Dear Prime Minister,
Some say it with words, some say it by saying nothing at all. Your silence on sexual and gender minorities is deafening. As a person who identifies as queer, I have longed to find an utterance of our existence by the prime minister of my nation, but I have unfortunately been left disappointed.
The people one meets, the company one keeps, say a lot about the things that have been left unsaid. I am speaking about your recent interactions with the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, who is a self-proclaimed homophobe. I am appalled that despite his dismal human rights track record, you have invited him to be a part of our Republic Day celebrations.
Here’s why I deem it unfit for the Brazilian President to be invited as the chief guest to India’s Republic Day celebrations.
Bolsonaro’s personal views stand in stark contrast to those enshrined in the Indian Constitution, such as the right to equality and dignity of life.
Bolsonaro’s Blatant Homophobia
In June 2019, when the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled in favour of treating homophobia at par with other crimes in their country such as racism, Bolsonaro made his displeasure known, by stating that the verdict was ‘wrong’. He thought the judges weren’t ‘balanced’ in their verdict, and expressed his desire to appoint an evangelical judge. Earlier, in June 2011, he had said he would “rather his son die in a car accident than be gay.”
Bolsonaro’s personal views stand in stark contrast to those enshrined in the Indian Constitution, such as equality and dignity. The Brazilian President’s comments reek of ignorance, arrogance, and have an undemocratic undertone that is not becoming of his position as a State head.
To add to his endless list of misdemeanors, Bolsonaro has openly stated that he is ‘pro-torture’ and has stood against the rights of indigenous people in his country.
While I continue to believe in the subtle art of diplomatic intervention, I had hoped that on the international stage, India would stand for equality. We, instead, have resorted to practically offering Bolsonaro an ego massage, turning a blind eye to the fact that his thinking process is entirely divorced from the basic tenets of a democratic republic.
Not Just Homophobic — Bolsonaro Is Also a Misogynist
Considering that queer people form a significant chunk of our country’s population, Mr Prime Minister, queer peers in other nations also deserve our solidarity and empathy. Bolsonaro has not only made homophobic statements, his comments could be read as shamefully misogynistic. He had reportedly told a Congresswoman in his country in 2003: “I would never rape you because you don’t deserve it.” He had subsequently said in a newspaper interview, that his fellow congress member was “not worth raping; she is very ugly.”
He had also referred to the birth of his daughter (after four sons), as a “moment of weakness”. “I’ve got five kids but on the fifth I had a moment of weakness and it came out a woman.”
I hope you will take my words seriously and revoke your invitation to Jair Bolsonaro. I believe our nation deserves better.
To add to his endless list of misdemeanors, he has openly stated that he is ‘pro-torture’ and has stood against the rights of indigenous people in his country. That’s not all. If we thought that he was only against human rights, we are wrong. When the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, called on the G7 nations to discuss the infamous forest fires in the Amazon, rather than welcoming the support, Bolsonaro chose to take offence by reminding Macron that Brazil isn’t a ‘French colony’.
Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest - the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen - is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days! #ActForTheAmazon pic.twitter.com/dogOJj9big— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 22, 2019
- Não podemos aceitar que um presidente, Macron, dispare ataques descabidos e gratuitos à Amazônia, nem que disfarce suas intenções atrás da ideia de uma "aliança" dos países do G-7 para "salvar" a Amazônia, como se fôssemos uma colônia ou uma terra de ninguém.— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) August 26, 2019
Bolsonaro Is Against All That Modi Claims to Stand For
I have seen and heard your speeches with great enthusiasm; many believe that you are a great statesman who never misses an opportunity to connect with any audience at a more personal level. You share, with immense pride, the diversity in languages and cultures. But the acceptance of people of diverse sexualities and genders is also part of our basic principles as a nation. We are a democratic republic where every individual is a strong and equal force. We are a nation that thrives on diversity; we pride ourselves in being a pluralistic society. You have spoken at great length about these. You have even made a pitch for environmental conservation on Bear Grylls’s show. Thus, the invitation to Jair Bolsonaro is against everything you claim to stand for.
You are the face of our nation and have shared your mann ki baat with us citizens. So I think it is appropriate for me to express my mann ki baat to you. I hope you will take my words seriously and revoke your invitation to Jair Bolsonaro. I believe our nation deserves better.
(Harish Iyer is an equal rights activist who tweets at @hiyer. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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