From Progress to Challenges: A Comprehensive Look at India’s Government Decisions on LGBTQIA+ Rights
India's LGBTQIA+ community has been fighting for their rights and acceptance in a country that has been historically conservative and traditional. Despite some progress in recent years, like decriminalizing homosexuality on 6th September 2018, the community still faces significant challenges, and the fight for equal rights continues.
Image: Pride parade Kolkata 2018 Credits: Wikimedia Commons
India's road towards LGBTQIA+ rights has been distinguished by a complex interplay of legislative changes, social movements, and continuous efforts for acceptance, ranging from major gains to enduring problems.
The ongoing hearing of the Special Marriage Act started on April 18 in India's Supreme Court has been one of the most significant recent milestones in this conflict. The statute permits couples to register their marriage without regard for religious or social obstacles, and it allows interfaith and intercaste couples to marry.
The act's hearing has pushed the topic of LGBTQIA+ rights back to the forefront. The act's clause allowing any two people, regardless of gender, to marry has generated hopes that it may give a route for same-sex couples to legalize their relationship. Many conservative groups, however, have protested the provision, claiming that it contradicts traditional values and beliefs of their religion.
In this extensive piece, we look into the major decisions made by the Indian government regarding LGBTQIA+ rights, evaluating the milestones attained, the roadblocks encountered, and the way forward.
From the historic decriminalisation of consensual homosexual activity on 6 Spetember 2018 to the contentious debates surrounding the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, this article illuminates the multifaceted landscape of LGBTQIA+ rights in India, highlighting both achievements and work that remains to be done.
Significant developments made by the government
The Indian Supreme Court overturned Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalised same-sex partnerships, in 2018. The decision was hailed as a landmark triumph for the LGBTQIA+ community because it decriminalised consenting gay behaviour while still recognising the right to privacy. This significant decision invalidated the Indian Penal Code's outdated Section 377, which had criminalised same-sex partnerships for almost a century.
The verdict was a watershed event in India for LGBTQIA+ rights, recognising the fundamental right to love and engage in consensual relationships regardless of sexual orientation.
The LGBTQIA+ community and its allies praised it as a big success, paving the door for increased visibility, acceptance, and legal protection.
Along with decriminalising homosexuality, the Indian government has taken steps to protect the rights of transgender people. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act was passed in 2019, with the goal of protecting transgender people's rights and promoting their social inclusion.
The statute recognised the right to self-identify as a gender and barred transgender people from facing discrimination in areas such as education, work, healthcare, and housing.
"The recognition of self-identified gender and the prohibition of discrimination were significant steps towards safeguarding transgender rights," transgender rights campaigner Deepa Joshi emphasises.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment created a transgender welfare scheme in 2021. The program's goal is to provide financial aid to transgender people for education, skill development, and business.
Furthermore, the government's attempt to provide financial help to transgender people through the "Welfare Scheme for Transgender Persons" is a step in the right direction towards empowering and elevating the transgender community.
The government recognises the need to address the unique issues encountered by transgender people and encourage their inclusion and wellbeing by providing financial assistance and building non-discriminatory environments.
In the workplace, the government has also demonstrated some support for LGBTQIA+ people. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs established rules in 2018 for businesses to ensure a non-discriminatory environment for LGBTQIA+ employees.
Timeline of Key Developments in India's LGBTQIA+ Rights Movement. Credits: Urvashi More
Shortcomings of the government
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act was passed in 2019, and it was highly criticised by campaigners for being retrograde and infringing transgender people's rights.
"Requiring a certificate for transgender identity has been a major point of contention," LGBTQIA+ campaigner Nikhil Desai explains.
The statute was criticised for forcing transgender people to seek a certificate from a district magistrate in order to officially identify as transgender, which was viewed as a significant obstacle to self-identification.
The Indian government filed an objection in the Delhi High Court in 2020 to a petition seeking recognition of same-sex marriage. LGBTQIA+ groups widely criticised the government's response, accusing it of failing to protect the community's rights.
Harini Rao, an LGBTQIA+ activist, says, "It was disheartening to see the government opposing our plea for equality and recognition."
Statistics regarding violence, hate and prejudice
According to the National Human Rights Commission's (NHRC) 2020 report, there were 148 documented incidents of violence against LGBTQIA+ people in India between 2014 and 2019 these are the documented cases only, whereas reality could be worse than that. There were 44% physical assaults, 22% sexual assaults, and 18% incidences of harassment and blackmail.
Infographic of the Percentage of people in the LGBTQIA+ community experiencing prejudice and occupational discrimination Credits: Urvashi More
Infographic of the poll from NHRC about documented incidences of violence against LGBTQIA+ people in India Credits: Urvashi More