, we do have some extremely courageous people who have come out of the closet and are working with the gay community. This gentleman was recently interviewed on the Oprah Winfrey show--he has also appeared in a BBC Radio 4 doucmentary on AIDS awareness amongst the gay community in India.

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