The LGBTQIA++ community movements advocate for the rights of the LGBTQ people in the community. Social movements may concentrate on equal rights, while others may focus on self-help and self-acceptance. An expressed goal among these movements is social equality for LGBTQ people, but there is a still denial of full LGBTQ rights. Some have also focused on building LGBT communities or striving towards liberation from bi-phobia, homophobia, and transphobia. LGBTQ movements organized today comprise a broad range of political advocacy and cultural activity, including lobbying, street marches, civil meets, media, art, and research.
The rights of the LGBTQ community in India have grown in recent years. However, Indian LGBT citizens face various social and legal difficulties not encountered by non-LGBT individuals. The LGBTQ community in India won a hard-fought battle against segregation with the elimination of Section 377 of the Indian penal code. The government now constitutionally recognized transgender people who have a legal right to register themselves under a third gender under the legislation passed in 2019. Despite recent political developments in favor of LGBT rights, there continues a considerable amount of homophobia present among the Indian population, with around half of Indians objecting to same-sex relationships according to a 2019 opinion survey. Even though the LGBTQ community has had more acceptance than in the last decades, especially in larger cities, most LGBTQ people in India remain closeted, fearing discrimination from their families who might see homosexuality as outrageous.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, is an act of the Parliament of India to protect the rights of transgender people, their interests, and other related matters. Following protests by the queer community against the 2016 and 2018 bills, the 2019 act has repealed with few of the sharply criticized provisions of the 2018 bill but it did not incorporate other principles like the right of transgender people to declare their self-perceived gender identity without undergoing sex reassignment surgery, and reservations in jobs and educational institutions. The act has also been criticized for imposing less punishment for crimes against transgender people compared with punishment for crimes against cisgender people. The conversion therapies, the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation, in India has been condoned by the activists and Indian Psychiatric Society which declared, “Based on existing scientific evidence and good practice guidelines from the field of psychiatry, the Indian Psychiatric Society would like to state that there is no evidence to substantiate the belief that homosexuality is a mental illness or a disease.” These methods often include electroconvulsive therapy (which may lead to memory loss), hypnosis, the administration of nausea-inducing drugs, or more commonly talk therapy where the individual is told that homosexuality is caused by “insufficient male affirmation in childhood” or “an uncaring father and an overbearing mother”. Conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, seizures, drug use, and suicidal tendencies for the individuals involved.
With the stigmas attached to having a sexual orientation that is other than heterosexual, many prefer not to share their sexual identity in our culture. Along with fear for personal safety and discrimination in housing and employment, the fact that in some states community explicitly discriminates against them keeps individuals in hiding. There have been many reports of abuse, harassment, and violence over the years directed against LGBTQ people, like, in 2011, the nephews murdered a Haryana lesbian couple for being in an “immoral” relationship. According to records from activist group Kavi’s Humsafar Trust, two-fifths of homosexuals in the country had faced blackmails, while many contemplate suicide as their sole option left. In early 2018, a lesbian couple committed suicide and left a note reading: “We have left this world to live with each other. The world did not allow us to stay together.” According to a 2018 survey, a third of Indian gay men were married to women who were oblivious that they are closeted gay. Even the public opinion, in the 21st century, regarding LGBT rights in India is complex. According to a 2016 poll by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, 35% of Indian people were in support of legalizing same-sex marriage, with a further 35% opposed. A survey by the Varkey Foundation discovered that support for same-sex marriage was stronger among 18-21-year-olds at 53%.
While the growing number of LGBTQ+ Pride related events in the past couple of years is no doubt remarkable, the unfortunate fact remains that they are restricted only to urban spaces. LGBTQ identifying individuals living in small towns and villages still experience social ostracization and discrimination should they identify as queer. To grow tolerant social attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community may be achieved if we take greater initiatives to educate the masses on gender, sex, and sexuality-related issues, discussions of which are still deemed taboo in many parts of the country. It is pertinent that words like ‘gay’, ‘bisexual’ and ‘lesbian’, for instance, find a space in the local vocabulary of those who speak different Indian languages. In an age where issues of human rights are gaining global recognition, where countries world over are recognizing the LGBTQ+ community as a legitimate community wanting civil justice and freedoms, and where the vocabulary surrounding sex, love, sexuality, and gender is constantly being reinvented, it is important to situate oneself in this struggle for equal opportunity with renewed hopes and aspirations for a better tomorrow.