Saturday, June 27, 2015

Stay in your closet, homophobe!

Yesterday’s ruling that made gay marriage legal in the entire US was a special and important moment for everyone. Profile pictures are being changed and beliefs are being adjusted. And yet, there are still just too many people who don’t see why homosexuality should be accepted and gay marriage legalized.

It happened in the US. Why are Sri Lankans so excited?


Here’s why. US legalizing gay marriage isn't a country's achievement. It's a right won by people and a hope to many that their day isn't far behind. When the earthquake in Nepal happened, did you keep your mouth shut because it didn’t happen in Sri Lanka and didn’t directly affect people living in Sri Lanka?

I’m guessing you did want to help those people, not because they were Nepalese but because they were human. When US legalizes gay marriage, it means that the world is one country closer to being a world that respects and accepts people without discriminating based on factors, especially those humans have no control over.

So how does it help the LGBT community around the world when US legalizes gay marriage? Well, the battle has to start somewhere. You start small. The battle in the US started that way. One state at a time. And now, all states agree that gay marriage should be legalized. Soon enough we will see a world that allows gay marriage and doesn’t criminalize homosexuality. 
It's high time the world went green! (Image: https://twitter.com/gihangamos/status/614453308493688832)




It’s against god’s will

 

Now, I don’t believe in any god but if I was to, I wouldn’t want to believe in a god who considers homosexuality a sin.




The above tweet isn’t the only one along those lines. Many believe homosexuality is something that god wouldn’t approve of. Now if you are to believe god created humans and that god created everything, god created all that a human is made of. This includes his complexion, beliefs, height, weight, mindset and sexual orientation. So a man who loves a man isn’t going against god’s will but is simply following it.

Purely from what I’ve seen, I can say that usually homophobes also happen to believe in god. Most anti-LGBT posts mention god and his will. Why would anyone want to believe in a god who excludes his own creations?

There are more important things to fight for than marriage

 

I personally don’t find marriage to be something I would want in my life any time soon but I would someday like to get marriage under a law that accepts marriage between human beings instead of only male and female.

Why is marriage important? Well, for some it offers a sense of security while for others it’s another level of their relationship. Who are we to question someone’s decision to marry if the parties concerned have given their consent? Why is legalizing gay marriage important? Well, why not? If heterosexuals are allowed to get married, then why shouldn’t everyone else?


We live in a world where a man is allowed to be married to four or five women but doesn’t allow a man to get married to a man or a woman to get married to a woman. It’s high time we gave people the choice to get married or remain unmarried without taking into account one’s ethnicity, sexual orientation or sex.


You support LGBT rights? OMG! You are gay!


Recently, my father asked me if I have a boyfriend. I told him I don't. The next day he asked me if I have a girlfriend. I told him that I don’t have a girlfriend either and asked him why he was asking all these questions. His reply was unexpected. He said that he just wanted to know where I stand in life and would respect my decisions regardless of what they are. I have never been prouder of my father.

In the past few years, just too many people have asked me if I was gay. The books I read and my hair cut were the main reasons for these questions. People are incredibly curious about a person’s sexuality. In fact, just yesterday, during lunch, two friends from work were talking about the sexual orientation of parliamentarians.

Why do we consider someone’s sexuality gossip worthy? And why do we make assumptions about one’s sexual orientation?

Before talking about these assumption, let me tell you that fighting for LGBT rights doesn’t mean someone belongs to that community and it doesn’t mean they can be ‘converted.’

On at least three occasions, Christians (please note that this doesn’t mean all Christians are like this) have attempted to convert me. These weren’t subtle attempts but clear ‘Why don’t you join our clan?’ sort of attempts.
I have been around homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals and never have they even attempted to ‘convert’ me. They have always respected my beliefs and more importantly, have never inquired about my sexual orientation. So no, associating with the LGBT community or fighting for their rights, for our rights, will not make anyone change their sex or orientation.


Coming out of the closet

 

Why? I feel coming out of the closet or making a declaration about your sexual orientation is completely unnecessary and has been brought on by the way society has considered heterosexuality as normal and as the only sexual orientation one could have. When I talk with a person, unless I am attracted to them and want to change the direction our friendship is headed, I wouldn’t show interest in their sexual orientation.


