Sunday, December 01, 2013

From ‘We Exist’ to “Just Married”

Photo credit: Bally Rai, Delhi Pride March
The Delhi Pride March has come and gone. Much fanfare and happiness followed the event on the 24th November, 2013 and it took a day or two for all the photos to be up on Facebook. The reception on FB was however, lukewarm, for right at that moment, the Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal issue took centre-stage high jacking the otherwise, expected much hype on FB.

Correct me if I am wrong, but this time media was chasing another story, with all its much overused masala of rape, abuse and sexual harassment, of which the Tejpal story is rife. Thus, LGBTQ rights took back stage, in the list of priority. Given that media brings discussions to the forefront but only those that they think need to come into limelight, so that the TRP and burgeoning sales of news papers and magazines are ensured, a subject as Gay Rights certainly is of little importance now. LGBTQ issues may be outside normative rules laid out by society, and therefore problematic to patriarchal structure of society, but it is at least consensual sex between two/more individuals. Sadly, even on Social Media, the expected LIKE/SHARE from other Groups in the same category also failed to show support in the face of the Tejpal mega story burst over days and instead of sharing and liking the photos, they too did their rounds with Tejpal.

The Tejpal story had in it what it takes the media and those who consume it, like you, me, of whatever gender, the ‘dope’ that humans all over hunger for - ‘negative’ stories like harassment, rape, abuse and such stuff. In Social Media, the pattern is the same. Negative stories receive many LIKE and SHARE, retweet etc, creating viral/trend effect across. All and everyone, world over are engaged in consuming, sharing, retweeting and putting across their views.

If you are not aware of, though, it would do well to know it now, the stories on Social Media which do their maximum rounds, showing anger and opinion, causing the much desired viral effect are from people below the age of 18 and therefore not adult. Indeed, their opinion is important but cannot change the environment, and the politics that affect our lives. If you are seeing viral effect and LIKE and SHARE in your profile updates, it is only among your friends. And how does that affect us? Wah! Wah! Back scratching. LIKE and SHARE again among friends of friends!

Who is then bothered about your love story, your consensual sex, even if it be among same sex partners, lovers? No wonder then, to make matters worse the photos of the Gay Pride March in Delhi, shared by one Group on Facebook did not even get enough LIKE and SHARE from rival groups, thus bringing forth another factor, which has been swept under the carpet for too long, the old ill at ease rivalry that maligns the Gay Movement in India, the disease called in-fighting. Indeed, it is not too different from the political environment in the country, where five states going to polls are screaming and shouting about themselves. Of course, we know those who scream the loudest, hear their own selves first. Others choose to put their hands over their ears and block out the sound.

Can we then urge the soon to follow, Mumbai Pride March, to muster opinion, by being on that side of News, which the world loves – negative news which feed the negative minds, and evolve a sound strategy to get attention, given that in times where any incident in India, like even a sexual harassment one, is taking on the colours of the political parties, fighting tooth and nail, over each other, the movement may just be another colourful walk through the by lanes of Mumbai. Unless, one masters the media trends which have remained the same, because humans consuming the information are the same, one generation replacing another, a call for being noticed will go up in thin air, no matter which media you consume, the print, electronic or the new kid in town, called social media.

To remind ourselves once again, when Zee TV started its channel in Delhi, way back in the late 90s, we were told that hour after hour was devoted to rape stories; women faced the camera boldly relating how this one or that had ‘baladkar kiya’, raped them. The TRP said it all! It was so high that no other publicity was even needed to make Zee TV one of the most watched channels in the state of Delhi.

If truth be told, come December, the Nirbhaya story will highjack all other stories and Tejpal, Arushi, will recede to the dark deep crevices of the Newsroom and again rape, harassment, honour killing will take centre stage.

To impact and create a buzz, one needs to peg one’s cause to a theme.  Why not use politics itself and ask why the erstwhile Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, living with a woman for the last few decades has not worked towards rights of gay marriages so far?  In the event of her death, will her partner over decades be left high and dry or would she naturally inherit the entire property, movable and immovable left behind?

In the absence of proactive laws towards same sex partnerships, the Movement is toothless. For the vast majority of people who are part of heterosexual community, the key to acceptance is not whether one is gay or not, but whether the laws of the country accept the partnership/marriage between same sex persons as legitimate. A shift from ‘We Exist’ to “Just Married” would drive in the point harder and cause much flurry in media, than one more Gay Pride March across the country. A Movement pegged on marriage among same sex partnerships, would thrust the whole debate of acceptance of persons inclined towards same sex partnerships/friendships, redundant. If the law accepts the marriage, it accepts who you are.


More photos of Delhi Pride March, 24, November, 2013

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