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An open letter to a bigot

Homosexuality is not a disease. It is as intrinsic to India as corruption, writes Vivek Divan.

india Updated: Jul 06, 2011 23:33 IST

Dear Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad,

It appears you need a dose of enlightenment since your recent statements on homosexuality smack of either ignorance, misinformation or rank prejudice. I hope that this missive serves that purpose, although I am doubtful. On the other hand, I hope that it shames you. I know what shame is like, having lived most of my life in a world that never understood a core part of me — my sexuality. For your irresponsibility you deserve no part in the governance of a nation that prides itself on tolerance and diversity. Your bosses should dismiss you immediately, but I have a feeling they won’t.

It is hard to imagine that you are the health minister of India. I imagine that responsibility entails in its very essence promoting the well-being of all Indians. And not consigning some of them to the margins and fueling hatred and disgust against them.

What a travesty, especially since your humbug is directed against a community, which has, in its attempt to emancipate itself, done nothing but subscribe to the highest ideals that India’s Constitution aspires to — by using democratic judicial processes to seek equality and understanding, protesting their plight through non-violent means founded in free speech and expression, and by working painstakingly within the community to alleviate the impact of serious health problems such as HIV and social issues like violence.

We haven’t attempted to bribe or use inflammatory language and tactics. We have based our struggles on sound knowledge, on the unceasing appreciation that there is a humanity in all persons, which will eventually locate the truth. Not on the cronyism that must come ‘naturally’ to you.

And you call us ‘diseased’. If anything, you are deficient — in your knowledge, your humanity and your responsibility as a servant of the people. Tell us Mr Azad — what have you done to serve us as health minister of India? What has been your commitment to ensure that India’s response to HIV is at the cutting edge of science and entrenched in inclusiveness? Instead of using diversionary tactics by inciting pointless hatred, what have you done to improve public health in India so that states are coaxed to ensure that hospitals, primary health centres and medical practitioners aspire to the core values of this essential service?

While economic indicators bode well for the nation’s progress, health indicators paint an entirely different picture to which you seem to be blind. What are you doing about maternal mortality, dear sir? Some 100,000 women die from pregnancy-related causes each year — more than anywhere else in the world. And what are you willing to do to rise above the votebank politics that you and your ilk engage in?

You have said that homosexuality has been imported from the West. Well, apart from the phenomenal ignorance that such a statement reeks of, you should also know that many other things are imported from the West including a vast amount of the resources used in the name of ‘development’ and parliamentary democracy of which you are a part of.

Homosexuality is as intrinsic to India as, say, the corruption your colleagues indulge in. In which case, why don’t we consign your tainted colleagues to the scrapheap? The nation would be a far better place.

( Vivek Divan is a human rights lawyer and social activist )

The views expressed by the author are personal