LGBT rights in India
Area controlled by India shown in dark green;
claimed but uncontrolled regions shown in light green.
|Status||Legal since 2018, unclear in Jammu and Kashmir|
|Gender identity||Transgender people have a constitutional right to change their legal gender and a third gender is recognised|
|Military||No, bill pending to allow LGBT people to serve openly|
|Discrimination protections||Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity from the state or government bodies is prohibited|
|Recognition of relationships||No recognition of same-sex relationships|
Transgender women may marry under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 since 2019
|Adoption||Adoption by single LGBT people recognized, but not by same-sex couples|
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Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in India may face legal and social difficulties not experienced by non-LGBT persons. Over the past decade, LGBT people have gained more and more tolerance and acceptance in India, especially in large cities. Nonetheless, most LGBT people in India remain closeted, fearing discrimination from their families, who might see homosexuality as shameful. Discrimination is still present in rural areas, where LGBT people often face rejection from their families and forced opposite-sex marriages.
Sexual activity between people of the same gender is legal. Although same-sex couples are not legally recognized currently by any form, performing a symbolic same-sex marriage is not prohibited under Indian law either. On 6 September 2018, the Supreme Court of India decriminalised homosexuality by declaring Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional. Homosexuality was never illegal or a criminal offence in ancient Indian and traditional codes but was criminalised by the British during their rule in India.
International relations regarding LGBT rights in India has also been shown to be a significant driver of policy shifts. These shifts and the reasoning behind them have proven to be a convoluted field for international scholarly debate.
Since 2014, transgender people in India have been allowed to change their gender without sex reassignment surgery, and have a constitutional right to register themselves under a third gender. Additionally, some states protect hijras, a traditional third gender population in South Asia, through housing programmes, welfare benefits, pension schemes, free surgeries in government hospitals and others programmes designed to assist them. There are approximately 4.8 million transgender people in India.
- 1 Law regarding same-sex sexual activity
- 2 Recognition of same-sex relationships
- 3 Discrimination protections
- 4 Transgender rights
- 5 Conversion therapy
- 6 Living conditions
- 7 Intersex rights
- 8 Public opinion
- 9 Notable Indian LGBTI rights activists
- 10 Summary table
- 11 Queer international relations and the Indian state
- 12 See also
- 13 References
Law regarding same-sex sexual activity
The Khajuraho temples, famous for their erotic sculptures, contain several depictions of homosexual activity. Historians have long argued that pre-colonial Indian society did not criminalise same-sex relationships, nor did it view such relations as immoral or sinful. Hinduism, India's largest religion, has traditionally portrayed homosexuality as natural and joyful, though some Hindu texts do contain injunctions against homosexuality namely among priests. Hinduism also acknowledges a third gender known as hijra. There are multiple characters in the Mahabharata who change genders, such as Shikhandi, who is born female but identifies as male and eventually marries a woman. Bahuchara Mata is the goddess of fertility, worshipped by hijras as their patroness. The Nāradasmṛti and the Sushruta Samhita, two important scriptures from ancient India relating to dharma and medicine, respectively, declare homosexuality to be "incurable" and forbid homosexuals from marrying a partner of the opposite sex. The Nāradasmṛti lists fourteen types of panda (men who are impotent with women); among these are the mukhebhaga (men who have oral sex with other men), the sevyaka (men who are sexually enjoyed by other men) and the irshyaka (the voyeur who watches other men engaging in sex). The Kama Sutra, a Sanskrit text on human sexual behaviour, uses the term tritiya-prakriti to define men with homosexual desires and describes their practices in great detail. Likewise, the Kama Sutra describes lesbians (svairini, who engage in aggressive lovemaking with other women), bisexuals (referred to as kami or paksha), transgender and intersex people. The Sushruta Samhita and the Charaka Samhita delve further into the issue of homosexuality, stating that homosexuals are conceived when the father's semen is scanty and transgender people are conceived when the father and mother reverse roles during intercourse (purushayita, "woman on top"). Modern societal homophobia was introduced to India by the European colonisers and the subsequent enactment of Section 377 by the British, which stood for more than 70 years after Indian independence.
