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Human Rights & LGBTQIA+ Community In India

Human Rights & LGBTQIA+ Community in India

Session Report

Rahul Soni

IMPRI Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies, IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, conducted Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship – Cohort 2.0 Winter’23 on the theme: Promoting Human Rights and Ending Gender-Based Violence. The session was held on the  Occasion of Human Rights Day. December 10th 2023 marks the 75th anniversary of one of the world’s most groundbreaking global pledges: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).On the day the  session was marked by special lecture by Dr Aqsa Shaikh on LGBTQIA+ and their rights.

The session commenced by delineating the diverse spectrum encapsulated within LGBTQIA+—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and other gender and sexually diverse individuals. It proceeded to unravel the significant milestones in the progression of rights pertaining to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) on the global stage, notably within the United Nations (UN) framework.

Key Global Developments:

  • Yogyakarta Principles: Presented in the UN, these principles established an international standard for human rights law concerning SOGI, striving to ensure equality and dignity for LGBTQ individuals. Though not binding on states, they serve as a reference, influencing legal proceedings, including several cases in India.
  • UN Human Rights Council Resolutions: The resolutions condemning violence and discrimination against LGBTQ individuals highlighted the growing recognition of the need for protection and rights for this community. Additionally, the first UN expert meeting on ending human rights violations against intersex persons marked a significant step in acknowledging and addressing their distinct challenges.

Landmark Events in India

  • NALSA vs Union of India Judgment: A historic ruling that granted rights to self-identify for trans individuals, recognized the third gender, affirmed the fundamental right to dignity and non-discrimination, and acknowledged them as a socially and educationally backward class.
  • Section 377 Read Down: The Navtej Johar vs Union of India judgment upheld the equal citizenship rights of LGBTQI individuals, striking down Section 377 to exclude consensual adult same-sex relationships.
  • Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act: Though a step forward in prohibiting discrimination and providing healthcare facilities, the act lacked provisions for marriage, reproductive rights, and adequate punishment for transphobia.

Further Developments and Challenges

  • Ban on Conversion Therapy: The practice, considered inhumane, remains unregulated by law in India, although courts have condemned it. The lack of explicit legal bans leaves LGBTQIA+ individuals vulnerable.
  • NHRC Advisory on Transgender People: While focusing on transgender rights, the advisory neglects the broader spectrum of LGBTQIA+ rights, overlooking the concerns of LGB and queer communities.

Barriers to Equality

  • Marriage and Family Formation: Lack of recognition for same-sex marriage restricts rights and benefits for LGBTQIA+ couples. Adoption, surrogacy, and ART options are limited.
  • Medical Access and Legal Protections: Discriminatory blood donation regulations and the absence of specific laws against homophobia pose hurdles for LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Impact on Individuals

  • Discrimination and Bullying: Societal stigma leads to discrimination and abuse, especially among LGBTQIA+ children.
  • Mental Health Challenges: Discrimination contributes to mental health issues like depression and anxiety among the community.
  • Limited Life Opportunities: Legal and social barriers hinder access to basic rights and opportunities.

Call to Action

  • Recognize and Address Inequalities: Advocate for legal reforms and societal changes to foster inclusivity.
  • Individual and Collective Action: Promote acceptance, challenge discrimination, and support LGBTQIA+ rights.
  • Focus on Basic Rights: Prioritize safety, security, and equal opportunities for all individuals.

The session concluded with a call to recognize, understand, and actively address the inequalities faced by the LGBTQIA+ community in India, emphasizing the urgent need for collective efforts toward a more just and equitable society.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organisation.

Acknowledgment: Rahul Soni is a research Intern at IMPRI.

Read more by Dr Aqsa Shaikh:

Response of Health Care System with regard to Gender Diversity & Intersectional Marginalities

Healthcare & Gender Equity: Emerging Dimensions, Policies, Impact & Way Forward

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