Monday, December 1, 2008

Prop 8, Karnataka and gay Nepal MPs

Like any good mainstream Californian, I’ve always felt strongly about sexual rights, but recently I’ve felt a lot more passionate about the issue as a basic human right. Maybe it’s the passing of Prop 8, maybe it’s the rampant homophobia I hadn’t been exposed to before. It was one thing in my predominantly Christian village in Kenya, where I expected people to be less educated or open-minded. It’s another in an urban center in India, a nation exploding with diaspora and Western influence. To see young people scoff at traditions like arranged marriage like they’re arcane vestiges of their parents’ generation, but hold tight to their anti-gay prejudices without questioning their origins, is something I can’t get used to despite knowing full well that this is not a phenomenon of the east.

This came to be even more front and center this morning when I read a press release about some recent events in Karnataka, the next state over. This brought back to mind so many images of the issues we worked against in the HIV fight in Kenya – stigmatization, misrepresentation of facts, deliberate deception… but for all my whining about corruption in Kenya, I never saw these types of actions carried out by the police. They were carried out by non-state players, churches, Western-backed NGOs, but never by the very government agency working to prevent misinformation and promote awareness. This reaches a whole new level of atrocity.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel. Recently a panel was held here (in Chennai, capital of the country’s most conservative state) featuring Sunil Pant, a member of Nepal’s parliament who is Asia’s first openly gay MP. Milk is coming out this week, although sadly not in India. The No on 8 campaign is finally waking up and taking some legal action, albeit a month late. And the realization that this is a battle that’s far from over, not just a “matter of time” as I had previously thought, has pushed me into a far higher level of awareness and incited my inclinations towards activism. As much as the comparison offends some communities, I do think of this as our generation’s version of the 1960s civil rights movement, and am starting to consider getting more proactively involved (hmm, next career move? stay tuned). If a few events like these can spur a straight, middle class white girl who’s experienced relatively negligible discrimination in her life to action, imagine what they can do for the rest of the population.

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