During the Mughal Empire, a number of the preexisting Delhi Sultanate laws were combined into the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri, mandating a common set of punishments for zina (unlawful intercourse). These could include 50 lashes for a slave, 100 for a free infidel, or death by stoning for a Muslim. In practice, however, this stipulation was largely ignored, for the elite at least. Homoeroticism was quite common in Mughal court life, and transgender individuals held high positions in courts of Mughal rulers in the 16th and 17th centuries. Mughal Emperor Babur was known to have a crush on a boy, and recorded it in his memoirs. Other prominent Mughal men who engaged in homosexuality include Ali Quli Khan, and poet Sarmad Kashani who had such a crush on a Hindu boy that he went to his home naked. In contrast, homosexual acts were regarded as taboo among the common Mughal people.
The British Raj criminalised anal sex and oral sex (for both heterosexuals and homosexuals) under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which entered into force in 1861. This made it an offence for a person to voluntarily have "carnal intercourse against the order of nature." Scholars have also argued that the original intention of Section 377 was to act as a means by which the British Raj could further police and control the body of the colonial subject. In colonial Victorian era morality, these subjects were seen as erotically perverse and in need of the imposition.
In 1884, a court in north India, ruling on the prosecution of a hijra, commented that a physical examination of the accused revealed she "had the marks of a habitual catamite" and commended the police's desire to "check these disgusting practices". In 1871, the British labeled the hijra population as a "criminal tribe".
In 2003, the Indian Government said that legalising homosexuality would "open the floodgates of delinquent behaviour".
In 2009, the Delhi High Court decision in Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi found Section 377 and other legal prohibitions against private, adult, consensual, and non-commercial same-sex conduct to be in direct violation of fundamental rights provided by the Indian Constitution. Section 377 stated that: "Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with [imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine," with the added explanation that: "Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section."
According to a previous ruling by the Indian Supreme Court, decisions of a high court on the constitutionality of a law apply throughout India, and not just to the state over which the high court in question has jurisdiction.
There have been incidents of harassment of LGBT groups by authorities under the law.
On 23 February 2012, the Ministry of Home Affairs expressed its opposition to the decriminalisation of homosexual activity, stating that in India, homosexuality is seen as being immoral. The Central Government reversed its stance on 28 February 2012, asserting that there was no legal error in decriminalising homosexual activity. The shift in stance resulted in two judges of the Supreme Court reprimanding the Central Government for frequently changing its approach to the issue.
Human Rights Watch expressed concerns that the Supreme Court ruling would render same-sex couples and individuals that had become open about their sexuality following the High Court's ruling vulnerable to police harassment and blackmail, stating that "the Supreme Court's ruling is a disappointing setback to human dignity, and the basic rights to privacy and non-discrimination" The Naz Foundation stated that it would file a petition for review of the court's decision. Activist group Kavi's Humsafar Trust have reported that two-fifths of homosexuals in the country had faced blackmail after the 2013 ruling.
On 28 January 2014, the Supreme Court of India dismissed the review petition filed by the Central Government, the Naz Foundation and several others against its 11 December verdict on Section 377. The bench explained the ruling by claiming that: "While reading down Section 377, the High Court overlooked that a minuscule fraction of the country’s population constitutes lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgender people, and in the more than 150 years past, less than 200 persons have been prosecuted for committing offence under Section 377, and this cannot be made a sound basis for declaring that Section ultra vires Articles 14, 15 and 21."
On 18 December 2015, Shashi Tharoor, a member of the Indian National Congress party, introduced a bill for the repeal of Section 377, but it was rejected in the House by a vote of 71-24. Shashi Tharoor is planning to re-introduce the bill.
On 2 February 2016, the Supreme Court decided to review the criminalisation of homosexual activity. In August 2017, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the right to individual privacy is an intrinsic and fundamental right under the Indian Constitution. The Court also ruled that a person's sexual orientation is a privacy issue, giving hopes to LGBT activists that the Court would soon strike down Section 377.
