The Supreme Court of India made history by partially scrapping Section 377 and legalising gay sex. We tell you how you can talk about this sensitive issue with your children and educate them.
By Leena Ghosh
In today's age of technology and free thoughts, homosexuality remains a taboo subject in our country and homes. Indian society still has some way to go before accepting same-sex relationships as 'normal'. Therefore, the ruling by the Supreme Court of India is a significant step toward removing the stigma around same-sex couples.
"Section 377 is irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary."
With these words, the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Dipak Misra, made history today. In a landmark judgement, the bench comprising justices RF Nariman, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, led by the CJI, decriminalised consensual same-sex acts from Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Describing section 377 as ‘violative of the right to equality’, the apex court finally paved the way for individuals belonging to the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community to come out into the open.
The judgement received widespread support not only from the masses but also from the media. Let's look at some of the headlines:
The ruling also brought cheer to many who, until now were forced to keep their sexual preferences a secret. Nirangal Siva, member of the governing board of Nirangal, Chennai, says:
We are all very happy and hoping that this will help the community to be better recognised. It was like a knife at our throat at all times. For example, there aren’t many recorded cases in the police station, but there is a lot of bullying, discrimination and gay extortion that happens every day. I am handling the crisis helpline and almost all the complaints from gay couples are about someone who has their nude pictures. And, even when these pictures are not of an explicit nature, money and valuables are extorted from these couples. It’s also about the humiliation and the ‘criminal’ tag that comes with it. No one can tolerate such bullying. Why do they only target homosexuals? That’s the biggest issue. People don’t even bother to find out where gays will end up, having lost so much in their lives. At least the parents of heterosexual couples are willing to let their children get married, in these types of cases. At least the law is on our side now. LGBTQs need more counselling, legal support, and acceptance from society. The government has to ensure that this happens, in the days ahead. For 158 years, queer people have been closeted.
As parents of the 21st century, it’s our duty to sensitise our children towards the problems faced by the LGBTQ community. If our children grow up to respect individual preferences, it will help us thrive as a open-minded community.
But, as a parent, you may feel uncomfortable or find it difficult to explain what homosexuality or same-sex relationships mean, to your child. So, we sought the help of our expert to make things easier for you. Here is what Arundhati Swamy, counsellor and the Head of Parent Engagement Programmes at ParentCircle, has to say:
1. How and when should a parent talk about homosexuality to a child?
With very young children, parents can introduce the concept of diversity to help them see how people are naturally different from each other in many ways — size, colour, language, culture and, so on. When parents respect these differences, children also learn to value diversity. As children grow and become aware of differences in gender and sexual preferences, they will naturally embrace others irrespective of the differences.
The right time to talk about different genders is when a child asks a question about it, or when he hears about it from the media. Many preteens use the term 'gay' to tease and bully other children; this only serves to perpetuate the negative perceptions and attitudes towards the LGBTQ community. Therefore, it’s important to make children understand the facts. This will help them become more accepting and supportive.
2. How should a parent sensitise a child about issues related to the LGBTQ community?
Apart from explaining the biological facts, parents can educate their children about how these people have been marginalised, deprived of basic human rights such as education and work, and treated unfairly by society. Many transgenders tend to be aggressive because they have to struggle at every step to survive. They not only have to fight for their basic needs, but also have to cope with the atrocities and indignities heaped on them.
3. How can parents explain the historical significance of this verdict by the Supreme Court?
The Supreme Court verdict will have a tremendous impact on the social norms prevalent in our country. With the help of examples, parents can help their children understand how societies exist, the cultural and social practices that define them; and how some of those norms have deprived fellow human beings of the opportunity to live a normal life. Parents can focus mainly on the importance of human rights.
4. How can parents ensure that their child is empathetic towards the LGBTQ community?
It takes much more than just a change in the law for people to make a paradigm shift in their attitudes and beliefs, especially when these have been reinforced for decades. To that extent, the minds of children are more amenable, and we often see their ability to be more open-minded and accepting of change. For parents who find it difficult to accept a new norm, it’s best that they reserve their comments and opinions in the presence of their children. However, give them the freedom to discuss and debate LGBTQ issues. If parents impose their negative views, children can become confused or forced to take a stand.
Jason Collins was the first NBA professional in the US, who went public about his homosexuality. He once said, 'Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it's a good place to start'. Having an open and healthy conversation with your child on every topic is essential to help him become an understanding and compassionate human being. As parents, it is our duty to ensure that future generations understand that free will and freedom of expression is not a choice, but a right.
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