When I was four years old, my mother’s boss told her that I would either turn out to be delinquent or a criminal since she was a single mother.
At 20, the same pleasant man, now retired, proclaimed that single mothers, without men to guide them, bring up delinquents, as was made clear by my sexual orientation. At least, I wasn’t a criminal.
On December 15, a day before the first anniversary of the gruesome rape of a 23-year-old and the consequent demonstrations, queer people nationwide got together to stand up in protest against a draconian law, given a fresh lease of life by the Supreme Court. It isn’t mere coincidence that they will be protesting against “the robbing of their dignity”, an oft-used euphemism for rape.
The dominant class always devises mechanisms to suppress others to continue its supremacy. The creation of “honour”, to be maintained by women, works to establish supremacy on the axes of caste, gender and sexuality simultaneously. While honour can be invoked to rape women, the same is the trigger behind burning down Dalit houses in Dharmapuri or subjecting your child to electric shocks to change his sexuality in the heart of the Capital.
A pivotal fallout of the December 16 episode was the end of the conspiracy of silence around rape. No longer could one appropriate blame on the victim and brush things under the carpet, which is incredible progress for a country whose Supreme Court once said a tribal girl must have consented to her rape since there were no visible bodily injury marks.
The Mathura moment is upon the queer movement now. The flame that the braveheart lit will continue burning only if we realize that the same hand that crushes us, crushes others too. A patriarchal system, ably assisted by colonial morality, ensures that a Mathura gets raped and no one believes her, while ensuring that a hijra has nowhere to turn to after being subject to unmentionable violence.
Therein lies the success of the movement. The legacy of the December 16 gang-rape victim will survive only if we begin to realize that there are others who are fighting the same battle; that Dalits, minorities and queer people face the same demons women face; that my mother’s boss insulted her parenting skills not just because she was a woman (without her man) but also because she had brought up a queer son.
Rape isn’t just a women’s issue. Similarly 377 isn’t just about queer rights. Both are broader questions of human rights and dignity. I hope that the millions praying for the December 16 gang-rape victim will also remember that, right around the corner, a ‘minuscule section of the country’s population’ is fighting for its ‘so called rights’. Light us a flame too.
(Views expressed by the author are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of HT)