SANCHAAR Media Guide: A Recommended Language Manual For Improved Reporting On Sexual
Minorities In India
The lexicon of same-sex relations in the human is sparsely populated. And that is not only because it was not understood but because it was stigmatised by religion and mainstream heterosexual society. Even today, the term “sodomy” and “catamites” are used in many legal documents and discourses in the USA and these were derived from Biblical texts. The first stirrings of movement on a rational basis to describe same-sex relations started in Europe a little before the region plunged into what are called World War I and World War II. Both were really wars fought by European Nation States and drew in both resources and knowledge from the colonies.
Thus Edward Carpenter in England, Magnus Hirschfield in Germany, Havelock Ellis is Austria, all tried their hand at “naming” this phenomenon which was ancient in that they find mention in all human societies across the globe obviously making it a cross=species sexual behaviour. However, as the Upanishads say: “Defining reality or verbalising it – the’Vakas it is called in Sanskrit, took a very long time in secular sciences. So we have words like “Uranian” (Hirschfield), Invert (Ellis)_ and finally a word invented in the crucible of clinical psychology by Karoly Maria Kerbeny, the word “Homosexual” (same-sex-attracted). Philosophers like Michel Foucault would rightly say these were definitions of convenience but that they were necessary to define because of the politics of sexuality that would soon follow.
The first obstacle in this journey for a newly defined and delineated “community’ was the field of modern communications. The mass media as it first arose in Britain was full of salacious sensational “raw” stuff, as newspaper editors would call it. Detailed reporting of the Oscar Wilde trial reveal the depths of depravity which was revealed in verbose vitriolic reports that finally hounded him abroad and then to his death. Homosexuals or gays, (a noun that is said to have originated simultaneously in France (Gai) and in the USA (Gay), have rarely had it easy in the press. They are the subject even today of ridicule, risqué innuendo and accentuated aliens who disrupt and disturb mainstream society with their very existence.
Humsafar Trust thought it was important that communities at the receiving end picked up the gauntlet to give a roadmap how they would like the world to see them. Hence the effort to do a crisp and curt analysis of the various media reports on sexual minorities and the resultant effort to set right the very paradigm of how society can be made more acceptable to a sexually and genderised community marginalised in a modern world.
As laws against discrimination slowly and surely break down barriers to include communities hitherto not welcome into mainstream society, the sexual minorities have become the last bastion of people both persecuted and prosecuted everywhere and it is a global phenomenon. Hence by acting locally, here’s wishing we make a global impact on how the media can be brought into a symbiotic relationship beneficial to both us sexually marginalised people and the media which is our prism to the planet.
Ashok Row Kavi
Chairman – The Humsafar Trust
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