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Attitudes Towards The LGBTQIA+ Community Have Changed Over The Decades, Is It Enough?

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Everything in this world is dynamic in nature. Time after time, everything changes, from societies, countries, technologies and even human nature. However, some things have never changed in the world.

When the barbarity of World War II ended, there were lots of people saying that something like it should never happen again. However, nature has a problem in changing and people go guns blazing all over again be it in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Rwanda or Congo. These were the wars that should’ve been avoided in the first place but were pretty much shrugged at by the superpowers, NATO, Warsaw Pact and even the UN.

According to Neil Halloran, although there are no wars which could even match the magnitude of the World War II, the era of New Peace (Post War) does not mean we have learnt our lesson from World War II for the reasons stated above.

Another part of human nature is hatred towards anything and everything. It could be towards people of the opposite gender, people with different sexual preferences, religions, nationality and even choices. Hatred is primarily the reason why wars are even fought.

Mein Kampf is the biggest example which depicts Hitler’s hatred towards Jewish people, communists and Slavs. That hatred also became a reality when 11 million people were killed in the “Shoah” (Holocaust), of which 6 million were Jewish people.

This article, however, will touch on the hatred towards the LGBTQIA+ community and how they face harassment online. For example, the use of homophobic slurs likes “Gay”, “Faggot”, “Queer”, “Chakka”“Hijra”, etc. towards people of the LGBTQIA+ community, celebrities, people who use TikTok, Kpop celebrities, etc. The internet has allowed, and worse, justified the use of these slurs, which result in further discrimination.

What Is Homophobia?

The hatred towards people of the LGBTQIA+ is called homophobia. This kind of hatred leads to discrimination against the said community.

Although homophobia has no clear history, it did have its roots when King Henry VIII passed a law which stated that two males having sexual intercourse would be sentenced to death by hanging. Another prominent example of homophobia in history is when English Mathematician Alan Turing, who was one of the significant reasons for the victory of the Allied powers by cracking the German Enigma Code, was arrested and forced to have conversion therapy because he was Gay.

Harvey Milk, who was one of the pioneers of Gay rights in the United States was assassinated in 1978 by Dan White who was a former police officer who had a battle with Harvey regarding the LGBTQIA+ issues in California. In the 1980s British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher passed Section 28 of The Local Government Act 1988 which prevented the promotion of same-sex relationships in schools. It was later repealed in 2003.

% Accept Same Sex Relationships
Source: Spring 2019 Global Attitudes Survey.

Juxtapose to the 21st century and there has been a major shift towards the rights and acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community around the world. As previously stated, the world is dynamic in nature. New cultures and practices which were once rejected on the grounds of religion, morality, etc. now find acceptance.

In the case of Obergefell vs Hodges (2015), the United States Supreme Court held that same-sex marriage should be a legal right all over the country with Justice A M Kennedy writing in the decision“No longer may this liberty be denied”. In India, the case of Navtej Singh Johar vs Union of India(2018), Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 which criminalised the practice of same-sex relationship was considered a constitutional violation of the people in India. In the U.K., the Equality Act 2010 protects people of the LGBTQIA+ community from discrimination in the workplace.

Despite the paradigm shift towards the LGBTQIA+ community, some countries still criminalise same-sex activity and human rights are being suppressed on “religious” and “moral” grounds.

In Saudi Arabia, the Sharia Law, which is a religious criminal code, forbids people to have same-sex relationships and the punishment can even lead to death penalties. In Russia, people of the LGBTQIA+ community are treated like garbage because of the anti-gay laws. It is also the same story in Uganda under that Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imprisons a person for 7 years for having a same-sex relationship.

One of the worst violent act against the LGBTQIA+ was the Orlando Nightclub Shooting in 2016 where Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured 53 people due to his hatred for the LGBTQIA+. Westboro Baptist Church, the Klu Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis are hate groups that have shown hostility towards the members of the LGBTQIA+.

The reasons for such homophobia is mostly due to:

  • The spread of HIV and AIDs which the people of the LGBTQIA+ community are often blamed for.
  • Religious attitudes towards the LGBTQIA+ especially in both Eastern Europe and Middle Eastern countries like Poland, Iran, Qatar, Russia and so on (Middle Eastern countries follow the rule of Zina which prohibits unlawful sexual activities which also includes same-sex relationships).
  • Prejudices and Stereotypes towards the members of the LGBTQIA+.

How Are People Of The LGBTQIA+ Community Harassed Online?

The internet is like a ruthless mob led by a ruthless dictator. The place where it brings people together ironically also divides people thanks to the divide and rule mentality brought by the British. It also brings people together for the wrong reasons. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, etc., are used as tools to destroy someone’s life.

One such tragic example is the suicide of Amanda Todd, who made a video on YouTube about how she was harassed online before committing suicide. Online witch hunts are another problem where people who have different opinions or sexualities are hunted down and harassed, reminiscent of McCarthyism in 1950s America.

