(Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) LGBT Rights in India
“I love you, Not Your Body parts”
Homosexuality is romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual behaviors between members of the same sex or gender. In other word homosexuality refers to experience sexual, affectionate, or romantic attraction primarily or exclusively to people of the same sex.
HOMOSEXUALITY IN INDIA
Homophobia is prevalent in Indian society. Public discussion of homosexuality in India has been inhibited by the fact that sexuality in any form is rarely discussed openly. Moreover, Homosexuality is mostly a taboo subject in Indian civil society and for the government. Section 377 dating back to 1860 of the Indian Penal Code says that making sex with persons of same gender is punishable by law.
In recent years, however, attitudes towards homosexuality have shifted slightly. In particular, there have been more depictions and discussions of homosexuality in the Indian news media and by Bollywood. Several organisations, including the Naz Foundation (India) Trust, the National AIDS Control Organisation, Law Commission of India, Union Health Ministry, National Human Rights Commission and The Planning Commission of India have expressed support for decriminalizing homosexuality in India, and pushed for tolerance and social equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans gendered people.
Homosexuality and Hinduism
India is among countries with a social element of a third gender. But mental, physical, emotional and economic violence against LGBT community in India prevails. Lacking support from family, society or police many gay rape victims stay silent.Religion has played a role in shaping Indian customs and traditions. While homosexuality has not been explicitly mentioned in the religious texts central to Hinduism, the largest religion in India, Hinduism has taken various positions, ranging from positive to neutral or antagonistic. Rigveda, one of the four canonical sacred texts of Hinduism says Vikriti Evam Prakriti (Sanskrit: !वक$!तः एवम्+क$!तः। meaning what seems unnatural is also natural), which some scholars believe recognizes homosexual/transsexual dimensions of human life, like all forms of universal diversities. Historical literary evidence indicates that homosexuality has been prevalent across the Indian subcontinent throughout history, and that homosexuals were not necessarily considered inferior in any way.
LGBT community have never attained a legal status in the Indian society.They are always been deprived or neglected from the normal society. Inspite of the vast change in the minds of people, their relationship is regarded as sin. The legal status of LGBT are studied briefly here-
Support for decriminalization
In September 2006, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and acclaimed writer Vikram Seth and other prominent Indians publicly demanded the repeal of section 377 of the IPC.On 30 June 2008, Indian labour minister Oscar Fernandes calls for decriminalization of consensual gay sex, and the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for greater tolerance towards homosexuals.
On 23 July 2008, Bombay High Court Judge Bilal Nazki said that India’s unnatural sex law should be reviewed. On 9 August 2008, then health minister, Anbumani Ramadoss campaigned for changing “Section 377” of the Indian penal code, which makes homosexuality an unnatural act and thus illegal. At the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, he said, “Section 377 of IPC, which criminalizes men who have sex with men, must go.
The United Nations urged India to decriminalize homosexuality by saying it would help the fight against HIV/AIDS by allowing intervention programmes, much like the successful ones in China and Brazil. Jeffrey O’Malley, director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on HIV/AIDS, said “countries protecting homosexuals from discrimination had better records of protecting them from getting infected by the diseases. [But] unfortunately in India, the rates of new infections among men who have sex with men continue to go up.
In December 2002 Naz India filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to challenge IPC section 377 in the Delhi High Court. On 4 July 2008, gay activists fighting for decriminalization of consensual homosexuality at the Delhi High Court got a stimulus when the court opined that there was nothing unusual in holding a gay rally, something which is common outside India. On 2 July 2009, in the case of Naz Foundation v National Capital Territory of Delhi, the High Court of Delhi struck down much of S. 377 of the IPC as being unconstitutional.
The Court held that to the extent S. 377 criminalized consensual non-vaginal sexual acts between adults, it violated an individual’s fundamental rights to equality before the law, freedom from discrimination and to life and personal liberty under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India. The High Court did not strike down S. 377 completely – it held the section was valid to the extent it related to non-consensual non-vaginal intercourse or to intercourse with minors – and it expressed the hope that Parliament would soon legislatively address the issue.
On 11 December 2013, on appeal, the Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutionality of Section 377 of the IPC, and stated that the Court was instead deferring to Indian legislators to provide the sought-after clarity. In its judgment the Supreme court stated “We declare that Section 377 IPC, insofar it criminalizes consensual sexual acts of adults in private, is violative of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution. The provisions of Section 377 IPC will continue to govern non-consensual penile non-vaginal sex and penile non-vaginal sex involving minors… Secondly, we clarify that our judgment will not result in the re-opening of criminal cases involving Section 377 IPC that have already attained finality.“
The 11 December 2013 judgement of the Supreme Court, upholding Section 377 was met with support from religious leaders. The Daily News and Analysis called it “the univocal unity of religious leaders in expressing their homophobic attitude. Baba Ramdev India’s well-known yoga guru, after praying that journalists not “turn homosexual”, stated he could cure homosexuality through yoga and called it “a bad addiction”.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s vice-president Om Prakash Singhal said, “This is a right decision, we welcome it. Homosexuality is against Indian culture, against nature and against science. We are regressing, going back to when we were almost like animals.
On January 28, 2014 Supreme Court dismissed the review Petition filed by Central Government, NGO Naz Foundation and several others, against its December 11 verdict on Section 377 of IPC.