In January 2018, the Supreme Court agreed to refer the question of Section 377's validity to a large bench, and heard several petitions on 1 May 2018. In response to the court's request for its position on the petitions, the Government announced that it would not oppose the petitions, and would leave the case "to the wisdom of the court". A hearing began on 10 July 2018, with a verdict expected before October 2018. Activists view the case as the most significant and "greatest breakthrough for gay rights since the country's independence", and it could have far-reaching implications for other Commonwealth countries that still outlaw homosexuality.
On 6 September 2018, the Supreme Court issued its verdict. The Court unanimously ruled that Section 377 is unconstitutional as it infringed on the fundamental rights of autonomy, intimacy and identity, thus legalising homosexuality in India. The Court explicitly overturned its 2013 judgement.
Criminalising carnal intercourse is irrational, arbitrary and manifestly unconstitutional.
History owes an apology to these people and their families. Homosexuality is part of human sexuality. They have the right of dignity and free of discrimination. Consensual sexual acts of adults are allowed for [the] LGBT community.— Justice Indu Malhotra
It is difficult to right a wrong by history. But we can set the course for the future. This case involves much more than decriminalizing homosexuality. It is about people wanting to live with dignity.— Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud
Furthermore, it ruled that any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a violation of the Indian Constitution:
Sexual orientation is one of the many biological phenomena which is natural and inherent in an individual and is controlled by neurological and biological factors. The science of sexuality has theorized that an individual exerts little or no control over who he/she gets attracted to. Any discrimination on the basis of one‘s sexual orientation would entail a violation of the fundamental right of freedom of expression.
The Supreme Court also directed the Government to take all measures to properly broadcast the fact that homosexuality is not a criminal offence, to create public awareness and eliminate the stigma members of the LGBT community face, and to give the police force periodic training to sensitise them about the issue.
The judgement also included an inbuilt safeguard to ensure that it cannot be revoked again under the "Doctrine of Progressive Realisation of Rights".
Legal experts have urged the Government to pass legislation reflecting the decision, and frame laws to allow same-sex marriage, adoption by same-sex couples and inheritance rights.
Non-consensual sex (rape) and bestiality remain criminal offences. The Supreme Court ruling may not extend to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which is governed by its own criminal law, the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC). Legal opinion is divided on whether the Supreme Court judgment applies to the state or not. Per a 1995 judgment of the state High Court, when an IPC (Indian Penal Code) provision is struck down on grounds of violating the Constitution, its corresponding provision in the Ranbir Penal Code too would be struck down. However, it has yet to be determined if Section 377 of the RPC is identical to its IPC version. LGBT activists in Jammu and Kashmir have already announced their intention to challenge the RPC.
Recognition of same-sex relationships
Same-sex marriages are not legally recognised in India nor are same-sex couples offered limited rights such as a civil union or a domestic partnership. In 2011, a Haryana court granted legal recognition to a same-sex marriage, involving two women. After marrying, the couple began to receive threats from friends and relatives in their village. The couple eventually won family approval.
Their lawyer said the court had served notice on 14 of Veena's relatives and villagers who had threatened them with "dire consequences". Haryana has been the centre of widespread protests by villagers who believe their village councils or khaps should be allowed to impose their own punishments on those who disobey their rulings or break local traditions – mainly honour killings of those who marry within their own gotra or sub-caste, regarded in the state as akin to incest. Deputy Commissioner of Police Dr. Abhe Singh told The Daily Telegraph: "The couple has been shifted to a safe house and we have provided adequate security to them on the court orders. The security is provided on the basis of threat perception and in this case the couple feared that their families might be against the relationship."
It defines marriage as "the legal union as prescribed under this Act of a man with a woman, a man with another man, a woman with another woman a transgender with another transgender or a transgender with a man or a woman. All married couples in partnership entitled to adopt a child. Sexual orientation of the married couple or the partners not to be a bar to their right to adoption. Non-heterosexual couples will be equally entitled to adopt a child".
There are currently several same-sex marriage petitions pending with the courts.
15. Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth
- (1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them
- (2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to
- (a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and palaces of public entertainment; or
- (b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public
In the case of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, the Supreme Court ruled that the Indian Constitution bans discrimination based on sexual orientation via the category of "sex". Similarly in the case of National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, the Supreme Court ruled that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is constitutionnally prohibited.
