The LGBT (initials that stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community, regrouping themselves under the name Fiérté organised a rally last Saturday 2nd June in Port Louis in the context of the LGBT Pride Month (June), an occasion which they use to draw attention to their specific identities and needs, to reflect on the past and plan for the way forward in the future.
Like those who are coming out to support the idea which is gaining more and more traction in many countries in favour of the decriminalisation/legalisation of cannabis, the LGBT community has been making much headway and gaining societal acceptance across the world in recent years – same-sex marriages, for example, have been legalised in many countries. In fact as of 2017, same-sex marriage is recognized by law (nationwide or in some parts) in dozens of countries, and it is due to soon become recognized by law in Taiwan and Austria, after constitutional court rulings on the subject in May and December 2017, respectively.
The recognition of same-sex marriage is considered to be an issue of human rights and civil rights, with political, social, and religious dimensions. Various faith communities around the world, in a spirit of accepting differences and respecting the sexual orientations of others, have come round to the view of allowing same-sex couples to marry. True, religious conservative groups still hold on to their rigid position of demonising the LGBT people as evil and pervert, but polls consistently show continually growing support for the recognition of same-sex marriage in all developed democracies and in some developing democracies. The same goes as regards society’s attitude towards lesbians and transgenders. Societies across the world are becoming more considerate towards the LGBT community, and this is why hate crimes and violence against their members appear to be decreasing, except in certain societies.
Last Saturday’s LGBT rally in Port Louis which follows upon the one organised last year, met with some resistance from certain quarters. It would appear that police authorisation for the holding of the rally was late in coming – the decision was delayed for nearly a week. As it could be expected, this apparent dilly-dallying of the police would have emboldened a group of anti-LGBT to put up a counter-rally at the same place and time in the capital – which they went on to do with the police not budging to ensure respect for and adherence to the law. The organisers of the LGBT rally – ‘La Marche des Fiertés – had the good sense to stay put at Caudan Waterfront, thus avoiding confrontation with the crowd which assembled in Place d’Armes.
The worst was thus avoided, and judging from strong and even virulent protests that immediately followed on social media platforms, that worst would have upset the peace and quiet of the land as the possibility of violent confrontations could not have been excluded altogether. Religious leaders like Cardinal Piat and Revd Ian Ernest, the Archbishop of the Anglican Church, have stepped in to express their condemnation of the turn of events.
There are three points that are of concern in relation to the LGBT phenomenon.
The first and extremely important one has been pointed out by others already but need to be reiterated: a legally authorised rally was prevented from being held at the time and place agreed by the holding of an illegal gathering of people who occupied that space at the time allotted time to Fiérté. Clearly, this is not admissible, and as they were in breach of the law, citizens are justifiably querying why did not the police intervene to stop the initiators of that ad hoc gathering? After all, it is the police mandate’s to uphold law and order, which they clearly failed to do here by not taking the appropriate actions on the spot.
The second consideration is that as a democratic state Mauritius has a Constitution which guarantees its citizens civil, cultural and political rights, and therefore the freedom to belong to the LGBT community. By the same taken, provided they follow the rules and abide by the law – as they did – they are entitled to their share of the democratic space too, since not only the Constitution allows this, but we are also signatory to a number of UN Conventions which cover these rights that we must respect.
The third consideration which is a fundamental one is that of the sexual orientation of people making up the LGBT community. For them, it is not a matter of belief: it is the way they are made biologically, and that trait surfaces when they reach a certain stage of their development, which varies from person to person. That is the scientific view, and it is on the basis of this kind of logic that those of their fellow human beings who are amenable to reason have by the by gained the understanding that this group of people must not be seen as abnormal but as forming part of the spectrum of humanity, and as such must be given due respect – although like all smaller groups in human societies they will have to negotiate their space and rights, as indeed they have been doing for a couple of decades now, and hence such rallies, etc.
If one takes a religious perspective, namely that we have all been created by God, then the question arises why did God create them? And who are we to condemn a category of God’s own creatures as demonic or satanic? That is the flaw and the contradiction in the conservatives’ stand vis-a-vis the LGBT people. Instead of vowing them to eternal damnation, the conservatives who should clear their mental cobwebs and allow the fresh air of scientific knowledge as well as the shaft of human understanding and empathy to penetrate them. By no means must they be allowed to feel that blocking Fiérté is tantamount to a victory. It is only a setback for Fiérté – for reason is bound to triumph.
As for the suspicions of possible linkages with outside radical or, as alleged, terrorist organisations, it is to be hoped the relevant authorities will do what is required of them.
* Published in print edition on 8 June 2018