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LGBTQIA+ Rights and Acceptance in India

  • 16 Jan 2023
  • 7 min read

This editorial is based on “Sangh’s views on LGBTQ+ rights signal a shifting tide” which was published in Hindustan Times on 13/01/2023. It talks about LGBTQIA+ community in India, issues and needs for their empowerment.

For Prelims: LGBTQIA+, Supreme Court, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, Voting rights, Right to Privacy, Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, Drug abuse, Pride Month, Homosexuality.

For Mains: History of Recognition of LGBTQIA+ In India, Challenges Faced by LGBTQIA+ Community in India, From Special Treatment to Equal Treatment.

Until recent years, same-sex relationships were considered a criminal offence in India under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalised "carnal intercourse against the order of nature."

In 2018, the Indian Supreme Court overturned this law in a landmark decision, recognizing the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals and striking down this discriminatory law.

However, despite this progress, discrimination and marginalisation of the LGBTQIA+ community remains prevalent in India. Transgender individuals, in particular, face significant challenges in accessing healthcare, education, and employment opportunities, and are often denied basic rights and dignity.

Therefore, it is crucial to reimagine the rights of LGBTQIA+ communities as well as look at their challenges from a detached perspective and move towards inclusivity.

What is the History of Recognition of LGBTQIA+ In India?

  • In 1861, Britishers considered sexual activities “against the order of nature” including all homosexual activities to be criminalised under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
  • In 1977, Shakuntala Devi published the first study of homosexuality in India, called “The World of Homosexuals”.
  • In 1994, they were legally granted voting rights as a third sex.
  • In 2014, the Supreme Court of India ruled that transgender people should be treated as the third category of gender.
  • In 2017, the Supreme Court gave the country’s LGBTQIA+ community the freedom to safely express their sexual orientation.
  • On 6 September 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the part of Section 377 which criminalised consensual homosexual activities.
  • In 2019, Parliament enacted Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act with an objective to provide for protection of rights of transgender people, their welfare, and other related matters

What are the Challenges Faced by LGBTQIA+ Community in India?

  • Social Discrimination: LGBTQIA+ individuals often face discrimination in various aspects of their lives, such as in the workplace, housing, and healthcare.
    • This can make it difficult for them to live openly and safely. Discrimination can also lead to less job opportunities, and can lead to poverty, and lack of basic necessities.
  • Lack of Representation: LGBTQIA+ individuals are often underrepresented in media, politics and governance and are not included in mainstream society.
    • This can make it difficult for them to have their voices heard and for their needs to be addressed. This lack of representation can lead to lack of understanding and acceptance of the community as well.
  • In Bracket of Mental Health Issues: LGBTQIA+ individuals are often victims of hate crimes, including physical and verbal abuse, bullying, and harassment. This can lead to fear and insecurity in the community and can affect physical and mental well-being.
  • Unheard Voices of Rural LGBTQIA+: The voices of urban LGBTQIA+ people are heard through several online and real-world platforms.
    • But due to a lack of exposure, comfort, and internet connectivity, rural LGBTQIA+ people often suppress their feelings because refusing to marry leads to further abuse.
  • Homelessness: The majority of homeless LGBTQIA+ youth are thrown out of their homes because they are queer, or they ran away in order to escape abuse.
    • They miss out on education and social support during critical formative years. In the absence of economic support, they often resort to drug abuse and risky sexual behaviour.

What Should be the Way Forward?

  • Supportive Policies and Laws: The government can create supportive policies and laws that protect LGBTQIA+ individuals from discrimination, hate crimes, and violence.
    • This can include laws that protect the rights of transgender individuals and policies that ensure access to healthcare that is sensitive to the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community.
  • Aiming for Better Parenting: Human society is just a sphere around us, our parents are at closest vicinity, they must be open to accepting their children's identity so that society as a large can embrace diversity and accept each child's uniqueness.
  • Our Diversity, Our Pride: It is important to create an open and accessible forum for LGBTQIA+ youth to interact, share, and collaborate. Platforms like Gaysi and Galaxy have helped create these spaces.
    • The Pride Month and Pride Parade Initiative should be promoted at all levels through these platforms.
  • From Special Treatment to Equal Treatment: There is a need to understand that people with LGBTQIA+ identities aren't aliens, they're not sick, and their sexual preference is innate. Homosexuality is a normal phenomenon, not a disability.
    • They deserve to be treated equally, not specially and once they are included in Indian society as equals, they will get fully blended in collective development.

Drishti Mains Question

Analyse the progress and shortcomings of the Indian legal system in protecting the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals and suggest measures to address discrimination and marginalisation faced by the community in the Indian society.

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