Gender identity, in our view, is an integral part of sex and no citizen can be discriminated on the ground of gender identity, including those who identify as third gender. We, therefore, conclude that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity includes any discrimination, exclusion, restriction or preference, which has the effect of nullifying or transposing equality by the law or the equal protection of laws guaranteed under our Constitution.— Supreme Court Judge K. S. Panicker Radhakrishnan
Sex as it occurs in Article 15, is not merely restricted to the biological attributes of an individual, but also includes their "sexual identity and character".— Supreme Court of India
Despite these constitutional interpretations, no explicit law has been enacted to ban discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. Indeed, India does not possess comprehensive anti-discrimination laws for discrimination and harassment in private employment, except for sexual harassment. Article 15 only extends to discrimination from the state or government bodies. Currently pending, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 would ban discrimination against transgender people in areas such as private employment, education and healthcare (see below for more details).
LGBT activists are encouraging people who have faced discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in private employment or other non-state areas to mount challenges in court, seeking to test the jurisprudence set by the two rulings. They are also campaining for an explicit anti-discrimination law that would extend to private discrimination.
LGBT people are banned from openly serving in the Indian Armed Forces. In late December 2018, MP Jagdambika Pal (BJP) introduced a bill to the Indian Parliament to amend the Army Act, 1950, the Navy Act, 1957 and the Air Force Act, 1950 and allow LGBT people to serve in the Armed Forces.
South Asia (modern-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal) has traditionally recognised a third gender population, considered by society as neither male or female. Such individuals are known as hijras or alternatively hijadas (Hindi, Maithili and Dogri: हिजड़ा; Bengali: হিজড়া; Nepali: हिजडा; Marathi: हिजडा). In Telugu, they are referred to as napunsakudu (నపుంసకుడు) or hijrā (హిజ్రా), in Urdu as khwaja sara (ہیجڑا), in Gujarati as pavaiyaa (પાવૈયા) or hījadā (હીજડા), in Tamil as aravani (அரவாணி), in Punjabi as khusra (ਖੁਸਰਾ), in Odia as hinjada (ହିଂଜଡା), in Sindhi as khadra (کدڙا), in Malayalam as sandan (ഷണ്ഡന്) or hijada (ഹിജഡ), in Kannada as chhakka (ಚಕ್ಕ), in Konkani as izddo, in Manipuri as nupi manbi, in Kashmiri as napumsakh (नपुंसख्), in Assamese as npunnsk (নপুংসক), in Santali as cakra (ᱪᱟᱠᱨᱟ), in Sanskrit as klība (क्लीब), napumsa (नपुंस) or shandha (षण्ढ), and in Mizo as mil tilreh. In English language publications, these terms are given to eunuchs, intersex people or transgender people.
Hijras were legally granted voting rights as a third sex in 1994. Due to alleged legal ambiguity of the procedure, Indian transgender individuals have difficulties accessing safe medical facilities for surgery. On 15 April 2014, the Supreme Court of India declared transgender people a socially and economically backward class entitled to reservations in education and jobs, and also directed union and state governments to frame welfare schemes for them. The Court ruled that transgender people have a fundamental constitutional right to change their gender without any sort of surgery, and called on the Government to ensure equal treatment for transgender people. The Court also ruled that the Indian Constitution mandates the recognition of a third gender on official documents, and that Article 15 bans discrimination based on gender identity. In light of the ruling, government documents, such as voter ID cards, passports and bank forms, have started providing a third gender option alongside male (M) and female (F), usually designated "other" (O), "third gender" (TG) or "transgender" (T).
In 2013, transgender and gender activists S. Swapna and Gopi Shankar Madurai from Srishti Madurai staged a protest in the Madurai collectorate on 7 October 2013 demanding reservation and to permit alternate genders to appear for examinations conducted by TNPSC, UPSC, SSC and Bank exams. Swapna, incidentally, had successfully moved the Madras High Court in 2013 seeking permission to write the TNPSC Group II exam as a female candidate. Swapna is the first transgender person to clear TNPSC Group IV exams.
