Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gay rights activism and health care issues - Dr. M.M.Salahudeen

Public debate over repealing of section 377 unfortunately is marred by affirmative bias in the main stream media. Fairness of debate in a democratic civil society demands that the common man should be well informed of issues which have ramifications on his daily life. In his famous book Gay and Lesbian youth Gilbert Herdt wrote: “Homosexuality in contemporary America has arisen as a new form of homosexual practice that comprises sexual orientation, a social identity and political movement.” By repeatedly confronting the American Association of Psychiatrists, the Gay rights activists convinced them to drop any reference to homosexuality in DSM III (Diagnostic Criteria for Sexual Dysfunction due to General Medical Condition) formulated in 1973, which marked a significant cultural shift according to Kaplan and Sadock’s Comprehensive Text Book of Psychiatry. The influence of post-modernism and biomedical studies significantly contributed to this position of a majority of American psychiatrists although all psychiatrists do not subscribe to this idea.
Medical literature does not contain any hard biomedical evidence, either genetic or hormonal, in support of homosexuality. Dr. Baron in 1993 wrote in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) about the conflict of theory of evolution and homosexuality. He noted: “From evolutionary perspective, genetically determined homosexuality would have become extinct long ago because of reduced reproduction.”
Gilbert Herdt proposed the idea of ‘discontinuity’ in sexual development to explain variation in the psychological experience and symbolic meaning of sexuality, in contrast to the continuity in sexual development across life span that is assumed in most traditional approaches to understanding sexual development . There is no convincing medical evidence to prove that homosexuality is an inherent trait. It is an acquired alternate sexual orientation as a result of various psycho-social factors.
Risks aplenty
The risks faced by the gay community range from social discrimination and societal and domestic violence to health care risks both psychological and physical. Rigid ideological positions and homophobia, which is defined as fear or hatred of homosexual gays and lesbians, are the major causes of social discrimination. Increased suicidal rates in homosexuals as compared to heterosexuals have been adequately documented in medical literature in addition to alcohol addiction and drug abuse. However psychiatric literature attributes this to internalised homophobia, a personalised fear of homosexuality.
As regards health care issues in homosexuals, HIV infection plays a dominant role. To quote Kaplan and Sadock: “In general gay men have increased rates of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV infection and use of certain substances such as inhaled nitrites (poppers). Since 1980s the influence of HIV Infection and AIDS on the individual lives and communities of gay men has been enormous and has affected almost every aspect of the personal and public experience of being a gay. As a result, HIV infection must be considered as a potential problem in the life of every gay man who enters health care.”
Protecting civil society
According to community medicine experts, the pattern of spread of HIV infection in the U.S. could be closely traced to the increasing rate of practice of homosexuality. Proctitis (anal canal inflammation and infection) and anal cancer rates are alarmingly high among gay men. An Indian American family physician practising in Chicago recently remarked that they encounter proctitis and vaginitis now as commonly as any general practitioner in India encounters fever and diarrhoea in his or her practice. Civil society has a duty to protect the sexual minorities from discrimination, abuse and from physical and psychological risks by providing sympathetic psycho-social support. But propagating homosexuality would lead to this behaviour, resulting in individual and collective health care risks straining an already overburdened healthcare system, apart from the manpower loss and negative demographic pattern it would produce.
While judging the constitutional validity of section 377, the learned judges of the Supreme Court should also ensure that the State adequately fulfils its obligation of providing a healthy, risk-free and productive life of civil society at large. (The writer is consultant neurosurgeon, Billroth Hospitals, Chennai)

The Hindu:Open Page, August 16, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Jinnah Nehru and Partition paradox


History is about reconstruction of the past with anatomical precision. Jinnah’s tale is the greatest irony in the history of Indian subcontinent.

Lucknow accord stands testimony to Jinnah’s influence as the member of Indian National congress and Muslim League during 1915-16. Naturally, Jinnah believed that he would be ‘the leader’ after Tilak, in his own right and deservingly so. But Gandhiji’s return from South Africa would change the scheme of things.

In 1919 when the antisedition Rowlett Bill was enacted, Gandhiji advocated Satyagraha and non cooperation. Though both Jinnah and Gandhiji shared a common passion against the British Raj, Jinnah could not reconcile to the principle and details of Gandhiji’s program. Jinnah’s support to Gandhiji’s efforts was not unconditional.

As Lucknow accord faced stiff opposition in the Congress, the Delhi Proposal was put forth in 1927 asking for one third of representation of the Central Assembly to Muslims and agreeing to give up the demand for separate Muslim electorate .But the Nehru committee headed by Motilal, agreed to give only one fourth of the representation of the Central Assembly to Muslims and proposed a strong Central Authority, not to the liking of Jinnah. Both parties were unyielding.

Though Congress had in its ranks tall Muslim leaders like Abul Kalam Azad, it failed to capture the imagination of Muslim masses. That the Congress was aware of this inadequacy was evident from Nehru’s speech on 19th March 1937, “Only in regard to Muslim seats we did lack success…we failed because we had long neglected working among Muslim masses…”

Muslim League had grown in stature as the single largest Muslim formation under the leadership of Jinnah. But the Congress refused to accord the status of the sole authoritative and representative organization of Indian Muslims, to the Muslim League. This became the official parting of ways, but the Raj recognized the sentiments of Jinnah and utilized it to its advantage.

In a letter to ‘Time and Tide’, Jinnah wrote of two nations who would share the governance of their common Motherland so that India might take its place among the great nations of the world, obviously proposing ‘power sharing’ not ‘partition’.

Lord Mountbatten’s uncanny knack and diplomatic skill played a decisive role in partition. According to Chaudari Mohammed Ali, “Mountbatten won the confidence of both the Congress and Muslim League by denouncing one to the other”.
That the role of Jinnah’s wounded spirit, fighting for its rightful place in the history of the subcontinent eventually led to partition, is undeniable. Jinnah was not overtly religious in his attire or attitude, secular in outlook, his zeal to free the motherland unquestioned, but ended up authoring the religious Pakistan. Pundit Nehru, the popular leader of the masses, atheist and socialist by ideals, secular to the core, and his commitment to Mother India unchallenged, finally yielded to the Pakistan demand. Unfortunately these great men stood on either side of the divide.

However, the historic speeches they delivered on the eve of Independence of the new nations, spoke of their convictions.

In his Tryst with Destiny speech Pundit Nehru declared, “All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.” Undoubtedly India vows a lot to Pundit Nehru, for the secular democratic footing it is standing on now.

Unfurling Pakistan’s flag Jinnah spoke. “Now…you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.” On a subsequent occasion Jinnah said, “I am Attorney General of Minorities of Pakistan”.

Mahatma Gandhi aloof from the festivities of independence, attending to the birth pangs of the bleeding nation in Calcutta, remarked to the new Cabinet members of Calcutta who came to seek his blessings, “Strive ceaselessly to cultivate truth and non-violence. Be humble; Be forbearing; Beware of power, power corrupts...” It seems the Mahatma understood the ailment, but it was very late.

This article was carried by