While I haven’t had many sex-related discussions with my parents, I’ve never had to straight out tell them that I’m interested in males. So why should I have to tell my parents I’m gay? I would think it’s enough for them that I find the right person at the right time and that this person’s sex will be of no importance to anyone.

We are told that appearance doesn’t matter when it comes to love. Then why does sex matter? And I’m not talking about sexual intercourse but if the people in love are male or female. Why can’t we accept that just as ethnicity or appearance is inconsequential, that sex and gender is also of no importance?

And even though for years and decades people have been fighting for equality, there remains a significant number of people who continue to reject the idea of humans being treated as equal.


So my dear homophobes and narrow-minded people, stay in your closet. It’s still not safe for you. And who knows, you might catch a gay-germ if you leave your hiding place and come out to this god-awful world full of sinners.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Mothers; why only blame them?



Today’s radio discussion was about Magi, instant food and MSG. I didn’t listen to all of it and I didn’t listen very closely because I was reading. However, I did catch a few things discussed.

The most important thing that struck me was who was being blamed. Sure, the companies were blamed for manufacturing and selling poison and the government was blamed for allowing this poison-selling to continue, but who was blamed for letting their children consume this poison? Not parents, but mothers. Such a specific person to blame.

This isn’t the first time mothers were blamed for social issues. If I misbehave, people will say, ‘අම්මලා හදලා තියෙන හැටි තමා’ instead ofදෙමාපියන් හදලා තියෙන හැටි තමා.’ Whatever I choose to do, the blame is put on my mother for not doing a good job bringing me up.

The man who spoke on the radio basically said something along the lines of, ‘Mothers don’t want to wake up early anymore. So instead of waking up early to cook rice or manioc for their children, they wait for the choon paan man to buy breakfast for them.’ May be so. I’ve seen so many children at pastry shops choosing what they’ll have for breakfast. My mother, a primary school teacher, tells me how her children are often sent burgers, oily food, instant food and pastries for breakfast/lunch. So there is an issue where children aren’t being given the right food.

Some schools have a program where students are required to bring certain foods for each day. So Monday could be green gram day, Tuesday could be rice day and so on. This may work but how practical is it?
In most households, the mother does the cooking. Sometimes there is a grandmother to help out. If the family has two kids, there are still four or five people to cook for. Some families also have pets. So extra stomachs to fill. And who does the cooking? The females.

Our family consists of my mother, brother and I. If I remember right, Aiya gets lunch from his place of work. So Amma only has to make lunch for two people and our cat. Breakfast is usually biscuits, yoghurts or a quick sandwich. Nothing fancy. Unless we drink tea in the morning, the other options, coffee or chocolate milk, come out of a packet or carton.

So compared to most families, there’s less cooking done at home. And yet, Amma usually wakes up before five. I go to bed by 10, wake up at 5.30 and still feel extremely tired each morning. Amma gets less sleep than I do. So it’s not fair that she has to wake up so early.

While we don’t help with the cooking, we do take care of other small chores like making the beds, opening the windows, taking out the chairs to the veranda and giving Johnny his breakfast. So it’s not that we don’t do anything. And even if I was to help with the cooking, our kitchen is simply too small for two people to cook without stepping on or bumping into each other.

If our family was any bigger, say even with one more member, Amma might have to wake up earlier. Can we expect this from her? No.

However, in most families, this is the case. Mothers have to wake up early, cook, clean, open the windows, make the beds, pack lunch for everyone, make sure their kids are ready for school, get dressed for work, go to work, get back home, cook, clean, make sure their kids do their homework, have dinner and go to bed early and then think about the next day. So can we blame these overworked mothers for choosing the choon paan man over home cooked rice or chickpeas or string hoppers?

So when the man on the radio blamed mothers for feeding their children poison, didn’t he ever question his own role, as a man, as a father, in this?

