MUMBAI:Actress and LGBT activist Celina Jaitly, who was in Florida last month, is horrified at what happened there last week. A man gunned down 50 people on Sunday at a gay nightclub in Orlando. The authorities termed it as the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States and the nation’s worst terror attack since 9/11.
How many were there?
Celina says, “I was in Miami last month (May 15) to receive the prestigious Harvey Milk Award (an American politician who became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California) in Miami. The irony of it was that I gave an emotional speech dedicating the award to two brutally murdered Bangladeshi LGBTQI activists. The Harvey Milk Foundation is the biggest crusader for gay rights which his nephew, Stuart Milk, now runs. It was my contribution to gay and LGBT rights that they were honouring, and a lot of students and achievers attended the event. It still gives me goosebumps to think how many people who were at the awards function were also at the same nightclub in Orlando.”
The actress says that she spoke to Stuart post the horrific incident the next day. “He told me that one of the sponsors of the award lost six dear friends in the attack. It is very disheartening and is the biggest hate crimes act of its kind. Why do countries like the USA offer a buffet of guns to such demented minds? I saw on TV that this guy purchased his firearm a week ago. The law is the only thing making people equal, and the law sells guns. When guns fall into people’s hands, they commit the most heinous of crimes — hate crimes. In the Orlando attack, everyone lost someone — parents, sisters, brothers, friends… It was unbearable for me to watch their plight of those who escaped and the trauma on their faces. What legacy are we giving our children?”
Shock and horror
Celina adds that when she first heard about the Orlando attack, her immediate reaction was immense shock followed by horror. “First, I called Charles Radcliffe, who heads the global issues team at the UN Human Rights Office in New York, serves as human rights adviser on sexual orientation and gender identity and directs the global UN Free & Equal campaign against homophobia and transphobia. We were on CNN together and felt that it could have been anyone of us who was in there to support our sons, brothers, sisters, neighbours or family. After a couple of hours, I got so upset and depressed; I switched off the TV. It was such a nasty culmination to an evening where people had gathered to relax and have fun after a hard week of work.”
End hate crime
She continues, “Some of those who went to the nightclub will never return to their homes again. They were targeted because of who they are, and their sexual orientation and that’s so terribly sad and tragic… Hate crimes are interconnected… They are contagious, so they just become bigger. The Orlando incident is a hate crime and an act of terror. Only a few countries like the USA have such open gun laws. This heinous crime will go down in history as one of the biggest hate crimes against the LGBTQI community. The lawmakers must revoke access to guns because the record of these weapons falling into wrong hands seems to be only growing and none instead of self-defense. The law is the only thing capable of making people equal. And safe!”