Queer Rights Movement in India
Queer rights encompass collective action and efforts taken by LGBTQIA+ advocates to help eliminate the deep-seated homophobia and transphobia. They work towards dismantling heteronormative structures which favour and support cishet relationships and identities. The main objective is to fight for equality, justice, freedom, and protection of sexual and gender minority groups.
People all around the globe face gruesome violence and torture because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity/expression. They have been forced to hide their authentic identity and have been forced into the heteronormative culture. Harassment, censorship, violence, unequal treatment, abuse, discrimination in housing and jobs, medical and public health sectors are some stressors faced by the queer community in their lives.
In India, The LGBTQIA+ community has been denied rights and looked down upon for decades. This has led to public outrage and demand for equal protection under the law. Queer activists in the nation have been at the forefront and actively rallying for the rights and protection of the LGBTQ+ community since the early 1990s. Over the years, there has been a considerable shift in the queer rights movement in India and the queer community has been opposing the unjust laws.
The overthrow of section 377 in September 2018, was a major landmark for the queer rights movement in India. It struck down the 200-year-old law from the British era and decriminalised homosexual relationships and same-sex couples. This was a major milestone in the queer rights movement in India and gave hope to lead a meaningful life without fear of persecution for expressing one’s sexual identity. It empowered individuals to express their identity freely and gave them relief from being considered "criminals" under the law. They found the confidence to grow and be accepted by the law as respectable citizens of the nation. It came as a sigh of relief after years of determination and hardwork.
Although this has made a significant change in the well-being of many, the LGBT community is still denied equal treatment in several areas. It is crucial to take the conversation ahead as there is still a lack of legal provisions and laws in practice which give equal protection under the constitution of India. There is a need for further safeguards and interventions for the protection of queer individuals.
Homosexual couples are yet not legally recognised in India. Legalising same-sex marriage would ensure that homosexual couples would enjoy the same rights as heterosexual married couples. It would give them social, mental, legal, and public health benefits. They would be recognised legally as a family by the state, and this would further give way to adoption and surrogacy laws. Since the queer community suffers significantly from mental health issues, this will enhance their psychological well-being, give them financial and legal benefits, better access to medical and health care and other privileges. It would further lead to greater acceptance in society to build an inclusive and diverse culture.
Due to lack of information, there is a generalised view of the entire community with almost no attention paid to the specifications and differences of the individual subgroups. It is important to understand how sexual identity is extremely different from an individual’s gender identity. Both exist independently and do not rely on one another. However, popular slogans like “Love Wins” and “Love is Love”, have made same-sex relationships the centre of the movement and side-lined the unique life stressors of the Intersex, Transgender community and gender diverse population. Addressing these issues is crucial and demands urgent attention. Gender non-conforming and Transgender people face enormous challenges daily. They face discrimination in employment opportunities, educational institutions, housing and homelessness, face health disparities, mental health issues and many more.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Acts, 2019 was passed for the protection of transgender people from violence and to give them recognition under the law. However, it was met with protests all over the country as the bill does not give trans and non-binary individuals the right to self-identification of their gender identity. It also states less punishment for crimes committed against them and hence does not protect them equally. Additionally the opinions of the community were not considered in the formation of the bill.
There is a need to safeguard, respect and support transgender individuals so they can live dignified lives. Access to gender-affirmative surgeries, health and medical care, better employment opportunities, protection from violence are a few measures which would lead to a more inclusive world for them.
Today although the fight continues, there is increasing awareness and acceptance of the queer community. Being a struggle for basic civil liberties, is our duty to advocate for their rights and spread awareness within our own families and communities. It is essential to create safe spaces within our circles. Systematic awareness building programmes, access to affirmative services and care, having open conversations and showing solidarity towards the community would help individuals dealing with issues with respect to the same. Informative workshops and resources should be made available in all institutions. This would be a small step on an individualistic level in trying to eliminate the stigma which affects thousands at large.