A research project on how much citizens know about the LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual and transgender)community has come up with startling results, including data that a significant number of Mumbaiites believed that gays and lesbians were to be blamed for the spread of AIDS.
The research, conducted by Namrata Madholkar, a post- graduate student of Nirmala Niketan college of Home Science, under the guidance of Dr Kamini Rege, assistant professor of human development, focused on popular knowledge about lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT). One of the significant findings of their survey, for which they spoke to 50 working men and 50 working women in the age group of 25-35, was that most were not aware about these terms. When asked whether they would like to know more about the LGBT community through workshops and lectures, most said no saying they were not comfortable discussing the topic.
The objective of the research is to compute the level of awareness and attitudes of young adults in the age group of 25-35 years about the LGBT community. The research started in June 2013 and Madholkar hopes to wrap up her work by February 2014. Most of the data collection was done in the months of October and November 2013.
The questions that were asked included the meaning of terms such as homosexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual. Other questions posed to the surveyed adults included ‘Are you aware of the existing laws regarding homosexuals?’, ‘Do you feel there should be changes in the law?’, ‘Are you aware about the challenges faced by homosexuals?’ and ‘What is the role of the media regarding homosexuals?’
When asked about the meaning of terms such as homosexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual, only 30 per cent of the women came up with broadly correct answers, though just 10 per cent could understand the term bisexual. As many as 35 per cent of the women interviewed, said they did not know what these terms meant at all.
Among males while 40 per cent had an idea about the terms homosexual, lesbian and gay, close to 25 per cent said they did not have a clear idea what bisexual meant.
When asked whether they were aware about the challenges faced by homosexuals, 90 felt it had to be lack of acceptance, and 70 per cent guessed rejection from family and friends. Not surprisingly, 95 per cent of those who had a clear idea about the LGBT community said the biggest problem for such men and women was social discrimination and the fear of being found out and punished.
Sadly though, young India also seems to think coming out of the closet is not a good idea. When asked what would be the best strategy that the community could use to overcome societal challenges, 95 per cent of those who answered said not disclosing their sexual orientation to anybody was the best way to protect themselves.
Interestingly 90 per cent participants in the survey also felt the media as well as the entertainment world often portrayed homosexuals as “odd” people or poked fun at them in films. Only 10 per cent felt the media could be the most effective medium to create awareness regarding homosexuals and supporting their struggle for equal rights.
Asked what kind of information they would like to know about the LGBT community, 80 per cent said they were curious to know how and why someone “became a homosexual.” The good news? At least 60 per cent of those surveyed said they were willing to know about organisations working to help the LGBT community and the kind of work they had done so far. An equal number wanted to know if there were any laws specific to the community. But at least 40 per cent were not interested to know about homosexuals and never felt the need to be updated about them.
Asked about the laws regarding the gay community 47 per cent women said they were completely unaware about specific laws focusing on the community. Only three per cent knew about Section 377 (of course this data was collected before the Supreme Court verdict last week). Among the men too, only 10 per cent were aware about section 377. Those who were aware of Sector 377 mostly agreed that the law should be modified and society should have one law for all people.
After reading and reviewing the data Madholkar and her guide Dr Rege feel that the law should consider several aspects before terming same sex marriages or the LGBT community as ‘criminals’. “Being gay is a personal choice, and individuals must respect their fellow beings. When a gay or a lesbian person is treated as an equal by everyone, there would be harmony in society,” they said.
LGBT: Lies, myths and lack of awareness
The study threw up several misconceptions about the LGBT community, reiterating the need for creating awareness among children as well as adults about the issue. Some of the answers the surveyed audience came up with when asked about their thoughts and ideas about gays and lesbians, gives an idea about why creating awareness is the need of the day
>> Homosexuality is universally disapproved of in all countries
>> Gay men are generally effeminate and lesbians are generally masculine
>> Homosexuals are ‘sick’ or ‘ill’ and different in personality characteristics from heterosexuals
>> One partner in a homosexual relationship generally plays the active or masculine role is sexual activity and the other plays a passive or feminine role
>> Gay men seek out young boys
>> Gays and lesbians are to blame for AIDS, which is a punishment from God for their behaviour