Why is it that fathers and males in general tend to be exempt from household chores like cooking and cleaning? At home, most of the arguments between my mother and I are due to the fact that Aiya never has to do any cooking. When I’m asked to make dinner for us, especially on days Amma is skipping a meal or has had early dinner, I ask Aiya to also help out. I don’t make fancy dishes and usually rely on pasta to save my life. So he doesn’t have much to do, maybe chop some onions or go get the butter from the fridge. If I do suggest that Aiya helps out, Amma is quick to tell me that if I can’t make it by myself I should just tell her and that Aiya need not cook.

Thus from a very young age, males are told they need not help with the cooking or the cleaning. And are usually told by society that they need not help with the upbringing of their children. My father’s lifestyle and job kept and continues to keep him away from me. And still, even with the distance between us, he continues to make sure I grow up with the right beliefs and attitudes.

I remember how in grade nine I was asking for my very first phone. He didn’t just give in and get me a phone. I had to give him reasons and tell him how I’ll save my pocket money to pay my phone bill. He continues to make sure I know the value of things.

Similarly, Amma has done more than enough to make sure I know right from wrong and should do from shouldn’t do.

So if someone is going to blame the people who brought me up, they’ll have to blame both Amma and Thaththa. This is because parents, and not just one, should be responsible for the child they bring in to this world.

 After all, they are our creators. Some superior being (for example, god) doesn’t create us or bring us to this world. It’s a joint effort, and I’m not only talking about it being a joint effort before the kid is conceived. It’s a joint effort throughout the child’s life. I’m 21, mostly an adult and I still need and depend on my parents. Soon enough I won’t depend on them financially, but I will always depend on them and need their advice and guidance.

However, if society is going to decide that mothers are to be solely responsible of a person’s upbringing, fathers are absolved of their responsibilities and this is the worst thing that can happen to a child.
So if a child is being fed instant noodles, blame both parents. If a child isn’t given home cooked meals, don’t only question why the mother can’t cook but also ask why both parents can’t provide nutritious meals for the child.

But it’s not like fathers don’t get the blame. If a young man is seen consuming alcohol or smoking, they are thought to be influenced by or imitating their fathers or male relatives. Yes, a child who grows up having not seen his father without alcohol in a glass, can, bottle or his system may grow up to be an alcoholic himself. But a child may also see how acceptable this behavior is if his mother is the one who always brings his father his drink and cooks spicy food to enjoy while having his daily quota.

Society is ever ready to blame people. Pointing fingers seems to be society’s favorite pastime. However, it’s high time society stopped meddling with the functions of a family and responsibilities of family members.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

When victims are blamed

 Published in The Nation and Colombo Telegraph

A story titled, ‘Are Women to be Blamed for Rape?’ was published on Colombo Telegraph on May 26 and was written by Muhammed Fazl, ‘an independent social/political activist.’ The article provides a simplistic analysis of a complex problem and is also a chauvinistic and patriarchal take of a social issue.

You are relaxing by a swimming pool when you notice a female in a bikini. You look at her long enough to remember how her body looked when it was so scantily clad. A month later, you are walking on a street when you notice a different female. Her attire doesn’t matter, she could be covered head to toe in two layers or more, but you remember that bikini-clad female you saw by the pool. You rape the female walking on the street and the most you get as a punishment is counseling, because you have the defense of provocation. The lady in the bikini so obviously provoked you to rape a different female.

Sounds absolutely crazy, doesn’t it? And yet, this is a belief held by some, for instance the writer of the above article. The author questions why females feel the need to wear thongs, bikinis or anything that’s not knee-length at a swimming pool.

Even today, there are people who firmly believe that when in public females should be dressed modestly. A female walking on the street while wearing a short skirt and a sleeveless blouse is said to be ‘asking for it.’ However, the author takes this to another level by expecting females to be in knee length clothing even at swimming pools.

If wearing bikinis make females vulnerable, don’t Speedos and cycling shorts make men vulnerable? Then shouldn’t people, regardless of their sex, be clad head to toe night and day to make sure they don’t ‘ask for it’?

“It is no secret that when a skimpily clad woman or in a two piece bikini flaunts herself, it is always another vulnerable woman living somewhere else who ends up paying the ultimate price,” Muhammed Fazl writes. There is something radically wrong with a person if he can’t be in the company of females in swim wear and not stop himself from raping another female.

