It is the state’s responsibility to protect queer people

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Who says what or why, or even the thought process behind it, hardly matters. Whenever a social media post speaks up on anything regarding queer rights, a certain part of our population takes it as an open invitation to start spewing hateful rhetoric in the comments. In order to protect their sentiments, they don’t bother thinking twice before resorting to profanities or even open threats.

It isn’t uncommon to see these comments incessantly remind anyone posting about queer lives or rights that this “disgusting way of life” is illegal according to our country’s constitution. Perhaps it slips their minds that this isn’t something queer people have to constantly be reminded of; they know better than anyone that this nation continues to forbid and criminalise their sexual and gender identities. It is unfortunate but true that even in 2021, the legality of our entirely personal identities is still put up for debate. Undoubtedly, this misfortune and its ensuing trauma persistently loom over queer lives.

Our citizens still have a long way to go before this fight culminates in liberation. Until that happens, we can assume that queer people, and the social activists committed to the battle for their rights, will continue to be persecuted under Section 377. The government’s compromises with the rapidly proliferating religious extremist powers of this country make it evident that Section 377 is bound to remain in place for many more years. These concessions also tell us that they haven’t been satisfied with just pretending like this country’s sexual and gender minorities don’t exist, but have had a direct hand in their oppression.

We must not forget that even if we don’t question concerns about culture and religious communities when talking about achieving queer liberation and decriminalisation, the state still has a set of responsibilities towards queer people that it must maintain. And it is our duty to constantly remind the state of its responsibilities. The first and most important of these is that even if queer people are “criminals” in the eyes of the law, they retain their right to life and security. Only the law has the power to pass judgement on their “crimes”. As such, it is also the state’s responsibility to ensure that fanatics do not take matters of the law into their own hands. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure that these people are protected. And it is the state’s responsibility to ensure that even if deemed “criminals”, they are provided their right to a fair trial.

The events of the past few years tell us that the state has not only failed to provide this, but has in fact been downright reluctant to do so. No judgement for any of the country’s blogger murders, which started in 2012, has seen the light of day. Trials for the murders of queer activists Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Tonoy in 2016 have similarly seen no progress, and have come to a complete standstill in the past two years. This culture of impunity increasingly fans the growing flames of religious fanaticism in this country, and is a sign of silent compliance.

That is precisely what we are seeing now. The state’s silent consent has directly aided this extremism in branching out and multiplying. And so, as comment sections and inboxes fill up with threats of murder and violence, our sexual and gender diverse communities know there is no remedy or recourse available to them. Even those sending these threats know that in our lawless and unjust structures, there is no possibility of them ever being caught or prosecuted. Although our counter terrorism unit is extremely active in all other aspects, it is possible that they don’t even consider the threats queer people receive to be signs of budding extremism or terrorism. So, those dishing out such threats continue with their activities unabated.

We cannot afford to exempt the state from its responsibilities. We must constantly remind them that our country’s queer populations must be protected from the mental and physical oppression they are subjected to, and that this is a part of their duties towards their citizens. And we must remind the state of its duty to prosecute people doling out such threats without any fear of repercussion.

Whether Section 377 remains in place or not, it is the state’s responsibility to protect each of its citizen’s lives.

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