LGBTQ+ community shocked at India’s insistence to change airport code of GAYA city from GAY to YAG despite IATA’s rejection of the request!
Over the last 7-8 years, India has regressed a lot. Another proof of it is the recent insistence on changing the airport code of the Indian city of Gaya, the place where it is claimed that Lord Buddha found enlightenment. The Parliament’s Committee on Public Undertakings wants the IATA airport code to be changed from GAY to YAG. And the reason they want it is because they feel that GAY means homosexual and attribute it to something wrong. It speaks of the land’s rising homophobia. LGBTQ+ community is in shock.
Indian city GAYA and the issue over its airport code
There are claims that Lord Buddha got enlightenment in the city of GAYA in Bihar, India. Its airport code is GAY. An airport code is a three-letter code that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) gives to an airport (domestic or international) to quickly identify a flight’s destination in short. These three letters are often taken as the first three letters of the name of the city or airport. Hence for GAYA it is GAY. This has been since long and is a permanent code for the city.
But now Parliament’s Committee on Public Undertakings has got some new idea up its mind since January 2021. They have been lobbying hard to change the code of GAYA from GAY to YAG. The committee has a flimsy wrong reason behind their demand for this airport code change. It feels that the code GAY implies homosexuality and hence they do not want it. They are using the excuse of the people who really are not much concerned about the code change. The committee states that the current airport code of GAYA sounds embarrassing and offensive to the locals!!! They add that it is a holy city and the word GAY associated with it is not appropriate! The committee asked the government to forward the application for code change to IATA.
IATA’s response to the code change application
During the 4 February 2022 Parliamentary session, Union Civil Aviation Ministry revealed that IATA has outright rejected the request for code change for GAYA. A ministry representative communicated to the said committee:
“IATA stated that location codes are considered permanent and cannot be changed without strong justification primarily concerning air safety,”
But the ‘homophobic’ members of the committee only have increased their pressure on the government. They have demanded that the government should take a stronger action and make IATA change the airport code.
In 2018, the country had decriminalized homosexuality. But despite that, homophobic and transphobic attitudes are widespread against the queer community. The PM as well as his party workers actively fuel prejudices against the queer community through their policies and public statements, says the LGBTQ+ activists. The government has not made same-sex marriages legal. Its recent law on assisted reproductive technologies has no mention of LGBTQ+ community in it.
LGBTQ+ community and its take on the whole issue
LGBTQ+ community rights group have accused the committee and government for making a fuss over an unnecessary point. Indrajeet Ghorpade, a LGBTQ rights advocate from the group Yes, We Exist India spoke to VICE World News:
“The parliamentary panel desperately wants to change Gaya Airport’s code… because it feels that GAY is embarrassing, offensive and inappropriate,”
“This reflects the insecurities of the parliamentarians, who still associate ‘gay’ with something to be ashamed of or disgusted about.”
“The fact that the panel has asked the government to continue to pursue the matter despite IATA rejecting the name-change request shows how deeply rooted the homophobia is,”
“Honestly, this request itself is an international embarrassment. What are we telling the world? [That] India is about everyone’s support and everyone’s development but ‘GAY Airport – Oh my God, ew?’”
Indrajeet considers this foolish act of the government as a missed opportunity:
“It is shameful that instead of celebrating that India has such a unique code for an airport and making it a symbol of inclusivity, the government wants to do what it does best, change names,”