Maulana Madni of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind is echoed similar homophobia in stating that “Homosexuality is a crime according to scriptures and is unnatural. People cannot consider themselves to be exclusive of a society…
In a society, a family is made up of a man and a woman, not a woman and a woman, or a man and a man. If these same sex couples adopt children, the child will grow up with a skewed versions of a family. Society will disintegrate. If we are to look at countries in the West who have allowed same-sex marriages, you will find the mental tensions they suffer from.”
Rabbi Ezekiel Isaac Malekar, honorary secretary of the Judah Hyam Synagogue, in upholding the judgment was also quoted as saying “In Judaism, our scriptures do not permit homosexuality.“ Reverend Paul Swarup of the Cathedral Church of the Redemption in Delhi in stating his views on what he believes to be the unnaturalness of homosexuality, stated “Spiritually, human sexual relations are identified as those shared by a man and a woman. The Supreme Court’s view is an endorsement of our scriptures.”
Coming out and Pride Parades
In 2005, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, who hails from Rajpipla in the Gujarat, publicly came out as gay. He was quickly anointed by the Indian and the world media as the first openly gay royal. He was disinherited as an immediate reaction by the royal family, though they eventually reconciled. He appeared on the American talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show on October 24, 2007,and on BBC Three’s Undercover Princes. In 2008, Zoltan Parag, a competitor at the Mr. Gay International contest said that he was apprehensive about returning to India. He said, “Indian media has exposed me so much that now when I call my friends back home, their parents do not let them talk to me”.
On 29 June 2008, five Indian cities (Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Indore and Pondicherry) celebrated gay pride parades. About 2,000 people turned out in these nationwide parades. Mumbai held its pride march on 16 August 2008, with Bollywood actress Celina Jaitley also joining in the festivities. On 4 July 2008, the Delhi High Court, while hearing the case to decriminalize homosexuality, opined that there was nothing unusual in holding a gay rally, something which is common outside India. Days after the 2 July 2009 Delhi High Court verdict legalizing homosexuality Pink Pages, India’s first online LGBT magazine was released. On 16 April 2009, India’s first gay magazine Bombay Dost, was re-launched by Celina Jaitley in Mumbai.
On 27 June 2009, Bhubaneswar, the capital city of the Odisha, saw its first gay pride parade. The same day, Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily announced that the Union Home Minister has convened a meeting with the Union Law Ministers, Union Health Ministers and Home Ministers of all states to evolve a consensus on decriminalising homosexuality in India.
On 28 June 2009, Delhi and Bangalore held their second gay pride parades, and Chennai – generally considered to be a very conservative city – held its first. Attendance at the pride parades has been increasing significantly since 2008, with an estimated participation of 13,500 people in Delhi and 1,500 people in Bangalore in 2010, and a similar attendance of over 3,000 in Mumbai in 2011.
Mumbai has one of its biggest pride events –Kashish Mumbai Queer Film Festival which was first held in 2010 in April and the next year from May 25–29, 2011. It is the first queer film festival that is held in a mainstream multiplex theatre and screens LGBT films from all over the world. It has been recognized by Inter-pride as a pride event in India. Madurai celebrated city’s first LGBTQ Rainbow festival on 29-07-2012, Anjali Gopalan inaugurated Alan Turing Rainbow festival and flag offer the Asia’s first Gender queer pride parade as a part of Turing Rainbow festival organized by Srishti Madurai a literary and resource circle for alternative gender and sexualities it was established by Gopi Shankar a student of The American College in Madurai to eradicate social discrimination faced by the LGBT community, this is the first parade in Asia to highlight 20 other kinds of genders apart from LGBT. Kolkata Rainbow Pride festival held on 15 July 2012 was attended by more than 1500 people and many online forums like www.Jubwetalk.in, Desiboys, Velvet were present to support the cause. First Gujarat state LGBT pride parade in Surat was held on October 6, 2013.
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi- Guru of the Hijra
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi is a transgender rights activist, Hindi film actress and Bharatanatyam dancer in Mumbai, India. She was born in 1979 in Thane. Laxmi is a hijra. She is the first transgender person to represent Asia Pacific in the U.N. Laxmi has served on the boards of several NGOs which conduct LGBT activist work. In 2002 she became president of the NGO DAI Welfare Society, the first registered and working organization for eunuchs in South Asia.
Tripathi had been in a relationship with a man for two years and has two adopted children Laxmi had never worked as a prostitute like other hijra girls. When she was young, she made a living by dancing in bars in Bombay and later as a choreographer in Bollywood. Laxmi’s “Students“ ( cheala) are not permitted to touch neither her head or her hair, or walk ahead of her, and practically cannot do anything without her approval. Whoever crosses her must pay a large amount of money as punishment. Those who wouldn’t do so, will be banned from the Community. Laxmi’s publicity also causes jealousy among the other communities, which occasionally leads to violence. Recently one of Laxmi’s girls was injured in Kamtifora, a notorious area in Bombay .When someone turns to her for help, she immediately responds positively even if she comes from another community. The past, there were 30 trans-genders in Bombay community but some returned to their villages and most of them died of AIDS. A large percentage of the hijra girls’ community already had HIV before they entered the community of Laxmi, but while they are in the community, they are committed to safe sex, although some are tempted by money and not use condoms and endanger their lives. With the help of the organization she founded (ASTITVA), Laxmi emphasizes to her community the importance of safe sex by using sex education workshops.