On 24 April 2015, the Rajya Sabha unanimously passed the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014 guaranteeing rights and entitlements, reservations in education and jobs (2% reservation in government jobs), legal aid, pensions, unemployment allowances and skill development for transgender people. It also contains provisions to prohibit discrimination in employment as well as prevent abuse, violence and exploitation of transgender people. The bill also provides for the establishment of welfare boards at the centre and state level as well as for transgender rights courts. The bill was introduced by DMK MP Tiruchi Siva, and marked the first time the upper house had passed a private member's bill in 45 years. However, the bill contains several anomalies and a lack of clarity on how various ministries will coordinate to implement its provisions. The bill is still pending in the lower house.
Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot stated on 11 June 2015 that the Government would introduce a new comprehensive bill for transgender rights in the Monsoon session of Parliament. The bill would be based on the study on transgender issues conducted by a committee appointed on 27 January 2014. According to Gehlot, the Government intends to provide transgender people with all rights and entitlements currently enjoyed by scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, which was initially introduced to Parliament in August 2016, was re-introduced to Parliament in late 2017. Some transgender activists have opposed the bill because it does not address issues such as marriage, adoption and divorce for transgender people. Akkai Padmashali criticised the bill's definition of transgenderism, which states that transgender people are "based on the underlying assumption of biological determinism". The bill passed the Lok Sabha on 17 December 2018 with 27 amendments, including a controversial clause prohibiting transgender people from begging.
The states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala were the first Indian states to introduce a transgender welfare policy. According to the policy, transgender people can access free sex reassignment surgery (SRS) in government hospitals (only for male-to-female), free housing program; various citizenship documents, admission in government colleges with full scholarship for higher studies, alternative sources of livelihood through formation of self-help groups (for savings) and initiating income-generation programmes (IGP). Tamil Nadu was also the first state to form a transgender welfare board with representatives from the transgender community. Kerala started providing free surgery in government hospitals in 2016.
In July 2016, the state of Odisha enacted welfare benefits for transgender people, giving them the same benefits as those living below the poverty line. This was aimed at improving their overall social and economic status, according to the Odisha Department of Social Security.
In October 2017, the Karnataka Government issued the "State Policy for Transgenders, 2017", with the aim of raising awareness of transgender people within all educational institutions in the state. Educational institutions will address issues of violence, abuse and discrimination against transgender people. It also established a monitoring committee designed with investigating reports of discrimination.
On 28 November 2017, N. Chandrababu Naidu, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, announced the enactment of pension plans for transgender people. On 16 December 2017, the Andhra Cabinet passed the policy. According to the policy, the State Government will provide an amount of ₹1,500 per month to each transgender person above the age of 18 for social security pensions. In addition, the Government will construct special toilets in public places, like malls and cinema halls, for transgender people.
In January 2018, the Kashmiri Finance Minister introduced a proposal to the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly that would grant transgender people free life and medical insurance, and a monthly sustenance pension for those aged 60+ and registered with the Social Welfare Department. Transgender activists have criticised aspects of the bill, including its requirement to establish medical boards to issue "transgender certificates".
The Uttarakhand High Court directed the state Government in late September 2018 to provide reservation for transgender people in educational institutions. The court also asked the Government to frame social welfare programmes for the betterment of transgender people.
In February 2019, the Maharashtra Government set up a "Transgender Welfare Board" to conduct health programmes and provide formal education and employment opportunities to transgender people. The board provides skill development programmes to help transgender people find a job and free accommodation for those seeking scholarships. A similar board was also set up in the neighbouring state of Gujarat that same month. The Gujarat board provides various welfare programmes for employment and education, and coordinates with state departments to ensure that the transgender community is able to take advantage of government schemes. An educational campaign was also established in order to sensitise the public.
On 22 April 2019, the Madras High Court, the high court of Tamil Nadu, ruled that the term "bride" under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 includes transwomen. Specifically, it directed the authorities to register a marriage between a man and a transgender woman.
