“Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one. Now which seems unnatural….”
Section 377 has become history, but the LGBTQ+ youth in our country has a long way to go in terms of legal, healthcare and administrative laws. Though the Supreme Court has decriminalised homosexuality by declaring section 377 of Indian Penal Code as unconstitutional, there is still a need to make both society and law more inclusive towards this community.
The horror of being a part of the LGBTQ+ community in India could only be realised if we look at the struggles of these people against discrimination and atrocities they face. Families refuse to accept them due to religious sentiments and fear of damage to family honour. According to research published in the ‘Journal of Interpersonal Violence’, Indians were more likely to think that being a member of this community brought dishonour to their families and to approve of anti-gay abuse. The condition deteriorates much more in rural India where there have been cases of secret honour killings of gay men and family-sanctioned corrective rapes of lesbians. Often these felonies are perpetrated by their family members. There is a high drop out rate from school due to excessive anti-LGBT bullying, and most teachers aren’t trained nor empowered to respond to such cases. Even the government machinery is not well sensitised since people of this community are often harassed by police constables.
The recent case of Anjana Harish, a 21-year-old queer woman from Kerala, who committed suicide on 12 May 2020 after being taken to multiple de-addiction centres against her will by her family in order to cure her non-heterosexual orientation and being tortured physically and mentally there, has drawn attention to the dubious practice of conversion therapy. Conversion therapy uses unacceptable practices such as Electroconvulsive and Chemical Castration to cure people. Some doctors use psychotic drugs and conduct torturous psychosexual experiments pushing people into depression and confusion. Though conditions are not that severe everywhere, LGBT people and their parents must know that there are doctors who adjust their practices to what will get them more clients and money.
In educated urban India, where social media and corporate initiatives have created increased awareness of LGBT rights, and social marriages of the community are gaining acceptance, LGBTQ couples still yearn for equal marital rights such as Government pensions and medical benefits, inheritance and joint adoption since Same-Sex Marriage hasn’t been legalised in India yet.
Access to quality healthcare is still an ordeal. The community regularly experiences stigma and discrimination while seeking medical services. Apart from depression and substance abuse, HIV-AIDS is quite prevalent. Homelessness and violence increase the chances of suicide among LGBT youth. Lesbians are more likely to have Cervical, breast and endometrial cancers while gay men are prone to STDs, anal cancer and eating disorders. Even the process of gender reassignment for transsexuals is long and involves psychiatric, endocrinologic, and surgical evaluation beginning with hormone therapy. It may also cause sexual dysfunction and prostate cancer. With lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people facing such unique healthcare risks, there is a need to fully evaluate the health issues of this population and educate people on the need of screening and preventive measures.
Another aspect of the community which many people fail to realise is that the LGBTQ+ community is not confined to gays, lesbian and transgender. There are people who identify themselves as gender-fluid, pansexual, asexual, intersex, queer, gender-neutral and many more identities exist. What needs to be learned is that gender is a spectrum, and it cannot be limited to just two or three possibilities. Love has no gender, and there is still a need to accept this. Only then we could build a society where everybody is treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love.
Keeping this agenda in mind, IIT Delhi has “INDRADHANU”, a social club that aims to create a safe space for LGBT in the institute’s campus. The club was primarily involved in the petition against section 377. In 2019, IIT Delhi saw the successful organisation of the first-ever pride week in collaboration with NSS and was met by overwhelming support and praises. The breaking of conservative norms and disruption of discouraging silence could only be possible if we, as the student community, join hands and open the doors of acceptance and power to the LGBTQ+ community. https://www.facebook.com/IndradhanuIITD/
“The man of her dreams is a girl”
BY- Rishika Khanna