Even as the news of the Orlando massacre started trickling in on an otherwise sultry Sunday, some of us were at a party celebrating the successful Kashish Film Festival later that evening. There was a sober time when the otherwise ecstatic LGBT party goers turned round and asked “Why do they hate us so much?” The Orlando massacre is only a high note in a series of events that seem to be showing a new global trend: mainstream societies, allegedly heterosexual, have prioritized a new enemy. Though hacking innocent Hindus has become passé in Bangladesh, the killing of Xulaz Mannan was unique in that the killers went to his home and brutalised him before hacking him to death. And now in Orlando, a mass killer’s father says “He was very angry when he saw two men kissing”.
From Dr Subramanian Swamy to Baba Ramdev to IS/Daesh to evangelist Christians like Uma Shankar in Chennai and scores of Baptist Churches who are actually “celebrating” the mass murders, we need to think why we seem to be up against God and his people in the second decade of this century when we are supposed to have spawned scientific and rational societies all over the world.
The first shock was last week when the United Nations General Assembly met to pass resolutions on the health needs of most-at-risk groups like Men-Having-Sex-With-Men (MSM or the generic phrase for homosexuals), sex workers and ID Users (IDU). The simple 26-page document drafted for the occasion, became a battlefield with powerful countries like Russia, the 53-strong Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) and the Vatican – opposed even the mention of the three most-at-risk groups as “simply unacceptable” (Russia’s words) with the added support of Saudi Arabia which ironically sits on the UN Human Rights Commission with clear Sharia laws mandating homosexuals be executed by swords and axes
The defeat for LGBTI activists in the UNGA made the Global Best Practice officer at UNDP, Clifton Cortez fume:
“Transgender people, men who have sex with men, and sex workers are each mentioned only once in the 26 page document…” and that’s only to acknowledge that we have the distinction of being the most vulnerable to the virus! Government of Russia, shame on you. Government of Poland, shame on you. Holy See, shame on you. Governments of members of the Organization of Islamic States, shame on you all. Most of the governments of African states, shame on you. Call out the culprits. And shame on the LGBTI “ally” governments, starting with the USA, Canada and the Europeans, for showing that we’re not worth the political embarrassment and career blackeye, to the diplomats in charge of the negotiations, that they would experience by standing up for our communities and disavowing consensus on a document that is not only deeply flawed but a license for governments to ignore the HIV crisis among us.
Even India’s Union Health Minister Nadda stated rather airily that “We will offer treatment for all who need it”, a puffed up add-on to “Sabsa Saath, Sab Ki Vikas” but did not mention the real populations who needed it. HIV among gay men in India is ten times the prevalence in the general populations but then that’s another matter that the Supreme Court is still to even decide on their being criminals or not. Even the cultural acceptance of hijras with long eulogies being sung in the Lok Sabha to the marginalization of “our Tritiya Panthi sisters” did not hide the fact that gay men did not matter. Why? Because as our learned MPs said: ”Homosexuals chose their preferences” and hence any reconsideration on Section 377 was “prone to misuse”. These were words used on TV by a journalist known to be backed by the RSS.
The concern may be genuine but not valid. In his words: ”by removal of Section 377, if we allow you consent then tomorrow you will want to have sex in the streets openly”. Curiously, both in Britain and in the words of the Delhi High Court judgment what was demanded was a reading down of the anti-sodomy law to read “consensual sex between two consenting adults in private”. The reform of the old anti-sodomy law in Britain was followed by stricter policing of public places so homosexuals stuck to the letter of the reformed law. Yet the anxieties remain not only in Britain but all over Europe,
The most homophilic country in Europe, France, saw the one of the biggest rallies against reforming of the laws to allow same-sex marriage late last year in Paris fully backed by the Roman Catholic Church and the French Ulema together mobilizing over a lakh of ‘concerned citizens’. They had the implicit backing of the new Right Wing parties sprouting all over Europe seeing homosexuals as the new danger to the fabric of society. In Italy, despite a sound defeat of its position on abortion, the Vatican has been successfully blowing hot and cold on homosexuals rights with Pope Francis refusing to judge them but making contrary noises on same-sex marriage.
Orlando is thus a wakeup call for LGBT all over the world to organise locally but think globally. Though the killings took place in sunny Florida very close to the Bible Belt, they also seem to have happened on gay territory – the bar Pulse, was started as a memorial to a brother who lost his life to HIV/AIDS. Hence it was a kind of memorial to what gay men have been undergoing in America ever since the AIDS Epidemic wiped out whole swathes of gay populations centred in New York and San Francisco. Now even that territory has been desecrated with homosexual blood in one huge wave of hatred for sexual minorities.
It is too early to even analyze what the consequences of this new horror will visit upon the LGBTI communities in America. Presently, nearly all the gay e-lists and portals have cautioned people not to allow a backlash of Islamophobia though that has been a lurking under-current with Trump ramping it up. But there is a hopeful rising trend that we need to delink generic religion from education, public discourse and even electrol politics.
Meanwhile, Fabrice Houdart, senior officer at the UN Human Rights Council and also senior officer at the World Bank wrote this sad FB post on the Orlando massacre:
Our case rests!