While public opinion matters, individual rights matter more
A new survey offers interesting insight into the question on acceptance of sexual relationships between two men or two women. Also, individuals are now ready to stand up before the courts for their rights even in the absence of unconditional social support.Updated: Apr 30, 2018 12:52 IST
The survey ‘Politics and Society between Elections’, jointly conducted by LokNiti at Centre for Study of Developing Societies and Azim Premji University (APU), offers interesting insight into the question on acceptance of sexual relationships between two men or two women. The respondents were given a range of opinions from ‘fully agree’ to ‘no opinion’ to choose from. This also included the categories, ‘somewhat agree’ and ‘somewhat disagree’. Both of these approaches fall within a grey area that is an important dimension within which many of us live our lives. It’s the site where support is proffered even if it is not expressly stated. It’s also the site where bigotry is displayed: where difference, whether of choice of sexual partner or of diet, can be ‘tolerated’ as long as it is not out in the open.
This became clear in the cross tabulated data that survey anchor Siddharth Swaminathan, a professor of policy and governance at APU, first shared at Transform, a conference on transgender rights and the law that was held in Bengaluru earlier this month. For instance, when the responses to the same-sex question are seen in tandem with the responses to a question on whether women should have the right to decide to get married or not, a similar proportion of people, a little over 50%, somewhat agreed to and somewhat disagreed with both propositions.
Individuals now are ready to stand up before the courts for their rights even in the absence of unconditional social support. On Friday, six new petitioners came before the Supreme Court to argue that Section 377, which effectively criminalises same sex relationships between adults regardless of consent, violates their fundamental right to equality, non discrimination and personal liberty. The tally of petitioners that now stand before the Supreme Court includes a number of members from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Even a decade ago, this was unimaginable and is itself an indication of a shift of opinion within sexual and gender minorities community. It would be good to remember that while public opinion matters, individual rights matter more.