By Niharika Gaur
We still live in a society where straight people have more rights, power, and freedom. In my recent conversation with our next straight ally, Dewanshi Chauhan, 23, from Gwalior, I wondered whether “Straight Privilege” is more prevalent than we tend to feel.
For those of you who don't know what it means,
Straight, or heterosexual privilege, describes the advantages straight people experience in their day-to-day lives. These advantages are easy to take for granted. Because our culture is heteronormative – or geared towards straight people – it can be difficult to spot examples of straight privilege, especially if you are straight.
As a student of MBA, she has already shown an initiative to passionately talk about what she feels like a true leader.
“Straight people are not legally and socially bound and that is not fair to other communities.”
“I am an ally because I believe in the fact that no one should have the right to curtail the freedom of a person. Nobody should be able to control what people can or can’t do.”
Living in Gwalior, she states that she does not know anybody who is LGBT. According to psychological research, our opinions are formed by the kind of people we interact with and the kind of conversations we have. Her views have largely been shaped by her parents who are also in full support of the cause. When asked about her views on the Section 377, she had this to add,
“I don’t support this section. I fail to understand why the government has adopted it. It is similar to ruling over a person’s life.”
The National Crimes Bureau in India released its crime data report “Crime in India 2015’. While there was an overall increase of crimes in India, there is one striking feature about the increase in the type of crime. As of 2015, 1347 cases were registered under Section 377. 102 such cases were recorded in Madhya Pradesh alone. With these growing number one would not be wrong to extrapolate how there is an increase in the number of LGBT still living in the closet due to the fear of being ostracised in the region.
“Here in Gwalior, people can get really violent sometimes. This happens especially when they are dealing with Hijras (trangenders) on the road. I have come across instances where I have seen people or even the police beating up some of the hijras. It's heartbreaking."
A petition sought the court’s intervention to ensure compulsory registration of FIRs against eunuchs to dissuade them from seeking money in 2014. The same was rejected by the Madhya Pradesh High Court. Hence, there is now a continuous case of growing illegal hostilities amongst the eunuchs and police.
“Hijras in Gwalior go out and ask people for money. It is their way of living as they can't seek employment. With no legal documentation, they are hardly even considered citizens and have very limited rights.”
Due to the social restrictions Dewanshi and I discussed about, we come across the fact that many Hijras are forced to reside to performing in ceremonies, begging, pimping and even prostitution.
Yet where this situation seemed bleak, we come across an instance of Madhya Pradesh alone where a eunuch broke all societal norms and became the first transgender Indian to hold public office. Her name was Shabnam Mausi. She was elected as an MLA in 1998 and held the office till 2003. It was extra-ordinary because it was just 4 years after Transgenders were allowed to vote. Presently, she works as a gender activist.
As Dewanshi and my conversation progressed, she accentuated the hypocrisy that unfortunately many of us breathe.
“We live in a country where everyone is instructed to say the national pledge with the words hitting me hard every time they say ‘All Indians are my brothers and sisters’. I hope the people start practicing the same brotherhood they preach in school assembly halls.”
And in the end of the conversation, I was forced to recall and ponder about the same national pledge that Indians are made to recite. I hope everyone actually treats other people with courtesy. As in the well being and prosperity of the people around us, lies our happiness