While we briefly discussed the history of LGBT in India in the Humble Beginnings of section 377, do we know everything about LGBT in India? Let’s dig deeper.
Homosexuality in India
Homosexuality has always been a taboo in India, despite having always been around unbeknownst to us. The 153-year-old-colonial-era law, i.e., section 377 of the Indian Penal Code made sexual intercourse with the same sex punishable by law. While there are no official demographics for the LGBTQIA+ population in India, according to figures submitted in 2012 to the Supreme Court of India by the Government of India, about 2.5 million gay people were recorded in India. But these figures are based on the individuals who declared to the Ministry of Health. Despite this being a huge number, the number of individuals who have concealed their identity is a lot higher; Indian homosexuals live in the closet due to fear of discrimination.
Apart from the fact that homosexuality is seldom discussed openly in the country, homophobia is prevalent in India and is one of the major causes of why things are the way they are in the country. But things have changed since then, with more depictions and discussion of homosexuality in Bollywood, and news outlets. Which not only has changed attitudes towards homosexuality, but also enabled people to look at homosexuality differently. India is one of the countries with a social element of a third gender, yet mental, physical, emotional, and economic violence towards LGBT community in India prevails.
People from the community not only face social, but also face legal difficulties many non-LGBT people don’t have to go through. While the community have gained more and more tolerance in India, most of them remain closeted, due to the fear of their families. Things like honour killings, attacks, torture, and beatings being common make matters so much worse. One of the most prevalent being the case of a hijra (intersex) that was gang-raped in Bangalore, and then gang-raped by the police in 2003. Multiple homosexuals in the country were blackmailed after the 2013 Supreme Court hearing. Due to ignore and discrimination, many forced opposite-sex marriages aren’t uncommon in rural parts of the country.
What Has Changed?
While the country was extremely liberal with homosexuality in Ancient India, Modern India didn’t want anything to do with it. Not until recently.
Whilst convictions under Section 377 were rare with no convictions at for homosexual intercourse in the next twenty years to 2009, Human Rights Watch have said that the law was used to harass HIV/AIDS prevention activists, as well as sex workers, men who have sex with men, and other LGBT groups.
While Homosexual Acts were considered a criminal offence from the introduction of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in 1860, all of that came to an end in 2009. Despite being overturned in 2013, all of that changed on 6 September 2018. Read more about why that happened here: https://bit.ly/2TMnYU6
Before the first, albeit brief, decriminalization even happened, multiple people publicly came out as a part of the community. One of them being Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, who hailed from the Royal family in Gujarat. He publicly came out as gay in 2005. Despite being disinherited from the Royal family, they eventually reconciled. But none of that could stop the Prince. He appeared on multiple shows, one of which was The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2007 and would talk about homosexuality, his experiences and more.
On June 2008, five Indian cities celebrated gay pride parades. Days after the 2009 verdict, India’s first online LGBT magazine was launched. And a month before that, India’s first Gay magazine that was originally launched in 1990, was relaunched.
Has the Legalization Made Things Any Better?
Section 377 has been decriminalized, and the community looks at it as a huge step towards bigger things. But how could this lead to bigger things, when the bullying and harassment still exists?
One of the first mentions of this comes from 2012, when a Trans woman claims to have been raped by two police officials. Not only did they rape her, but they also took away her phone and all the cash she had.
While this isn’t one of the only mentions of police brutality against the Transgender community, it hasn’t really stopped despite the law acknowledging the third gender, or even after the decriminalization of Section 377. While there isn’t a suitable legislation to protect the right of the Transgender community, there is a bill called the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016. It is still pending in the parliament since most activists believe it won’t do any good.
It doesn’t look like the decriminalisation has made things any better, but only time will tell where this will take the LGBTQIA+ community. If you want to reach out to someone and/or find out more about the community; look at this list of links for organisations and initiatives:
No Homo, Bro! is part two of my Section #377 series. Keep looking at this space for more.