It’s impressive that Canada is one of the first countries to legalize same-sex marriage and I think over the years, you always hear good things about how LGBT people are treated and all the kinds of support they receive from the community. Everything I’ve heard about [the city] is positive.
Fiji: Shivana Singh
Ms. Singh is a grassroots trans activist in Fiji.
While there is no real sense of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Two Spirit (LGBTQIAT2) community in Fiji, there are isolated groups who have been working actively on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The response from these groups is somewhat fragmented based on sexual preference, identity, geography, and infrastructure. There is significant networking through social media and some advocacy, yet little has so far been done in the areas of service provision such as health and well-being.
In Fiji, the community is constantly fighting stereotypes as well as the monolithic understanding of sexualities and identities. There is no distinction between sexuality and gender identity and expression. Everyone is labelled homosexual.
The experience of violence, discrimination and neglect of LGBTQIAT2 people in Fiji is deep and pervasive, often starting very early in life with socialization into gender roles, using coercive and often violent discipline over most aspects of family, cultural, faith, educational and workplace life.
The government has demonstrated an inconsistent stance, often applying double standards in their support for the LGBTQIAT2 communities in Fiji. On one hand the government has said that Fiji is a secular state that protects the religious liberty of all Fijians, and provides that religion and the state are separate. On the other hand, the government has publicly stated in the media that “same-sex marriage will not be allowed because it is against religious beliefs.”
Furthermore, those rights contained within the Bill of Rights in the 2013 Fiji Constitution are filled with limitations, which in essence negate any new freedoms, liberties or rights.
Toronto is one of, if not the most, diverse cities in the world where human beings of all sexual orientations and gender identities are entitled to the full enjoyment of human rights. Canada, and most particularly Toronto, appears to demonstrate a very progressive approach to upholding and promoting human rights and embracing the LGBTQIAT2 community and celebrating diversity.
India: Vivek Anand
Mr. Anand is the CEO of the Humsafar Trust, a community-based grassroots organization addressing health and social concerns of LGBT communities in Mumbai.
For someone like me, who was born and brought up in India, in many ways I was lucky because I was born in Mumbai … which has some inherent advantages. It is a lot more progressive, a lot more liberal. I'm 53 years old, and in the 1970s and 80s when I was growing up and coming to terms with my sexuality, homosexuality was spoken about in very harsh tones and people didn’t really talk about it.
The problem begins when you start talking about not getting married [to a woman]. That is when the real issue pops up … but if you don’t talk about it and you just go ahead and get married, which many many gay men do in this country, we call it the contract of silence. Nobody talks about it. The problem is when people start talking about it and when someone like me says that I need my space and I’m not getting married to a woman. I say no to marriage and I decided to lead my life my way. That’s when people come and start [criticizing].
India is a country of contradiction. [It does not criminalize homosexuals], it criminalizes the act of homosexuality. When two men are having sex with each other, that’s illegal.
These interviews have been condensed and edited.