The Surinamese Hindu community in the Netherlands could learn a lot about the acceptance of homosexuality from the Indian Hindu community in the Netherlands. While Hindus from India are known for their relatively relaxed views on gay people, gays in the Surinamese Hindu community still suffer discrimination, exclusion and violence.
To mark the problems gay Hindus face in the Netherlands, the Hague chapter of the Dutch gay organisation Rainbow is running a series of special programmes. “Homosexuality in the Surinam-Hindu community is still a major taboo,” Rainbow’s Fred Kleian told RNW’s South Asia Wired. “It’s a problem we see in many ethnic groups here in the Netherlands. In the Suriname-Hindu community, you simply cannot discuss the subject. It’s time the community should open up a little”.
There’s a large community of Surinamese Hindus in the Netherlands who came to live here after Suriname gained independence from the Netherlands in the 1970s. The Hindus in Suriname are of South Asian origin and migrated from British India in the late 1800s for work. Currently, approximately 125,000 Surinamese Hindus live in the Netherlands.
This Saturday, Rainbow is organising a special event focusing on Hindu homosexuality and how to break down the taboos. But answering that question is not easy, says Radjesh Madarie, one of the speakers at the event. “We should look at how our fellow Hindus from India deal with these issues,” he says.
“Indian society is much more relaxed when it comes to gay issues, although there are obviously still many problems to overcome. But homosexuality is not regarded as an anomaly, like many Suriname Hindus see it. Indian Hindus even have their own goddess for transgenders, gays and bisexuals, Buchara”.
The goddess is virtually unknown to Surinamese Hindus, says Mr Madarie, who himself is a Surinamese Hindu. “Our community could learn a lot from the Indians. Buchara is adulated among Hindus which makes the subject of homosexuality a little bit easier to discuss in their community”.
“We see that Surinamese Hindus already absorb a lot of Indian lifestyle,” Mr Madarie continues. “They’re watching Bollywood films and love that culture, since they feel connected to it due to their Hindu background. Perhaps now it’s time they should absorb this aspect of Indian culture as well”.
Breaking down walls
But the biggest problem will be breaking down walls inside the community itself, says Mr Madarie. “We’re not free to be ourselves,” he notes. “We’re always concerned with what other people, especially relatives, think of us. If you’re gay, this means you have to go through times of discrimination and feeling unaccepted by your own people. I’ve been there – I felt that way when I came out. Let’s just hope that through opening up, fewer Hindus will have to face the same problems”.