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Rainbow of Hope: LGBTQIA+

  • 26 Aug 2022
  • 10 min read

This editorial is based on “Rainbow of hope: On Tamil Nadu’s glossary of terms to address LGBTQIA+ community” which was published in The Hindu on 26/08/2022. It talks about recognition of LGBTQIA+ community that needs more than words to live with dignity.

For Prelims: LGBTQIA+, Section 377 of Indian Penal Code, Right to Privacy, Navtej Singh Johar Vs. Union of India, National Legal Services Authority Vs. Union of India (2014)

For Mains: History of Recognition of LGBTQIA+ In India , Problems Faced by LGBT Communities in India, Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019

In recent years, several countries, including India, have legally recognized third sex and homosexuals as equal citizens, after a long struggle of several different movements and protests around the world.

The Preamble of Indian Constitution recognises its citizens impartially as "We the people of India" and ensures justice - social, economic, and political.

In September 2018, in the review of Section 377 of Indian Penal Code, the Supreme Court gave the judgment to decriminalize adult consensual same-sex marriages. This decision is considered a landmark, both in terms of its expansive interpretation of constitutional rights and in terms of empowering LGBTQIA+ community.

While it was a big achievement, it does not mean that LGBTQIA+ people in India are absolutely free or treated equally to their fellow citizens. It undermines the amount of work that remains to be done in India and around the globe.

What does LGBTQIA + Stands For?

  • While no term can fully capture the spectrums of genders and sexual identities in the world. LGBTIQ+ mainly stands for:

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

  • Ancient India was about acceptance and celebration of all forms of love and neutrality to the idea of homosexuality.
  • In 1861, Britishers considered sexual activities “against the order of nature” including all homosexual activities were criminalized 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”.
    • It called for “full and complete acceptance and not just tolerance and sympathy”.
  • 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 LGBTQ community the freedom to safely express their sexual orientation.
  • On 6 September 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the part of Section 377 which criminalized 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.

Which Cases have Helped the LGBTQIA+ Community Get Their Rights Acknowledged?

  • Navtej Singh Johar Vs. Union of India: The SC held that Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees equality before law and this applies to all classes of citizens.
    • It restores ‘inclusiveness’ of LGBTQ Community and homosexuality was decriminalised.
  • Shafin Jahan Vs. Asokan K.M. and Others (2018): In this case, the SC observed that choice of a partner is a person’s fundamental right, and it can be a same-sex partner.
  • National Legal Services Authority Vs. Union of India (2014): The SC observed that “recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue, but a human rights issue”.

What are the Problems Faced by LGBTQIA+ Communities in India?

  • Marginalisation: LGBTQIA+ individuals may experience multiple forms of marginalisation-such as racism, sexism, poverty or other factors – alongside homophobia or transphobia that negatively impact their mental health.
    • Often, such marginalisation leaves LGBTQIA+ people without access to the basic services such as medical care, justice and legal services, and education.
  • Impact of Family Reactions on LGBT Children: Rejection and serious negative reactions kept many LGBTQIA+ youngsters from telling their parents about their feelings.
    • In a society bound by a rigid set of social and cultural norms that dictate the terms and conditions of education, career and marriage, the lack of family support can prove to be a big blow to the mental and physical health of LGBTQIA+ people.
  • Unheard Rural Voices: The voices of urban LGBTQIA+ people are heard through several online and real-world platforms.
    • Whereas rural LGBTQIA+ people often suppress their feelings due to a lack of exposure, comfort and internet connectivity in their area because their refusal to marry brings more physical abuse.
  • Homelessness: Most of the homeless LGBTQIA+ youth are thrown out of their homes for being queer, or they ran away to escape an abusive situation.
    • They miss out on education and social support during critical formative years.
      • And without any economic support, they often engage in drug use and risky sexual behaviors.
  • Problems of Terminology: LGBTQIA+ people are labelled with negative stereotypes and made fun of, thereby robbing them of their goal of getting recognition and making them feel socially excluded.
  • Socially Unrecognised: School uniforms, dress code and appearance, access points for travel (including ticket booking forms, security screening and toilets) are often gendered.
    • Frequently, LGBTQIA+ individuals are forced to negotiate their gender identity in public while on public transportation.
  • Lack of Employment Opportunities: Difficulties in obtaining accurate gender identity documents, including school records, adversely affect employment prospects.
    • Discriminatory eligibility requirements place gender restrictions on some jobs, which effectively exclude transgender and gender non-binary persons from getting the job.

What Should be the Way Forward?

  • Changing Social Attitude Toward LGBTQIA+ People: As TV and movies are accessible to rural populations where social media has not yet penetrated, they are likely to be the best tools for redefining family roles and attitudes through programs and stories that educate and enlighten, as well as relay LGBTQIA+ experiences in authentic and diverse ways
    • Movies like Badhaai Do, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, Aligarh can play a big role in changing the negative attitude of society towards LGBTQIA+ Community.
  • From Special Treatment to Equal Treatment: LGBTQIA + people don't seem to be aliens, they're not sick and their sexual preference is innate and being homosexual is a normal phenomenon and not a disease.
    • 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.
  • Gender Neutrality: There is a need to treat all genders as equal with none discrimination.
    • It conjointly means policies, language, associated social behaviour should avoid characteristic roles per an individual’s gender.
  • Towards Better Parenting: Fundamental responsibility of any parent to accept their children’s identity.
    • It is by accepting the child that they will transform society into one that values diversity and accepts the uniqueness of each individual.
  • Awaring and Empowering LGBTQIA+ Youth: An open and accessible forum is needed so they feel recognized and comfortable sharing their feelings.
    • Platforms like Gaysi and Gaylaxy have helped carve out spaces for LGBT people to interact, share and collaborate.
    • The Pride Month and Pride Parade Initiative is also a good step in this direction.

Drishti Mains Question

Discuss the status of LGBTQIA+ community in India in light of cases that helped them to get their rights acknowledged.

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