By Shelly Mahajan:
A notion that was considered as morally demeaning and a farfetched dream till a few decades back has today become an imperative step towards progress and harmony of majority of nations.
Over the past one year, several countries have taken steps towards recognizing same-sex marriages. Last year saw Denmark becoming the eleventh country to approve such marriages. Whereas this year boasts of a longer list- Uruguay has passed a bill on the same, The New Zealand Parliament and French National Assembly approved gay marriage legislation and more recently, US Supreme Court ruled DOMA Act as unconstitutional.
Predictably, these developments have raised questions on the plight of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community back home. Apparently, we are yet to give the community a dignified social life with access to medical, education and employment facilities, let alone considering same-sex marriages and further ahead, adoption rights. Gay parades may have gained prominence in India in the recent time, drawing huge support but the reality is far from being cheerful. Not long ago, India’s health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad invented a disease called MSM, terming the idea of Men having Sex with Men as unnatural and not good for India .
Shockingly, the newly adopted Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, leaves out male, transgender and other victims of penetrative sexual violence from its ambit by specifying the victims of rape to be only women and continues to attach stigma to homosexuality.
Let’s not forget that the transgender community faces huge employment discrimination and is left with only sex work as an option to livelihood. That’s again where they are exploited unduly. They also suffer from social/economic/political exclusion, high HIV prevalence, largely because of health barriers in accessing HIV testing, antiretroviral treatment and sexual health services.
At hospitals, Hijras are deliberately addressed using male pronouns to be registered as males and admitted in male wards followed by verbal harassment by hospital staff. Moreover, need for sensitive and trained healthcare providers for transgender patients have long been overlooked. Further, India lacks specific guidelines for sex change operation procedures that have made it difficult for them to have access to safe medical facilities for Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) .
New regulations on surrogacy prohibit gay couples from hiring commercial surrogates in India. People from the LGBTQ community are regularly refused accommodations because of homophobia and have to depend on private initiatives like GHAR (gay housing assistance resource). Parents who discover their children to be gay or lesbian take them for counseling believing it to be a curable ‘disease’.
Not surprisingly, every time we see them around us, we don’t look at them, we gape at them and that is a challenge every minute. The question stands, “whether we are yet ready to distance ourselves from long voiced religious, cultural and ethical arguments?”