By Somali K Chakrabarti
Alan Turing, whose pioneering work laid the mathematical foundations of computer, was convicted for homosexuality and subjected to chemical castration that drove him to suicide. His suicide prompted the British government to amend laws concerning homosexuality.
~ Aamir Khan on ‘Accepting Alternative Sexuality’ episode of his show Stayamev Jayate that touched upon the sensitive issue of the rights of LGBT community to live freely and openly.
Alan Turing was the British mathematical genius, logician and cryptanalyst who had invented the Turing machine, which laid the foundation for creation of modern computers. By cracking the German military’s secret code, Turing had helped the British Navy defeat Hitler’s U-boats and win the Battle of the Atlantic, in the World War II. He was a marathon runner too, with world class time, and was named as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, by TIME magazine in 1999.
Turing lived at a time when homosexuality was illegal in Britain and classified as a crime by the 1885 Criminal Amendment Act. Famous British poet Oscar Wilde, too, was arrested under this law in 1895 and sentenced to two years of hard labor. In 1952 more than 1,600 men had been charged under the 1885 Act.
Turing was subjected to chemical castration, as an alternative to imprisonment, after he openly admitted to being a gay. It was believed that hormone injections given to him to suppress his homosexuality, reduced the 41- year old Turing to a shadow of his former self, and drove him to suicide. With his untimely death in 1954, Britain lost one of its greatest creative genius.
After Turing’s story was brought to public attention, LGBT rights movements slowly picked up in the UK. In 1967, The Sexual Offences Act was amended to decriminalize homosexuality in England and Wales.
But it was only in 2009, then-Prime Minister of UK, Gordon Brown posthumously apologized to Turing for prosecuting him as a homosexual.
Turing was granted posthumous Royal Pardon in Dec 2013, that cleared him completely of the gross indecency conviction, almost 60 years after his death.
We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done. ~ Alan Turing
On 12 December 2013, the Supreme Court of India ruled homosexuality to be a criminal offence, revoking an earlier order passed in 2009, by the Delhi High Court to legalize homosexuality. The Supreme Court declared that repealing Section 377 should be a matter left to Parliament, not the judiciary.
Section 377 of Indian Penal Code, 1860, enacted by the British colonial regime, criminalizes sexual activities “against the order of nature“, homosexuality included.
Though the demand for repealing Section 377, started in 1991 and has been brought up time and again by various groups, there is a widely held view in the society that homosexuality is unnatural and is a social vice. This widespread opinion creates the fear that decriminalizing alternative sexuality may create a breach of peace, degrade moral values of society, and lead to the spread of AIDS and HIV. Many religious leaders have denounced it and some have claimed to cure homosexuality with yoga.
In light of such archaic conventions and conservative outlook towards the rights of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community, it is appreciable that the episode in Satyamev Jayate dealt with the subject with a lot of maturity and sensitivity.
The story of Gazal Dhaliwal touched a millions hearts – a beautiful Trans woman, who on realizing that she was trapped in the wrong body, went through the long process of gender transformation against the social norms. As did the strory of Deepak Kashyap, who at one point of time contemplated suicide burdened with the feeling of confusion and guilt due to his alternative sexuality, and is now a counselling psychologist. Not to forget Simran, a girl born in a normal middle class, who had to leave home at the age of 14 on facing rejection by her family members due to her transgender identity. Once forced to beg and try sex work as a teenager, Simran took up a job with a dance bar and completed her graduation from Mumbai university. Today she manages the activities of a NGO, Pechhan as a Programme Officer at a national level.
Key takeaways from the show were:
Alternative sexuality is uncommon, but not unnatural.
It is a natural genetic condition, not caused due to external environmental factors, nor is it contagious, clarified psychiatrist Anjali Chhabria. So the claims that it can be it cured by yoga or allegations that it can be abetted are unfounded. She further added that there should be no shame or fear in accepting one’s sexual preference, and no stigma associated with homosexuality.
Acceptance by family plays a big role for youngsters with alternative sexuality
It takes a lot of time for a child to figure out his gender identity or preferences. It is hard for children to tell their parents about it. The support and acceptance of parents can give reassurance to the child and help him to deal with it, whereas non acceptance or rejection by parents can drive a child to depression or make the child suicidal.
Laws are needed to end discrimination again LGBTs
Aamir Khan reaffirmed that Section 377, violates the fundamental rights promised to all citizens, by the Indian constitution, which states that every citizen has equal opportunity of life and is equal before law.
Transgenders are now officially recognized as the 3rd gender, as per the Supreme Court of India
Thanks to Aamir Khan for bringing out of closet, the social issues facing the LGBT community and calling for their acceptance and inclusiveness within the society.
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How Britain drove its greatest genius Alan Turing to suicide… just for being gay, 11 September 2009, MailOnline UK
Satyamev Jayate, Accepting Alternative Sexuality