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Mothers take lead in fight for gay sons

New Delhi, Dec. 12: Mothers seem to understand more, even if it takes them a while.

Take, for example, Vijayalaksmi Raychaudhury. She took nearly a decade to accept her son Anis’s sexual orientation. Now 79, she senses time is running out for her and wants the nation to wipe off the stigma associated with homosexuality.

Shakuntala Vijay Kumar Khire took her son Bindu Madhav to spiritual leaders and astrologers to “cure” him when he told her he was gay. That was 13 years ago.

Today, the 78-year-old is “completely at ease” with his sexuality.

Nineteen parents, from an estimated six million households across India with gay men, had joined the NGO Naz Foundation in petitioning the Supreme Court in 2010 to decriminalise gay sex.

Among the 19 parents, 11 were mothers.

They took a while to reconcile themselves but in the end decided to stand by their sons.

“I am proud of the fact that he helps so many others like him who don’t have the support system that he has,” said Khire, who signed the petition that was filed as an intervention.

“Can you imagine I took him to a baba?” she laughed. “I read a lot of material about the community and interacted with others. Now it doesn’t affect me.”

Mother and son were part of the first Gay Pride Walk in Pune, their hometown, in December 2011.

That was two-and-a-half years after Delhi High Court had rescued all consensual adult sex from the axe of the penal code’s Section 377, which bans “unnatural” sex. The 2009 ruling was the result of a case brought by the Naz Foundation, which fought a legal battle for almost a decade.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court reinstated the ban on gay sex.

Bindu, 40, a software engineer who was once married and is now divorced, acknowledges his mother’s support. “She was superstitious and thought it was a disease. I took her to a psychiatrist who told her to change rather than trying to change me. She has been my support, but my father was, and perhaps still is, a homophobe. We stay in the same house, but rarely interact.”

Vijayalaksmi, too, took time to accept son Anis’s sexuality after he told her he was gay nearly 12 years ago. “It was difficult for her to fathom that sex could be recreative,” said the Calcutta-based Anis, 42, remembering how his god-fearing mother, a former Sanskrit teacher, had reacted.

“She kept asking me a lot of questions about what it means to be gay. She took time to come to terms with it, but now she is my greatest strength.”

Vijayalaksmi says she is “proud” of her son. “As a son, he hasn’t done anything that has shamed me…. I hope that I am alive long enough to see this stigma off him.”

Anis’s father, however, avoids talking about gay sex with his son, though they are comfortable with each other on other topics.

Shobha Doshi, 63, had also signed the 2010 petition. Her husband didn’t. “I thought my signing it was enough,” she laughed.

On a serious note, she added that her husband wasn’t “comfortable” talking about his gay son, who is settled in America. “Although he is supportive, he doesn’t want to talk about it,” said the Mumbai-based lady.

Calcutta-based human rights lawyer Debjyoti Ghosh drew both support and succour from his mother Keya, a lawyer who passed away this October. “My mother was extremely forward looking. She would have gone ballistic if she were here,” said the 30-year-old on yesterday’s verdict.

Debjyoti had told his mother 10 years ago. What about his father?

“My father is supportive, too, but he is an extremely private person,” he said.

So what is it about mothers that make them come out and openly accept their sons the way they are in a socially conservative society?

The lawyer, who is leaving for abroad in February to do his PhD, had an explanation. “It is easier for a mother to accept her child as he or she is,” he said. “That’s perhaps because she carries the child in her womb for nine months.”