The People at the End of the Rainbow: The LGBTQIA Community in India


This post is written by Seher Bhalla, a student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune

Navtej Johar vs. Union of India is a revolutionary judgement due to the depth shown by the Supreme Court in acknowledging the harm done by denying the LGBTQIA+ community acknowledgement and also emphasises governments role in contributing to fighting homophobia.

Almost a year and a half after the delivery of the historic ruling the Indian government has not taken affirmative steps in respect to the same. Given the extremely homophobic nature of Indian society, this task becomes the need of the hour. Leaders and pundits further fuel the homophobia via public statements; it becomes even more crucial to ensure that the alienation of the community stops and positive integration becomes the norm.

Basic Necessities

 Given the archaic legal system of the country, many people face injustices which prevent them from genuinely accessing aid which they need when facing discrimination.

The queer community faces a lot of discrimination, and at times this is strongest from their own families which results in them finding themselves without a home. The 2018 judgement acknowledged the same as well. To ensure that the community does not face homelessness, we need to ensure that shelters for vulnerable queer youth are available. We also need to ensure that homophobic tendencies of society reduce and landlords don’t resort to discrimination on gender and sexuality basis to deny people housing.

Furthermore, there needs to be a comprehensive sexuality and gender education curriculum in place, to prevent bullying and spread of misinformation. Additionally, by sensitising both teachers and students, it further gives the community a safe place to exist. It reduces the burden on them to justify their place in society.

Another essential aspect that needs improvement is the health sector. Whether it is physical or mental health, the queer community faces prejudices and biases there as well. Therefore, given the vulnerable status of the community, it is necessary to ensure a reliable pro-queer medical aid system.

NALSA v Union of India

This 2014  landmark judgement not only gave legal recognition to the Trans community but also gave them the right to self-determination, i.e. they have the right to decide their gender. This amplified the voice of the trans community in addressing various stigmas and social issues they face.

The community has widely criticised the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) bill introduced in 2019 on the other hand for taking away their rights and going against the NALSA judgement.

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“The bill goes against the right to dignity and bodily autonomy of trans people”, – Gee Imaan Similar to NPR.

The Path Ahead

“When I get calls from young people all over India, they want marriage, insurance, civil and economic rights. The cap on the bottle has been removed. It will be a multi-pronged fight,” said Menaka Guruswamy, senior Supreme Court advocate and one of the lawyers in Navtej Johar versus Union of India. (as said to Hindustan Times).

There are various petitions by the likes of Keshav Suri, Arif Jafar and so forth which aim at the recognition of same-sex partners for insurance, marriage and so forth.

There is also a need to educate bureaucrats and other state officials when it comes to respecting their rights. The government should  ensure that the court’s involvement is not necessary at every single step.

 This requires a pro-active stance from the current government. But the rollback of trans rights at the expense of a Supreme Court judgement  makes hope fraught.

COVID-19 and the Queer Community

The current pandemic and it’ sit’s subsequent shutdown have caused the community to have some of the worst affected members. They face mental trauma, joblessness and lack of access to LGBTQIA+ positive medical aid. Trans sex workers are facing hardships due to lack of work and inability to access aid.

The lack of specific government aid for the community further pushes it to the fringes.

June is the Pride Month. It  celebrates the community’s  progress of rights and pays homage to the struggles undertaken. This time instead of celebration vast segments of the population globally enters it with fear and uncertainty.

Many LGBTQIA+ friendly groups are actively working to help its less privileged members. But the community cannot be dependent on them solely and. It is high time now that its needs get due recognition from the government. It is high time now that they receive the support they need. Let’s ensure that equality prevails.

Also Read: Decoding the Indian Mentality: #AllLivesMatter is as Much as a Myth as #BlackLivesMatter

Human Rights and Section 377 of Indian Penal Code

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