The Changing Scene of LGBTQ+ Rights in India

Ketaki Deshpande S.Y.B.Sc.

                                           Pride Parade

Ancient India vindicated the presence of varied sexual orientations and the identity of transgender persons. Going by the religious texts and history, pre-colonial India seems much more tolerant towards homosexuality and fluidity of gender.

 It was only after the appearance of the British, section 377 of the Indian Penal Code made all homosexual acts of intercourse” against the order of nature” and hence illegal, in 1861. The Catholic Church’s view that a sexual act performed for purposes other than reproduction was unethical had a significant impact on this.

 The first study on homosexuality to be published in India was” The World of Homosexuals” by Shakuntala Devi in 1977. The book consists of 16 chapters each describing and explaining various topics regarding homosexuality. After this book, Shakuntala Devi was recognized as an early pioneer in India’s fight for gay rights.

 In 1987, marriage between two policewomen, Leela Namdeo and Urmila Srivastava had taken place. That really changed the course of the movement in India.

 Naz Foundation filed a PIL before the Delhi High Court in 2001 to challenge section 377. The Delhi High Court determined in 2009 that section 377 directly violated the fundamental freedoms of life, liberty, and equality guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. This indicated that although gay intercourse wasn’t legal, it was also no longer a crime. Still, the Delhi high court’s ruling was questioned in the Supreme Court by the critics. Still, this was a significant turning point in the fight for freedom. The LGBTQ community made up a “miniscule bit” of the nation’s population, according to the Supreme Court, and it was thus unsustainable. 

 The Supreme Court of India ruled in April 2014 that transgender people should be classified as the third gender.

 The Supreme Court granted the LGBTQ population in this country the right to express their sexual orientation in public on August 24, 2017. This also defended a person’s sexual orientation. The LGBTQ community now had the freedom to express their sexual preference, but gay intercourse was still illegal at the time. 

The part of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was eventually annulled on 6th September 2018 making homosexuality officially legal in India. 

2019 saw the passage of the Transgender Persons( Protection of Rights) Bill by Parliament on November 26. A trans person was defined by this measure as someone whose gender doesn’t correspond to the sex assigned at birth. It outlawed treating them else when it came to employment, education, healthcare, and other services. The LGBTQ+  groups in India, still, rejected it since it needed that each person be recognised as transgender based on an identity certificate given by the district magistrate upon the attestation of sex reassignment surgery. The focus was primarily on hijras or transwomen, with little attention paid to intersex, genderqueer, or trans men. The new Transgender Persons( Protection of) Act was approved by the Ministry of Social Justice and commission. In agreement with this, the government would provide the expensive sex reassignment surgery available at state- run hospitals without charge. Also, the government will be responsible for the transgender community’s housing and educational charges.

 It’s argued that indeed though the major court decision from 2018 marked a significant achievement for the LGBTQ rights movements in India. Still, members of the LGBTQ community aren’t treated equally and don’t enjoy the same rights as cishets in India. Also, they continue to witness violence and demarcation in numerous aspects of life.  

Educating people about LGBTQ rights is pivotal. Human rights are unassailable, essential rights that are granted onto all people at birth.

 People must understand that homosexuality isn’t an illness and that their sexual preference is entirely harmonious with the laws of nature. 

In my ending statement, I would like to say that it’s time that laws are made to guard the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ individuals. It should be seen that they feel defended by the law and not targeted by it.

Ketaki Deshpande S.Y.B.Sc.

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