CHALLENGES FOR DALIT QUEER AND MUSLIM QUEERS
Tanya Vashistha, II year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur.
QUEER, a community that has a long and traumatizing past with religious ideologies, a past which needs to be uncovered to the people to understand the sensitivity of the issue and if not sympathize but at least respect the community and individuals belonging to that community. We as humans need to understand that people belonging to LGBTQ community are humans too and as any human needs a dignified life they too have the right in society to lead a dignified life and who is the government or the system or any individual to decide that sexual orientation of a person is an indicator of living in society, how a natural phenomenon (that is a person’s sexual orientation) be considered unnatural. There have been many people who stood up for the rights of the queer community and they even won in their race to acquire the rights for this minority but still, there is something that lacks in this chase of rights and dignity, yes, I mean by the rights of doubly marginalized groups that is, the Muslim queers and the Dalit queers who still struggle to make their place in their community, i.e., the queer community which is ruled by the upper-class Hindu queers who dominate this community.
Well, there is a lot to discuss on this topic so let’s move ahead and figure out what are the main issues that led to queer movement in India and also find out some other interesting yet very serious questions relating to this topic.
What is the trajectory of the queer movement and what does Dalit and Muslim queer movements mean within this trajectory? The queer movements have a long term history attached with them the LGBTQ community has come a long way to get the position, respect and dignity which they enjoy today. The mentions of the gender and sexual orientations even has a place in the mythological and historical works of authors like Devduttpattanaik, Ruth Vanita and SaleemKidwai, but still, the Indian queer community has to depend on the western theories to explain that what does it mean to be a queer in India.
Movies not only provide knowledge about the emerging issues but also have an impact on our lives to some extent and think of the impact of the movie based on a lesbian love story, in a country like India where the people are so conservative to accept opposite-sex love stories, what would have been their reaction to a same-sex love story? Exactly, what you are thinking is correct the so-called keepers of the religion and the right-wing political ideologists got furious when a movie named ‘Fire’ by Deepa Mehta was released in the year 1996, depicting a lesbian love story. The movie had violent aftermaths- theatres were attacked; people were prevented from watching the movie.
There is nothing strange about it because anything that leads to change in society has to face such repercussions. After all, people in our society do not have the mentality to accept change and especially when it comes to sexual orientation, they become even more rigid.
Okay till now we talked about the trajectory of queer movements and the acceptance of change, but you know what’s the worst part in this chase of identity was – the inclusion of religion and caste, that not only made it more difficult for the queer community but it also led to an emotional ride for them because we know that religion and caste is itself a sensitive topic and when mixed with the topic of sexual orientation it becomes even more sensitive and people find it difficult to talk about their identity in the society because in a country with conservative minds sexual orientation is a hush-hush topic and people do not understand that it is a natural thing.
There have been cases where people belonging to Islamic community ostracized people of their religion just because they belonged to LGBTQ community and same is the case in the queer community, that Islamophobic people do not accept queer Muslims so it goes like “you can be a Muslim but not a queer and vice-versa.”
Caste is all the more sensitive issue in our country and the numbers of instances leading to pride parades are not less for the caste-based gender sexuality issues. People belonging to lower caste queer community have a much tough time make people realize their identity in society.
Emergence and relevance of the Dalit Queer project
Being a Dalit Queer in a country like India is not easy at all, belonging to a doubly marginalized section, the Dalit queers find it more difficult to express themselves and they have a very little space in the society to get access to the basic dignified life. Thus, the Dalit Queer project brings a chain of events that include various workshops, lectures, events, etc. to seek information about various disciplines of being a Dalit and Queer.
In contemporary days, the socioeconomic advantages have developed into class and social wealth, but India is still firmly caste-ruled. For others in the countryside, this can be demonstrated in the form of honour killings, untouchability and genocides, such as the Laxmanpur Bathe (Bihar, 1997), Khairlanji (Maharashtra, 2006) or Dharmapuri incidents (Tamil Nadu, 2012).
Thus I don’t need any other argument to prove as to why the Dalit Queer movement was relevant and hold a position of significance in our county.[i]
Why was it necessary for the Dalit and Muslim Queers to express themselves differently?
As we have talked about it earlier as well that even in the queer community there is a vital role of caste and religion and as in our society the ruling members belong to upper caste and generally Hindus same is the in the LGBTQ communities as well. Even they are ruled by upper-class Hindu queers and therefore the marginalized classes like the Muslims and Dalit find it difficult to express themselves even before the people of their community.
Caste and Religion cannot be separated from a human if he/she wants to survive in a country like India where people are highly conservative even in the metro cities.
Has the queer movement failed to understand the concept of intersectional politics?
