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‘No scientific basis for gay stereotypes’

columns Updated: Dec 13, 2013 00:15 IST
Sanchita Sharma

What is homosexuality?

Homosexuality is a sexual ‘orientation’ — not ‘behaviour’, which connotes choice — that describes people who have sexual or romantic attraction to people of their own sex. Sexual orientation can be clearly distinguished from other aspects of sexuality, such as biological sex (the anatomical, physiological and genetic characteristics associated with being a man or woman), gender identity (psychological aspect of being male or female; for example, ahijra has a male sexual identity but a female gender identity), and social gender role (cultural norms defining feminine and masculine behaviours).

Is the term ‘homosexual’ used for male orientation only?

Etymologically, the word ‘homosexual’ comes from the Greek word ‘homos’, which means ‘same’. ‘Lesbian’ always refers to homosexuality in women.

Are homosexuals different?

Stereotyping gay men as effete and lesbians as burly and unattractive has no scientific basis.

Is homosexuality a disease?

No, though lack of information and understanding led many to classify it as a mental disorder. In 1992, the World Health Organisation (WHO) removed homosexuality from the category of mental illnesses.

Do homosexuals have equal rights in most countries?

They should, but don’t. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) lists 78 countries with criminal laws against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people (LGBTIs).

Over the last two decades, there has been a trend towards giving legal rights to homosexuals.

What prevents homosexuals from getting equal rights across the world?

Many religions and institutions act a stumbling block. The Roman Catholic Church considers homosexuality as a “tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil”.

Source: UNAIDS; WHO; International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association