Early this week, actress and former Bigg Boss contestant Bobby Darling filed a domestic violence complaint against her husband Ramnik Sharma and her in-laws. She accused them of harassment, physical torture and domestic violence. Following the complaint, the actress also allegedly received death threats from her husband Ramnik.
“Being a marginalised community, we are often surrounded by violent and volatile groups that completely disregard our need for basic human rights. If need be, the perpetrator goes to extreme lengths to deny them the same. That is where the problem starts,” believes Sushant Divgikar, former Mr Gay India.
Lack of basic human rights is the first contributing factor towards the ever-increasing cases of violence against the community.
The LGBT community in itself has subgroups. For instance, lesbians and gays can’t get married as a result of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises sexual activities against the order of nature, arguably including homosexuality as well, explains Sushant. “At the same time, a bisexual man or woman can get married basically because they can work around their sexuality,” he further elaborates.
Comedian Navin Noronha, who not only belongs to the community but also runs a podcast titled Keeping it Queer to voice the stories and struggles of people from the community, says domestic violence, be it in heterosexual circles or otherwise, stems from and leads to the same thing. Even before the relationship begins to get abusive, it becomes exploitative. “Before there is any physical torture, there is mental torture,” he says. But even so, when faced with violence, it is really difficult for people to approach a public authority, he points out. “People from the LGBT community aren’t exactly welcome by authority figures. How does one complain to the public authority like this?” he questions.
Gauri Sawant, a Mumbai-based transgender rights activist, sheds light on what goes on when authorities are approached. “The police don’t pay any heed to complaints along these lines that are filed by people from the LGBT community,” she rues, adding that since a lot of these complaints come from sex workers, they are shooed away because, again, male prostitution is not recognised by the law.
The solution, it seems, is gender sensitisation by making people aware of these issues. “People do not know the difference between transgender and homosexuals — they label everyone the same way,” says Sushant, and so, educating people about these relationships is most important. He also adds that we are at a very primitive stage when it comes to human rights. “The Right to Equality is next to none. We still have a long way to go,” he says.
Even so, Navin believes domestic violence needs to be condemned. “No matter if you are a heterosexual, a homosexual or a transgender, domestic violence is an issue that needs to be addressed,” he concludes.
— Inputs from Pratyush Patra and Suridhi Sharma