When the Supreme Court of India partially read down IPC 377 in India, decriminalising non-penovaginal sex between consenting adults, it removed the label of “being a criminal” from a large section of its marginalised population with a single stroke of its pen. It has been one full year to the watershed judgement, and this is how India has responded to it.
India has witnessed gay, lesbian, trans couples publicly marrying each other, even when the matrimonial union is still not recognised under the law.
Several public figures came out and were proud of their sexuality. India witnessed ace athlete Dutee Chand, prominent lawyers Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju, Bollywood heavyweights like Karan Johar, Apurva Asrani, Vasu Primlani and Fashion designer Wendell Rodricks coming out.
In a welcome move, the Maharashtra Education Board included single parents and same-sex families in its revised textbooks. Union Grants Commission got petitioned to include sexual minorities under the ambit of social protection mechanisms in higher educational institutions.
Trans-rights activists and persons petitioned various courts to fight draconic laws. In Telangana, Trans Rights Activist, Vyjayanti, and others, with the help of senior counsel, Jayna Kothari, successfully petitioned the Telangana High Court to put the Telangana Eunuch Act 1342 in abeyance and directed the government to file a response concerning the petition. Similarly, the Begging Act that criminalises begging, and affects the traditional livelihood of trans persons, is being challenged. Shunning the stereotypical mindset, Sathyasri Sharmila became India’s first transgender lawyer. She set an example by pursuing law so that she can fight against injustice.
The Election Commission of India carried out the largest enrolment exercise of Trans persons on the electoral rolls this election cycle. Further, prominent transgender persons across the country were made their Election Mascots. Over the last one year, India has experienced a record number of LGBT persons contesting elections to local bodies, state assemblies and union parliament for public service. Major political parties included LGBT+ rights in their election manifestos and inducted persons from the community as spokespersons.
Pride tech collectives across the country hosted job fairs for people from the LGBT+ community. A record number of tech and corporate companies in India came out in support of equal rights in principle, if not in action. One of the collective’s member, Suresh Ramdas, went on to become Mr Gay India 2019.
While these silver linings have defined the LGBT struggle and progress in the last one year, the inept current government keeps pulling back the fight for equal rights to the dark ages.
The draconian Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bills was passed in the parliament without pertinent amendments. Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019 passed by Lok Sabha on August 2019 debars LGBT Couples or Individuals from adopting children. The Human Rights Bill introduced and passed by the parliament didn’t recognise LBGT persons as a vulnerable group; neither did it grant equal safeguards to the communities.
None of the Legislative Bills accords equal job opportunities and livelihoods to marginalised LBGT persons. The present government is stern in its position concerning marriage equality; it recognises marriage as a union between a man and a woman only. The Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry and the National Human Rights Commission keeps turning a blind eye towards equal rights concerns of the LGBT community.
Recently, a civil aviation officer wrote a mercy killing plea to the President of India as she was systematically discriminated against, and not selected for a job due to her gender identity.
Police brutality on transgender persons continues at multiple locations across India; at times they become victims to mob lynching. With the number of suicides among LGBT+ persons in India, increasing day by day, the need to address the trauma and harassment which LGBT+ persons experience has become the need of the hour.
Justice D.Y Chandrachud, in his concurring opinion to the Navtej Singh Johar and others vs. the Union of India Judgement, explicitly noted how there is a worrisome lack of knowledge with regard to sexuality and varied gender identities in India, and how the Government of India needs to take up a proactive role in spreading awareness about the subject, its people and their struggle to exist. As the government continues to turn a deaf eye to the opinion, the article intends to fill that gap.
“What unites us is our stories of oppression. What makes us is our stories of struggles.”