Online harassment against members of the LGBTQIA+ is a rising problem as well. With the current pandemic, there has been a rise in cases of harassment against the said community. According to Out Online, 42% of LGBTQIA+ youth are more likely to be cyberbullied and 27% of the youth do not feel safe to be online. People in countries like Morocco have been receiving death threats because they supported the rights of people in the LGBTQIA+ community.

The use of homophobic slurs is also prevalent online. Celebrities like Justin Bieber, One Direction and various Kpop stars have been subjected to the homophobic slurs.

In India’s context, Article 19(1)(a) gives the right to freedom of speech, but that does not mean anyone should say whatever they want. This isn’t the First Amendment, where freedom of speech is absolute. Article 19(2) puts reasonable restrictions on Article 19(1)(a) because it wants to protect the morality, relations with other countries, decency, integrity and public order of the sovereign. It also protects people from defamation. In recent times, due to the harassment of Rhea Chakraborty, Tiktokers, Bollywood Starkids, Kpop Idols, etc., it seems Article 19(2) has been thrown out the window.

This year saw one of the biggest controversies on the internet, i.e. YouTube vs TikTok. Before the ban of TikTok in India, there was a feud between YouTubers and TikTokers with some of the biggest creators of both sides getting involved. The feud brought the worst out in people on the internet and people have been using homophobic slurs against TikTok creators under the impression of being cool and under the guise of “it’s a joke”.

It is one thing to joke about homophobic slurs; it is a different matter when people are using it for derogatory means. Popular Indian YouTuber Dhruv Rathee has shown concerns regarding the use of homophobic words which could harm the people of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Another YouTuber Shwetabh Gangwar says that the overuse of the word chakka against TikTokers has become dangerous because of the changing of times. The use of the word “chakka” in this day and age only promotes bigotry and hatred towards the members of the LGBTQIA+ community and does not promote inclusion in society.

Youtuber Yogi Baba further adds that use of homophobic slurs is not normal and people should stop using it normally since the attitude towards people of the LGBTQIA+ community is still negative in Indian society despite major changes in 2018.

The psychological effects of online harassment against people of the LGBTQIA+ community are as follows:

  • Suicidal thoughts, suicidal attempts and depression.
  • Clinical Depression.
  • Anxiety and stress.
  • Fear and helplessness. Many people are forced to change their jobs with fear of being cyber stalked.
  • Isolation and dissociation.
  • Affects self-esteem.
  • Fear of their lives.

What Are The Rights Of The LGBTQIA+ Community Against Discrimination?

Article 377 Protest
In 2018, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 which criminalised the practice of same-sex relationship was considered a constitutional violation of the people in India.
  • Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 15 (Protection of discrimination on any grounds), Article 17 (Abolition of Untouchability), Article 19 (Right to Freedom), Article 21(Right to Life and Personal Liberty), Article 32 (Right to Constitutional Remedies), Article 45 & 51 (A)(k) (Right to Education) and Article 300A (Right to Property) are the basic fundamental rights that the people of the LGBTQIA+ community should enjoy.
  • With Section 377 of IPC decriminalised, Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC protects the person from defamation. The aggrieved person can seek monetary claim and the person who was accused of defamation can be jailed for 2 years.
  • Section 506 of the IPC says that if a person criminally intimidates, they can be imprisoned for 2 years or have to pay a fine or both. If the threat is serious, which could cause grievous hurt, they can be jailed for 7 years or fined or both.
  • Section 66(A) of the IT Act punishes a person by 3 years imprisonment and fine if they send information which could be deemed offensive and derogatory.

Alternative ways to prevent online harassment against the LGBTQIA+ community:

  • Identification of abuse.
  • Documentation of abuse like taking screenshots and keeping the data of emails, texts and voicemails.
  • Assessment of the safety of the person.
  • Using the technique of blocking, muting and reporting.
  • Enlistment of Allies like friends and family members.
  • Speaking out against the downside of cyberbullying.
  • Self-Care should be given importance.
  • Bolstering of cyber-security.

Conclusion

In conclusion, people of the LGBTQIA+ community are human beings too. They also need help, support, inclusion and acceptance in society. Understandably, neither the people nor system and laws can change overnight. It will lead to even more hostilities if it is forced upon them. However, that doesn’t mean that people should have a free reign to say whatever they want.

People need to be aware of the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community and should be taught respect and acceptance. People should learn to have a filter because in this era decency has become the most important thing. Like diamonds, decency is rare because of the mob mentality which exists today.

The Holocaust was the darkest period of history where 10,000-15,000 people of the LGBTQIA+ community were murdered by Nazis. And the era of the 21st century where character assassinations, cancel culture and witch hunts reign supreme, this form of hatred is rising again. So it is important for people to have a filter and for the law to punish the perpetrators who are responsible for infringing the rights of a section of people.

In time, people online might begin to respect everyone and countries that once persecuted people of the said community might also begin to accept them in the future. In the end, it is a hope that the world which U.S. General Douglas MacArthur envisioned — of freedom, tolerance and justice — might be a reality soon.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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