A few years ago, the Delhi High Court, in India, ruled that homosexuality was legal. Yesterday, the Supreme Court of India ruled that homosexuality is illegal, and is a punishable offence.
I woke up this morning, to see this ruling in the press, and I rubbed my eyes with disbelief. Now, I am not gay. However, I respect homosexuals, and their lifestyle choice. Their choice of lifestyle and sexual mores is not my preferred choice. However, if I flip the coin, and have it land the other way, my choices are not their choices. I respect their choice, and I am sure most gays would respect the choices we more conventional (in a way) people have made.
Now, the world has moved on in it’s views towards morality in the last two or three thousand years. However, sexuality – straight, gay, deviant and other forms – have been prevalent ever since man started to form civilised society. To deny this, is strange. To make it a punishable act is absolutely regressive, in my view. In a country like India, this opens up a whole bunch of people to potential harassment.
However, this is a specific example of intolerance, and is a specific example of the fact that many of us do not respect the world view of people who are different from us.
I have just finished reading a book called “The Roots Of War and Terror”, and this is a wonderful little book. The author talks about how, when we make caricatures of people who are different from us, and create awful myths around them, it is easier to motivate people to go to war, and to send their sons and brothers to war. The enemy is distinct from us, to be feared, and to be destroyed.
How does it play out in the real world in which we live? How does it play out in the corporate world in which many of us spend many hours of our lives?
In my experience, we talk about diversity. This is measured in simple factors – number of executives who are women; number of people from different geographies who are brought into the head office. As usual, these are the more obvious, superficial measures that we capture. While I do not disagree with them, the fact remains is that these measures are taken as symbols of progress, and of our open mindedness.
Diversity, respect for others world views goes much deeper than this, and if we want to practise diversity, it is important for us to really try and have meaningful conversations with people who are different from us, especially if such people live with us, work with us and interact with us. This cannot be measured in simple quantifiable terms, but can be measured in well-being, happiness, productivity.
Diversity must always be accompanied by respect. If not, it is an empty measure.
Till then, I hope that we, in India, force the Supreme Court to review their rather ridiculous and narrow-minded world view with respect to the gay community. The world has moved on, and so should our respected judiciary.