INDIA AND PRIDE
“Equality means more than passing laws. The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community, where it really counts.”
The LGBTQIA+ community is an umbrella term for individuals who do not identify themselves as cisgender or heterosexual. The acronym LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual & the "+" stands for other sexual identities including pansexual and two-spirit.
Court of India for the case Navtej Singh Johar & Ors. vs. Union of India thr. Secretary Ministry of Law & Justice, decriminalizing homosexuality by partially striking down section 377 of IPC. Section 377 was introduced in 1861 during the Colonial rule of India and held sexual activities "against the order of nature" illegal. The decriminalization of section 377 instilled a sense of recognition and acceptance for the LGBTQIA+ community amongst the people at large. But the social stigma still constricts the members of the community from freely expressing their true selves.
On the 13th of February 2019, The Rajya Sabha adjourned indefinitely, leaving multiple bills to lapse without debate. One of these is the Transgender Protections of Rights Bill, 2016, a government scheme aimed at members of the third gender. But this bill brings about some vital questions. Firstly, who is a transgendered person? A transgendered person is considered to be a person of one biological sex, identifying with a different gender. However, legally speaking, there has been no particular definition for Transgender People, as such. Nevertheless, as per the National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, a landmark Supreme Court decision in 2014, transgender people are classified under the third gender and are legally entitled to the fundamental rights that a constitution grants every Citizen.
These legal rights include the right to equality, education, employment, housing, healthcare and basic citizenship. Although same-sex marriage has always been legal in our country, the first obvious legal evidence of stigma against the third gender came with Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code drafted in 1860 that called all penile-non-vaginal sexual intercourse “carnal”, and criminal.
In January 2018, the Supreme Court agreed to refer the question of Section 377's validity to a large bench, and heard several petitions on 1 May 2018.In response to the court's request for its position on the petitions, the Government announced that it would not oppose the petitions, and would leave the case "to the wisdom of the court". A hearing began on 10 July 2018,with a verdict expected before October 2018.Activists view the case as the most significant and "greatest breakthrough for gay rights since the country's independence", and it could have far-reaching implications for other Commonwealth countries that still outlaw homosexuality. On 6th September 2018, the aspects of this law dealing with homosexuality were finally struck down by the Supreme Court. So, the transgender community is in fact perfectly legal in India de jure, but the social stigma against them still prevails.
Members of the Transgender community are forced to enter into either sex work or begging. This can be attributed to multiple factors, most importantly the stigma that plagues society especially in the lower levels of the social hierarchy. Most transgender children are often forced to discard their formal education due to bullying, abuse and discrimination in schools. They often lack the formal education required to qualify for formal employment.
The month of June has historically been celebrated as 'Pride Month'. Justice Anand Venkatesh's recent judgment that extensively outlined protections afforded to the LGBTQIA+ community could not have come at a better time. The 107 page judgment tackled the harmful stereotypes that an overwhelming members of the community face on a day-to-day basis which ultimately have a lasting and damaging effect on the quality of lives they lead. After having discussions with members of the community during his self-imposed counselling period, Justice Venkatesh put his newfound knowledge to use by making various suggestions to the Central and State Governments for the advancement of the LGBTQIA+ community in general. Stating that "ignorance is no justification for normalizing any form of discrimination," Justice Venkatesh suggested that employers must also do their bit to help create a safer environment for the community.