Queer politics originated as an alternative approach to organizing in reaction to this exclusivity. For others, queer politics was about acknowledging the discrepancies within the gay movement and honouring them. Thus, the use of queer politics within these movements helped participants to raise the consciousness of and reflect on the presence and existence of experience of variability inside the queer culture. Besides, the value and usefulness of coalition building through distinctive parties and groups Movements have been more formally identified and discussed within and beyond the queer community. Queer politics and the queer philosophy that it stems from a significant paradox grew, realized, recognized identities were strategically useful in the formation of social movements, but also the basis for the creation of social movements, the exclusive gay rights politics.[ii]
As Islam doesn’t accept queerness so how the Muslim queers made their way in the race of acceptance?
Its religious, civil, educational, political and cultural history has shaped attitudes toward lesbian, homosexual, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their experiences in the Muslim world.
In classical Islamic jurisprudence, homosexual activities are banned and are subject to varying penalties, including the death penalty, depending on the case and law school. In pre-modern Islamic cultures, however, homosexual relations were usually permitted and historical documents show that these laws were seldom invoked, mostly in cases of rape or other "exceptionally blatant infringement on public morals"
Here I will share some real-life experiences of the queer Muslims:
Sadia Sharif, a lesbian who grew up reading the Quran and giving namaz, is religiously classified as a Muslim; in the manner, she was taught, she no longer follows Islam.[iii]
Saad, a Delhi-based engineer, describes himself as bisexual and has dated both men and women. He gave up his religion as a child from an intensely religious family who would be "livid if they found out that he was dating a woman, let alone a man," but he keeps this truth and his sexuality secret from his family.[iv]
For Ahmad Fawaz, a student based in Delhi, attempts to better understand the Quran and explore the subject with scholars and theologians led to an interpretation. I recognized that it wanted me to step out of the organized religion system itself. However, it's almost hard to let go of the name of a Muslim and I don't want to either. It's part of everything that I am. Moreover, it was not only a religious requirement to wear my faith on my sleeve, but now in our days, a political necessity.[v]
How the law has dealt with all these questions relating to queerness?
With Section 377 read down, and the rainbow flags raised high, the nation witnessed history being made. Homosexuality, a term that had been absent from being used for too long in the social setting, can now be spoken about with equality without compromising any constitutional morality. Through this decriminalization, "closet" is opened with this historical decision, freeing minds from the state of terror, especially the statute, which eventually creates a civilized society. In 2013, the Supreme Court proclaimed the sexual act as a deviant stroke in society and upheld Section 377, recognizing the LGBTQ section as a minuscule part of society. Besides, the "closets" started to mask within themselves the silence of abuse and suffering caused both inside and outside the closet; silence on cases of assault and fear of penalization.[vi]
Social implications of decriminalizing homosexuality
With the judgement reinterpreting and trying to clarify 'sexual identity' and 'sex' concerning one's unconscious understanding, culture leaps the previous notion that only two natural' genders exist. The determination of "order of nature" cannot be assumed to be eternal, further emphasizing that the social morality of society varies from time to time. Thus, although the LGBTQ population was viewed as an aberration by the former culture because of their insignificant size, they "are still human beings and therefore have every right to enjoy their human rights."[vii]
Legal implications of decriminalizing section 377
The decision, therefore, creates legal consequences following the transition in the structure of society. While it was argued that same-sex couples will become social experiments with uncertain results with decriminalization, it cannot be ignored that marriages are secured by the Constitution's right to privacy.[viii]
At last, I can only say that Indian culture has been seen to be faltering far behind grappling with the extension of the blinkered outlook regarding homosexuals and embracing them as an 'innate' member of society in different instances. This integrity, however, may be far fetched if the rules are not on an immediate basis, rendered compliant with this minuscule, but as an essential part of society. In the same way, the recognition of the community would also play a significant part. In addition to strict legislation against bigotry and abuse, an enlightened and rational outlook will further serve as a tool to put the verdict to practice more successfully than merely technically mending the rules.[ix]
[i] https://feminisminindia.com/2017/06/22/queer-dalit-assertion-pride-marches/ (last accessed on November 27, 2020)
[ii] Bridget E. Harr and Emily W. Kane, Intersectionality and Queer Student Support for Queer Politics, Race, Gender & Class Vol. 15, No. 3/4 (2008), pp. 286-287.
[iii] https://www.firstpost.com/living/how-queer-muslims-are-navigating-the-twin-challenges-posed-by-religion-and-sexuality-3385030.html (last accessed on November 27, 2020)
[vi] http://rsrr.in/2018/11/06/implications-decriminalization-homosexuality/(last accessed on November 27, 2020)
[vii]Shankuntala Devi, ‘The World of Homosexuals’, 1977: user.in/2018/11/06/implications-decriminalization-homosexuality/(last accessed on November 27, 2020)
[viii] “Section 377 verdict: Some of these 4,690 cases are no longer crimes”, Live Mint, 7 Sep 2018, available at https://www.livemint.com/Politics/LlqSpXABN7V8mmuHGV2x0O/Section-377-verdict-These-4690-crimes-are-no-longer-crimes.html:rsrr.in/2018/11/06/implications-decriminalization-homosexuality/(last accessed on November 27, 2020)