LBGTQ+ Rights in India
Writer: Mariajose de Jesús Castillo Cervantes
Editor: Alma Samocha
Graphic Designer: Sasiree Dechwittayaporn
For many years, the LBGTQ+ community has fought for their rights, for respect, representation and inclusivity. Individuals within the community have suffered throughout the years due to the wrong stereotypes and ideologies through which society has regulated or typified their existence. This led to a lack of legal representation in most of the countries in the world. But in 1924 we start seeing human rights movements like the movement for gay rights. In this year a German immigrant, Henry Gerber, founded the Society for Human Rights: “the first documented gay rights organization in the United States.” And it is with movements like this that we begin to see progress in the global fight for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
A significant factor that helped the progress of Human Rights - and with that the Gay rights movement - is the start of an international community where multiple treaties were developed to protect the basic rights of every human being - an example: the human right to equality. With the introduction of international treaties, different countries started to incorporate within their laws aspects which would render their doctrines more inclusive and would protect the human rights of all their citizens.
We start seeing the implementation of inclusive laws in the Indian Constitution with articles 14 and 21, which state the right of equality before and equal protection under the law; we see it further in the preamble to the Indian Constitution, which “mandated justice, social, economic, and political equality of status for all”.
Some if the biggest improvements regarding the LGBTQ+ rights in India include:
2014, The Supreme Court of India establish that the rights and freedoms of transgender people are protected under the constitution.
2018, adult consensual same-sex relationships are decriminalized. Before this year it was punishable by law to have “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” - this clearly was a huge violation and discrimination against people of the LBGTQ+ community, since it essentially rendered homosexual relations illegal.
Although some changes have been made in the legal aspect, the cultural aspect is a big difficulty for people of the community. Stereotypes and discrimination towards LGBTQ+ individualsis frustratingly common - more so in small towns, where homosexuality is a very big taboo. This is also contributed to by a lack of diversity and accurate representation in the media.
But this has started to change, little by little. We start to see some representation in Bollywood - for example in “the coming-of-age romantic comedy “Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga,” about a lesbian woman coming out to her conservative family, and in the 2020 romantic comedy blockbuster, “Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan,” which features a gay couple.”
An investigation conducted by Equaldex (a collaborative knowledge base crowdsourcing LBGTQ+ rights) showed that of the population of India, 58% support same-sex marriage, 66% accept same-sex couples’ right to adopt, and 37% believe society should accept homosexuality. In this research we can see that there has been a lot of progress in the acceptance and respect for people that are part of the LGBTQ+ community, even though there’s a long way to go.
Even though we can see some progress in the laws of India and societal approach to the LGBTQ+ community, there are significant problems yet to be addressed.
While same-sex relationships in India are legal, same-sex marriages or civil unions are not recognized by law, and the rights to adoption and surrogacy are not available for same-sex couples. Other advances in the Human Rights movement - such as workplace discrimination laws and maternity benefits - do not contemplate LGBTQ+ people, and the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act takes only females into account.
Laws reflect the collective beliefs of a society, and in India the implementation of laws that protect or care for people of the LGBTQ+ community reflect a positive change towards acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals. There is no question that much progress has yet to be made in both the legal and the cultural aspect - because laws can be written down on treaties and legal documents, but they need to be respected, supported and guaranteed by the State so that all individuals can truly live their human rights to the fullest extent.
CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT. (n.d.). Fulbright to India Guide – 2021-2022. Retrieved May 20, 2022, from https://fulbrightindiaguide.org.in/cultural-adjustment/
Gay Rights. (2018, August 21). HISTORY; A&E Television Networks. https://www.history.com/topics/gay-rights/history-of-gay-rights
India, U. (2014). The Long Road to LGBT Equality in India. Un.org. https://in.one.un.org/blogs/the-long-road-to-lgbt-equality-in-india/
LGBT Rights in India | Equaldex. (2015, May 20). Equaldex.com. https://www.equaldex.com/region/india