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LGBTQIA+ Rights in India

The LGBTQIA+ community has universally been subjected to differentiation and discrimination in both legal and social terms. Let us have a look at the rights of LGBTQIA+ in India.

LGBT Rights
Image Credit: Quartz India

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The LGBTQIA+ community is considered alien and subjected to not just legal discrimination but also lacks social acceptance. 

Before we move on any further, you must know what LGBTQIA+ stands for: 

L= Lesbian

lesbian generally refers to women who are sexually and emotionally attracted to women only. 

G= Gay

Men who are sexually attracted and emotionally attracted to men only, are referred to as gay.

B= Bisexual

Bisexual people are those who are attracted to both the sexes, i.e both men and women. The gender of the other person doesn’t matter to them.

T= Transgender

A person whose gender identify doesn’t match with the one he/she were allotted when they took birth, are known as transgender. For example, if a child is born with male genitals and after growing up, he identifies himself as a female, he would be called a transgender, basically a trans woman.

Q= Queer

Queer is an umbrella term used to define people who are neither heterosexual (attracted towards opposite gender) nor cisgender (people whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth.) 

Thus, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders, all together can be categorised as Queers.

I= Intersex

Intersex people are born with genital differences that make their categorization different from men and women. So, basically it is a biological variation.

A= Asexual

Asexual people are those with little or no desires for sexual intimacy. It is due to hormonal variations that they do not want to be engaged in sexual activities.

+= Other identities

‘+’ represents other sexual identities such as pansexual, queer, gender fluid, bi-curious, and many more. It is also a wider signifier of inclusion and acceptance of all experiences. 

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Legal Provisions

Homosexuality was considered a crime since colonial times under the section 377, one could even be life-imprisoned too.

Section 377 – Unnatural Offences – Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Outcome

LGBT Community
Image Credit: IND

It is only a year and a half ago on 6th September 2018, the Supreme court passed the historic judgement on section 377 to decriminalize homosexuality. The verdict has been a bliss for homosexuals, who gained the courage to bring their identity out in the public and openly expressed their feelings for their same-sex partner.

Indian athlete Dutee Chand was the first sportsperson to reveal about her same-sex relationship. In an interview with The Indian Express, she said she loves a woman from her village in Odisha. 

Dutee Chand Comes Out As A Lesbian
Image Credit: Hauterfly

Advocates Menaka Guruswamy (44) and Arundhati Katju (36) who argued against the colonial law under section 377 also spoke about their relationship and that it felt bad being considered criminal for loving someone. 

Also, have a look at the story of a lesbian couple sharing their experience after section 377:

In November 2019, the community also held a parade in Delhi with an objective to make their existence normal and be more acceptable. You can watch it here:

Legal Provisions for Transgenders and Intersex

Image Credit: Homegrown

Recently, the Rajya Sabha passed Transgender Persons’ (Protection of Rights) Bill 2019 to protect the interest of the trans community. But ironically, it faced huge criticisms and protests from the community and other activists because of a number of problematic aspects. 

Following are some of the most problematic aspects:

  • The bill hasn’t been passed with recommendation of consideration of any transgender, but only based on stereotypes and assumptions.
  • Although the bill makes sexual abuse against transgenders punishable, the bill is clearly discriminatory. For abuse against any cisgender woman, the person is subjected to a minimum of seven years and maximum of lifetime imprisonment. However, for sexual abuse against transgenders, the minimum period of punishment is 6 months and maximum is two years.
  • In order to change their identification on government- issued ID cards, they must get a certificate from the District Magistrate for being transgender. For which, the procedure includes showing proof for sex reassignment surgery which is not just the violation of their privacy but also an unclear and expensive procedure.
  • The Bill also changed the definition of transgender people and stated that a transgender person is someone with intersex variations. However, the same is not true as not all transgenders are intersex and not all intersex are transgenders. 
  • It doesn’t provide any reservation for transgenders in education and employment, even when most come from a background that lacks advantages.
  • The bill calls for shifting of minor trans to rehabilitation centers if parents don’t choose to accept them, it curtails their freedom of joining other communities.
  • It is also silent about marriage and adoption rights, property, social security and pension rights.
  • Last but not the least, it doesn’t have any provisions for punishment or action against those who discriminate or harass transgender people at workplace or elsewhere. 

Social Issues and Challenges

So, the question now is: Has the community got all kinds of acceptance and equality? 

The simple answer to this is ‘No’. Although same-sex or homosexual couples are no more considered as criminals in the eyes of law, there are still many reasons for which they aren’t treated equal to other human beings.

  • People from the gay community cannot adopt a child
  • The queers can’t become surrogate parents
  • Being a homo, you cannot openly serve in Indian armed forces.
  • LGBT-friendly workplace still remains a dream for the community. 
  • Hardly any gender-neutral bathrooms, insurance for same-sex couples and leaves for sex reassignment surgeries are available for the community.
  • They don’t enjoy employment benefits and the ability to file joint tax returns.
  • No special reservation or rights in education or employment sector to encourage literacy.

And, the worst of all,

  • There is lack of gender-sensitisation to encourage acceptance in society.

The conservatism of India makes it really hard for the LGBTQIA+ people to live their lives the same way as others do. Since teenage they face a lot of discrimination, mockery and humiliation in school, college, jobs and even in their own family. A lot of parents don’t accept their child’s love for the same-sex as it opposes the societal norms of marrying. 

The situation is even harder for transgenders. A majority of trans woman are ‘hijras’ or those who beg, and ask for money from families on account of birth or baby or marriage celebration. This is because most parents abandon their child when they come to know about their different identities. The community largely lacks literacy due to this factor. 

Consequences of discrimination and inequality

LGBTQIA+ people go through innumerable challenges and difficulties living their lives.

  • Lack of communication and understanding with parents lead to conflicts in families.
  • Abandoning of such children makes them more subjected to poverty and isolation.
  • Mockery and seclusion by peer groups cause depression.
  • Physical and mental health problems lead to attempt or commit suicide.

Endnote

“There is nothing wrong with you. There’s a lot wrong with the world you live in” – Chris Colfer

We must understand that the people belonging to these categories are not diseased, disabled or criminals, they are normal human beings like us, just with a different sexual orientation as in sexual taste, preferences or self-identification. Apart from that, they are humans and deserve all human rights as we do. Being a youngster, you can make their lives a bit easier by:

  • Accepting them as your friends, siblings and partners.
  • Don’t make them a conversation to talk about.
  • Sensitize your peers and parents about their existence and lifestyle.
  • Support their rights by raising your voice against discriminatory laws.
  • Be polite and supportive to them and don’t consider them alien.
  • Ensure that they don’t suffer mentally, emotionally or physically.

Together, we should aim for a society with no discriminatory practices or humiliation against any gender, caste, race or creed to make this life worth living. 

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