Most people would expect others to keep their emotions in check and think before they act. If you have an overwhelming urge to have sex just at the sight of a female, regardless of her outfit, you need to find release in a way that doesn’t violate or hurt anyone. The author writes, “the act of rape needs to be considered as a violation of a woman’s (in most cases) right to her body and honor, and not just as a forced sexual act…” and thus gives the reader a glimpse of hope that the writer will present a good case against rape only to later disappoint and disgust the reader.

Muhammed Fazl goes on to blame women themselves for being violated.  One of the preventive measures he suggests is, “Would it also not be sensible/practical for women to be modestly dressed when in public as against educating or expecting the entire male species to ‘look-but-not-touch’?”

Muhammed Fazl mentions a weaker sex whose rights and honor should be protected. At first one would assume he is talking about females. However, once the reader reaches the end of the article, he/she begins to wonder if the weaker sex is in fact males, for Muhammed Fazl’s writing implies that they are too weak to stop themselves from raping a female. If by any chance, the writer was talking about males when he says, “Possible regular media campaigns in protecting the rights and honor of the weaker sex,” one also wonders why the guilty parties need to have their honor protected, especially when they didn’t hesitate to violate the honor of another.

The writer also speaks about the objectification of females and writes, “Adding insult to injury is when ‘educated’ ladies in the advertising sector objectify female models by making them don sexually arousing attire and for insisting on suggestive poses to sell wares and services of their clients.” First of all, it isn’t only females who work in the advertising sector, and it isn’t only the fault of females, educated or not, that people are objectified.

And even if models in arousing attires and suggestive poses are used in advertisements they are not a reason to rape. Such advertisements may affect how a female is viewed and men may disrespect females due to these advertisements but as has been repeated numerous times, a female’s attire is not a reason to rape her.
The author also contradicts himself by saying, “Data collected over the years from research statistics shows us how almost 80% of the victims knew their offenders. In this scenario, would it not make it a fertile ground for rape when women freely intermingle with little known male strangers especially when there does not exist a pressing need to do so?”

He says that 80 percent of the victims know their offenders and then go on to say that females shouldn’t intermingle with little known male strangers. The writer implies that females should not associate with males, which is absolutely ridiculous. During a time when people are encouraged to mingle with people from other cultures, it is shocking that Muhammed Fazl believes that segregation is necessary between the sexes.

Muhammed Fazl writes that a contributing factor to rape is “infidelity in relationships (on the part of their women).”  It isn’t that men should know to behave and respect females, but females must dress modestly. It isn’t that people should stop raping others, but that females should stop associating with men. While Muhammed Fazl seems somewhat critical of the death penalty, he recommends, “enacting laws against immodesty in dress codes when in public and the possible implementation of laws against nudity and objectification of women for commercial gain on all formats of the media.”

Such patriarchal attitudes lead to sexism and gender bias, but they also continue to make females not only the victims but also the real guilty parties.

“Criminals are not born… they are made. Let us not have anything to do with that process,” Muhammed Fazl writes. It is truly a pity that with less than 2,000 words he has managed to show that despite his own words about the nature versus nurture aspect of criminals, he too contributes to the process and blames the victim instead of the criminal.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How else would we know about the monsters that live among us?




I remember how someone criticized a protester at a demonstration against the increase of prices. The protester had a smartphone with her. I can’t remember exactly what the protest was about. But I do remember this individual’s comment on how the activist, who can clearly afford a smartphone, was protesting against something that wouldn’t affect her or wasn’t something she would really understand.

Does this mean that people who have never been raped, abused or harassed can’t protest against rape, abuse or harassment? Does this mean that people can’t fight for the rights of the LGBTQIA community just because they don’t belong to any of the categories? Can we only protest against or fight for things that affect us directly?

We all have a voice and we can use this voice to focus the spotlight on important issues. Some would even say that we absolutely must, but it is up to the individual. It may seem selfish to not fight for the rights of other people, but not everyone has the time or energy to do so and not everyone wants to take the risk.

