The LGBTQ+ community looks forward to anti-discrimination laws, protection and reservation in jobs

The courts since 2018 have decriminalised same-sex relationships, legitimised live-in relationships, ruled that nobody can be sacked for their sexual orientation. But the community is still insecure

Representative Image
Representative Image

Garima Sadhwani

Rishi Raj (19), more commonly known as The Chick Maharani on social media, feels that things have changed for the better ever since section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was read down in 2018.

He says, “It created a bedrock for other rights to be laid upon. After 377, there was more attention towards the queer community in a serious, positive and responsible light.” The section being repealed ensured that many others like Raj from the LGBTQ+ community were no longer criminals or second class citizens, and could not be legally blackmailed because of an archaic law.

The last couple of years have seen some historic moments for the queer community in India. On August 6, 2018, section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was decriminalized. It made sexual acts between any two consenting adults legal.

A year before that, the apex court had held an individual’s right to privacy as a fundamental right, and their sexual orientation came under its ambit. In 2017, the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation too upheld the transgender person’s right to use the public toilet of their choice.

The judiciary has acted like a saviour for the community. In 2020, the Uttarakhand High Court said that the law protects all live-in relationships. In February 2021, the Allahabad High Court ruled that no one could be fired from work because of their sexual orientation. In June 2021, the Madras High Court banned conversion-therapy.

Though the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 has been debated and rightly-criticised by many, it did ban discrimination against transgender people in education, employment and healthcare, and protected their right to hold government/private offices.

But there’s still a long way to go. Sourish Samanta, a journalist from Kolkata, feels that there is a need to create a safe space for non-binary people. He says, “Almost 40% of the youth who identify as LGBTQ+ are homeless.” When Samanta says this, he doesn’t just mean people who are economically challenged and cannot afford a roof over their head, he also means people who were driven away or had to leave their homes because their families weren’t accepting of their sexualities.

Samanta also adds that there’s a need for citizen journalism in the queer community so that the people themselves can voice their concerns. On the other hand, he says, the mainstream media needs to start being inclusive and conscious of intersectional politics. The media shouldn’t create an echo chamber, instead it should acknowledge both- the adversities and choices of the queer community.

Akshada Shrotriya, a Literature student from Delhi University, agrees with Samanta. She feels that we need to create an accepting environment, especially in housing societies, so that no one feels the need to hide their identity. She says, “Even if you come from a privileged background, the kind of stares or societal scrutiny that queer people have to go through takes a mental toll.” The only way she sees this change coming is through education, and teaching people about the many colours beyond black and white.

Dr. Aqsa Shaikh’s vision for the future is on similar lines. The goal of equality, Shaikh believes, should start with affirmative action. She says, “Affirmative action recognizes that a certain section of the society has been systematically discriminated against for a long period of time and it's time to undo the damage.” For her, the need of the hour is reservation in education, jobs, bureaucracy, judiciary and politics, because “representation matters”.

This representation becomes even more important for the queer community, because its absence can be clearly felt in our country’s politics. When queer activist Harish Iyer joined the Congress party in 2019, he echoed this sentiment. On the other hand, earlier this year, the ruling government of BJP opposed same-sex marriage in the Delhi High Court.

It is noteworthy that when people talk about the way forward for the LGBTQ+ rights, they focus on adoption, surrogacy, matrimonial, cohabitation and property rights. But, Raj says, “Not everyone marries and not everyone adopts, but everyone within the queer community requires protection at workplace, at school, and at other places.”

He adds that there are other laws which need to be eased first, like the ban from serving in the army or restrictions on blood donations, and a ban on conversion therapy through legislature. Marriage and adoption rights can come anywhere in between, says he.

What all of them agree on, however, is that there should be severe anti-discrimination laws and advocacy for a sense of sustainability within the queer community, so that they can fight and fend for themselves. Economic marginalization of an already marginalized community just pushes them off the fence, says Samanta.

#WhySoProud Reclaimed

While a lot of support from global corporations and communities pours in for the LGBTQ+ community during the Pride Month, pockets of hate are frequent too.

A homophobic hashtag #WhySoProud trended on Twitter last week, as people questioned what was there to be proud about for a non-binary person in the first place. Others commented how it was sinful of the queer community to “indulge in homosexual acts”.

But it was not long before the community hijacked and reclaimed the hashtag to share their stories of struggles and tell the world why they are proud of their identity.

Here are some of the tweets:

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Published: 28 Jun 2021, 7:00 PM