Akbar Basha had to cross continents to live openly as a gay man
Photo: Mike Zenari
Europeans take their freedom for granted, but Akbar Basha had to cross continents to live openly as a gay man.
When Akbar Basha gained his Luxembourg citizenship a few months ago, it gave the 36-year-old from Tamil Nadu in India more than just a passport.
Akbar is gay. In his homeland, according to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which dates back to 1860 and British rule, sexual activities “against the order of nature” are punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
“Gay people are often considered perverts, and there is little political will to talk about the subject,” he says. “Many gay people get married and live dual lives, bowing to social pressure or to satisfy family honour.”
Family is very important to Akbar: “My parents sacrificed a lot to help me to succeed. When I was young, my father split firewood to sell in order to buy food. My success is their success, so I want them to be part of every milestone of my life.”
In June 2016, Akbar’s parents came to visit him in Luxembourg. “They have a great impression of the country and Luxembourgers, and they can see how happy and free I am to be myself. They even walked with me in the GayMat Parade and were totally at peace with my decision to apply for nationality,” he explains.
Not only has Akbar built a house for his parents in India, but his income has enabled him to financially support his sister to become a teacher, his niece to train as a nurse, and his nephew to study engineering.
Despite missing home, Akbar is passionate about his adopted country. “My Luxembourg friends are very open-minded,” he says. Born into a Muslim family, he attended a Christian school and prays at Hindu temples. “In India, most people would see me as a Muslim. Here, people just see me as Akbar with my multiple identities.”
In 2016, Akbar’s story was the subject of an RTL documentary by Catherine Richard for the ‘routwäissgro’ series. His primary reason for participating in it was to create awareness of LGBT rights in his home country. The film was shown this year at the International Day Against Homophobia in New Delhi, and Akbar was invited to take part in the Chennai Queer Film Festival.
“It was an emotional moment in my home state. When my mum spoke, the entire audience cried, highlighting that we in the Indian LGBT community are starved of love, understanding and acceptance, especially from family,” he says.
He points out that if only 2.5% of India’s population is LGBT that would be 32.5 million people, more than 50 times the population of Luxembourg. Unsurprisingly, Akbar has been contacted by several gay people from India. He provides counselling for those in distress or needing support via Facebook, and he urges Luxembourg’s LGBT community to do whatever they can to support others in less “open” parts of the world. “India is a great country, and I still have faith in her,” he concludes.
Akbar hopes to stay in the grand duchy: “I am Luxembourgish now, and I am very grateful and proud to be associated with this country, wherever I go Luxembourg will remain an onsen Hierzer--in the depths of my heart.”