However, we need not use our voice and our ability or avenues of bringing focus to an issue only because it affects us. For instance, people who have never been raped were quick to stand up against rapists and people who defended rape.

When I read Muhammed Fazl’s first article on Colombo Telegraph, I was angry not because I am a victim or because I am female, but because I am human and I was offended as a human, rather than a female. A point raised by some was this; his articles did put the blame on females but they also shamed men. It was bad enough that Muhammed Fazl was saying a female’s attire is a reason to rape her but he also implied that men have no control over their emotions and are monsters.

There were also people who criticized Colombo Telegraph for publishing Muhammed Fazl’s articles. At first even I thought, ‘Who would even publish this?’ But then I realized the importance of such stories being published. Prior to reading Muhammed Fazl’s articles, I knew him only as someone who wrote. I know a lot of people who write, and if I had met Muhammed Fazl somewhere, I would have been friendly and extremely nice to him. Now I would avoid him because I know what sort of values he has.

And I wouldn’t know this man’s true nature if not for his article(s) on Colombo Telegraph. If I remember correctly, both of Muhammed Fazl’s posts appeared as opinion pieces and thus readers knew the writer’s opinion was his own. While it is important to think twice before you publish something, it is also important to publish stories that would make people aware about people, situations and society in general.

So what did the articles tell us? That Muhammed Fazl holds some very crazy beliefs? Well, that too, but mostly the articles told us that people who hold such beliefs live in the same society as we do.

Imagine you are in a bus, seated next to a stranger. You don’t know him at all. He could be a rapist, thief or murderer. However, what if enough awareness was raised on this person? Wouldn’t you recognize him and know the danger you and other people are in? So the next time you meet Muhammed Fazl wouldn’t you know what sort of beliefs this man has and wouldn’t you know how to deal with him?

Somewhere last year or the year before, a conversation between a journalist and a female who was popular (a singer or model, I can’t remember) was made public. He had sent her messages and harassed her. When the conversation was posted online, people knew what kind of a person he was. There were people who knew what kind of a person he was but there were people who didn’t and they wouldn’t have known if not for the lady who made public the messages he sent her.

Public humiliation has been in existence for a very long time. It is a way to humiliate criminals, reduce crime but also raise awareness about the crimes and criminals. If rape was not spoken about, victims was hushed up and rapists punished in secret, people wouldn’t know about rape and the dangers faced by people. If no one spoke about copyright infringement, for instance, people wouldn’t know they can take legal action when their creations or posts are used without their permission.

Let’s be honest. Not many of us read the terms and conditions carefully. Not many of us know the law of the country we live in. Thus it is through the stories we hear or see that we are made aware of what action is a crime and what isn’t.

Having read Muhammed Fazl’s posts, what if people thought, ‘Oh! This doesn’t directly affect me; I’ll just let it go’? What if no one commented on the article or spoke against it? What if we never got to know what kind of a man Muhammed Fazl was?

What if never knew the monsters that lived inside the people we associate with? What if their flaws were hidden from us?

A few weeks ago, someone I used to follow had retweeted a picture that said, ‘hide the sins of our brothers and sisters’ and ‘The prophet said, “Whosoever conceals the faults of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in this world and the hereafter.”’ I haven’t read any Islamic texts so I don’t know if this is something the prophet ever said. However, I do know that this post encourages us to hide the flaws of people and thus lie and deceive others.

I don’t mean to insult Islam (if the prophet did in fact say this), but I feel that it is important to reveal a person’s true nature. Wouldn’t we be trusting of people if we are told only of their good points? If the sins and crimes of other people are hidden from us, would we know what crimes can be committed against us?

During our A/L law class, we learned of assault, battery, ABH and GBH. The definitions of these made us realize that even a silent phone call could amount to an offense. If not for this class, I wouldn’t have known I can take legal action against someone who keeps calling me and then says nothing. There are plenty of offenses we don’t know of and since not all of us study law, we would only know about them if the media and people speak about them.

So yes, may be Colombo Telegraph should have been more careful when publishing the articles. However, I’m glad the articles were published, because if not, I would never have known people with such disgusting beliefs lived among us.