February 7,2011: In 2009 in the case of Naz Foundation v. Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, the Delhi High Court issued a landmark decision decriminalizing homosexual relations between consenting adults. This decision has come under sustained attack from several parties who would seem to have no link to any homosexual person, but who still claim that this decision is harmful. Their most commonly reason is that it will attack the family values on which our country is based.
This biased and misleading response has now been countered in the Supreme Court by a group of people who very definitely do know a homosexual person – their very own child. In a petition that has just been admitted in the case, a group of parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people from across the country have come together to describe the very real harm that criminalization has caused their children, and themselves.
The parents argue that the real harm to family values is caused by divisive and discriminatory laws like Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, and they call on the Supreme Court to uphold the Delhi High Court’s wise decision. Their petition states: “it is Section 377 which is a threat to family values, as it directly affects the rights of the Applicants to safeguard their families from illegal and arbitrary intrusion from the state authorities. Section 377 invades the sanctity of the family, home or correspondence and allows for unlawful attacks on the honour and reputation both parents of LBGT persons as well as LGBT persons themselves.”
The group of parents is lead by Mrs.Minna Saran, mother of the late Nishit Saran, a brilliant young filmmaker whose work, before he died in a tragic road accident, documented his struggles in trying to come out about his sexuality, fearing the adverse reactions of society on his family. But he received full support from his mother, who defied social prejudices, and accepted her son for who he was. She has since set up the Nishit Saran Foundation in his memory to help LGBT youth and their families come to the naturally loving acceptance that she had for her son.
Another parent is Mrs.Munithayamma, the mother of Veena.S. who identifies as a hijra. Her child was born male, but always felt inclined to dress like a girl, and, Mrs.Munithayamma testifies with sadness how fear of social stigma and her own confusion and lack of knowledge lead her to prevent her child from behaving as came naturally to her, and even to hitting her from time to time. She wishes that more parents will be supportive of their transgendered children – something unlikely to happen when they are treated as criminals by the law.
Mrs.Chitra Palekar is a film-maker and an award winning theatre actor and director. She is also the mother of Dr.Shalmalee Palekar, an academic who identifies as lesbian. Mrs.Palekar testifies to how isolating it was to be the mother of a lesbian daughter, since the criminality associated with homosexuality prevented any open discussion of the subject. She was able to understand and accept her daughter by reading books on LGBT issues and meeting LGBT people, but she knows that social stigma would prevent many others like her from having such an opportunity.
These are just three of the 19 parents who have come together to file this petition. They come from across India and all walks of life, including homemakers, academics and teachers, an employee of the Postal Department and the head of a co-operative bank. The nature and diversity of their identities disproves another charge made by opponents of decriminalisation – that this change reflects only Western, elite sensitivities. Nothing could be more typically Indian than this group of parents, who are doing nothing more typical for a parent than defending the right of their children for a safe, unprejudiced life.
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