‘Read books to understand daughter’s sexuality’

When Shalmalee Palekar told her parents Chitra and Amol Palekar about her sexuality, her mother's first reaction was to read up whatever material was available on homosexuality. "We had always given her the freedom to make her own choices in life. So I wanted to support her. But I could hardly understand what she was trying to say since I didn't know any homosexual person then. So I asked Shalmalee to get me some books on the subject," says Chitra.

Shalmalee did that diligently. Even after she moved to Australia to pursue higher studies in post-colonial literature, she would often send her mother books on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Now, nearly two decades after that incident, Chitra, a filmmaker, has become one of the prominent voices in India favouring decriminalisation of homosexual relationships. She is one of the 19 parents to have filed an application in the Supreme Court recently, countering the claims that overturning Section 377 would attack the family values on which our society is based.

The petition urges the Supreme Court to uphold the Delhi High Court decision to strike down Section 377. It states, "It is Section 377 which She read books to understand her daughter's sexuality is a threat to family values, as it directly affects the rights of the applicants to safeguard their families from illegal and arbitrary intrusion from the state authorities."

According to Chitra, family values are the same for all. "You have to stay committed to each other, love your family and friends, not cause anyone any harm, and things like that," she says. These social values are something her daughter and her partner as well as many in the gay community have followed, just like others true to a relationship have.

Chitra, in recent years, has not shied away from mentioning Shalmalee's partner when talking about her daughter's life in Perth or other regular things. Shalmalee, a professor in the department of English and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia, is currently visiting India to research for her project 'Queer India'.

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