How Can India Be More Accepting? Queer Community Tells Us
It has been one year since the historic Supreme Court judgment that brought a ray of hope for the queer community in India by decriminalizing homosexuality. On September 6, 2018, the apex court read down section 377 that until last year criminalised homosexuality. Since then, the awareness around the LGBTQI community has gone beyond bounds. Even public figures, who feared to support the queer community—now do it with “pride”.
In the last year, we saw Indian society warming up to the queer community and opening doors for them to opportunities in various fields. A transwoman, Heidi Shaadiya became a news presenter. Humsafar Trust opened a healthcare facility for the queer community in Mumbai. Two lawyers—Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy—who fought the law, came out as a couple encouraging more people to accept their sexuality.
- Transpeople have pressed that the Transgender bill is a deterrent in the holistic development of the community.
- There should be a penal provision against people who bully queer people at workplaces while renting out houses or in any other such circumstances.
- Hate crimes have been happening since ages, but now reporting on such cases has improved- Abhina Aher
- Jobs and opportunities for the queer community in government jobs, armed forces etc. in the form of the reservation will help the community.
However, not all has been achieved just by altering the law. While we made some progress, a lot still needs to be done for the inclusion of the community into the mainstream. The recently passed Transgender Bill was heavily criticized by the trans community because it directs people to go through a district magistrate and district screening committee to get certified as a trans person. Transpeople have pressed that the bill is a deterrent in the holistic development of the community.
We mustn’t have schools and colleges that say that they don’t know of a queer child. No queer child should feel abandoned and left out. – Harish Iyyer.
So even though we have seen some changes, what’s next for the society and the government to do, to accommodate the queer community? We spoke to the members to bring their perspectives to the table.
Harish Iyer, Gay Rights activist, opines that sensitivity in education is of utmost importance in all schools and colleges. “We mustn’t have schools and colleges that say that they don’t know of a queer child. No queer child should feel abandoned and left out. It should be a rounded sensitivity education and not just about sex and sexuality. It should also include education about caste, creed, religion etc so that awareness is created regarding all kinds of minorities.”
Secondly, according to him, there should be a penal provision against people who bully queer people at workplaces, while renting out houses or in any other such circumstances. “Homophobia and transphobia should not be tolerated at all. And medical practitioners who turn away patients and especially against therapists who speak about conversion therapy must be punished and their certificates need to be confiscated.”
Abhina Aher, Associate Director of Alliance India, shared a long wish list in terms of the desirable changes that the society must assert to attain. She says that the queer community must have:
- Equal civil rights as any other human.
- Have the right to marry, adopt, property inheritance.
- Should be safeguarded by the government by strictly penalising perpetrators of violence and discrimination.
“Since we are a minority, we must have the kind of privileges extended to other minority communities as well, in order to push us forward and uproot us out of a state of deprivation.”
She calls for representation of the queer community in the parliament. Though, Chandramukhi Muvvala fought in the Hyderabad legislative assembly election becoming the first to do so. And after that several other from the trans community followed suit. But none have been able to secure a seat. “Right now, we have the representation of Sadhus and Swamis and filmstars who bag the seat but don’t contribute in the society-building process, but the queer community has zero representation which is deeply problematic,” Aher voices her concerns.
It always happens that when you intervene at the policy-level, the violence reporting cases eventually increases because people are getting more and more aware of the community. – Abhina Aher
She also opines against the rise in hate crimes against the community. “While Section 377 has been read down, hate crimes against the community have increased. It is not like earlier they did not happen and now suddenly, crimes started to happen. No, these hate crimes have been happening since ages, but now reporting on such cases has improved. It always happens that when you intervene at the policy-level, the violence reporting cases eventually increases because people are getting more and more aware of the community.”
Another member of the trans community, Nitasha Biswas has been a strong advocate of the rights of the queer community. She also represented India at Miss International Trans Queen 2018 and for her opportunities for the community is of utmost significance. “Jobs and opportunities for the queer community in government jobs, armed forces etc. in the form of the reservation will help the community come closer to the mainstream. There have to be more queer-owned startups, restaurants, bars, cafes which also create jobs for the community, that is what will help everyone grow and prosper in the community. When there will be opportunities, trans people will not have to go out and beg and that is a very common practice in the community.”
Biswas further reckons that “Transphobia has to stop,” for the safety of the community. Clearly, it is a major source of concern for the queer community and they have voiced it time and again. So the government has to pay more attention to this area for larger impact.
Picture Credit- Indiatimes