Third-gender literature and studies
Vaadamalli by novelist Su. Samuthiram is the first Tamil novel about the local aravani community in Tamil Nadu, published in 1994. Later, transgender activist A. Revathi became the first hijra to write about hijra issues and gender politics in Tamil. Her works have been translated into more than eight languages and act as a primary resource on gender studies in Asia. Her book is part of a research project for more than 100 universities. She is the author of Unarvum Uruvamum (Feelings of the Entire Body), the first of its kind in English from a member of the hijra community. She also acted and directed several stage plays on gender and sexuality issues in Tamil and Kannada. The Truth about Me: A Hijra Life Story by A. Revathi is part of the syllabus for final year students of The American College in Madurai. The American College is the first college in India to introduce third gender literature and studies with research-oriented seminars. Later, Naan Saravanan's Alla (2007) and Vidya's I Am Vidya (2008) were among early transwoman autobiographies. Kalki Subramaniam's Kuri Aruthean (Phallus, I cut) is a collection of Tamil poems about transgender lives.
The American College in Madurai also introduced Maraikappatta Pakkangal (Hidden Pages) as a course book for "Genderqueer and Intersex Human Rights studies" as part of the curriculum for Tamil and English department students in 2018. It is the first book on the LGBT community in the Tamil language, launched by Gopi Shankar Madurai and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vanathi Srinivasan in 2014.
In February 2014, the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) issued a statement, in which it stated that there is no evidence to prove that homosexuality is unnatural: "Based on existing scientific evidence and good practice guidelines from the field of psychiatry, the Indian Psychiatric Society would like to state that there is no evidence to substantiate the belief that homosexuality is a mental illness or a disease."
Despite this statement from the IPS, conversion therapies are still performed in India. These practices usually involve electroconvulsive therapy (which may lead to memory loss), hypnosis, the administration of nausea-inducing drugs, or more commonly talk therapy where the individual is told that homosexuality is caused by "insufficient male affirmation in childhood" or "an uncaring father and an overbearing mother". Conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, seizures, drug use and suicidal tendencies for the individuals involved.
In June 2018, IPS reiterated its stance on homosexuality saying: "Certain people are not cut out to be heterosexual and we don’t need to castigate them, we don't need to punish them, to ostracize them".
There are many avenues for the LGBT community in metro cities for meeting and socialising, although not very openly. These include GayBombay, Good as You, HarmlessHugs. Recently, a queer dating platform named "Amour Queer Dating" was launched to help LGBT people find long-term partners.
There have many reports of abuse, harrasment and violence over the years directed against LGBT people. In 2003, a hijra was gang-raped in Bangalore, and then gang-raped by the police. Testimonies provided to the Delhi High Court in 2007 documented how a gay man abducted by the police in Delhi was raped by police officials for several days and forced to sign a "confession" saying "I am a gandu [a derogatory term, meaning one who has anal sex]". In 2011, a Haryana lesbian couple was murdered by their nephews for being in an "immoral" relationship. According to reports from activist group Kavi's Humsafar Trust, two-fifths of homosexuals in the country had faced blackmail after the 2013 Supreme Court ruling. Suicide attempts are common. In early 2018, a lesbian couple committed suicide and left a note reading: "We have left this world to live with each other. The world did not allow us to stay together."
In February 2017, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare unveiled resource material relating to health issues to be used as a part of a nationwide adolescent peer-education plan called Saathiya. Among other subjects, the material discusses homosexuality. The material states, "Yes, adolescents frequently fall in love. They can feel attraction for a friend or any individual of the same or opposite sex. It is normal to have special feelings for someone. It is important for adolescents to understand that such relationships are based on mutual consent, trust, transparency and respect. It is alright to talk about such feelings to the person for whom you have them but always in a respectful manner."
In 2017, Delhi held its tenth pride parade, attended by hundreds of people. Chennai has held pride parades since 2009, while Goa held its first pride parade in October 2017. Bhubaneswar organised its first in September 2018, and Guwahati held its first pride event in February 2014. The first such event in Sikkim was held in January 2019 in the city of Gangtok.
On 17 May 2018, the International Day Against Homophobia, activities were held throughout the country, including in Bhopal, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolhapur, Thiruvananthapuram and Lucknow. Numerous foreign embassies (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States) expressed support for LGBT rights in India, and reaffirmed their countries' commitement to promote human rights.
According to a 2018 survey, a third of Indian gay men are married to women who are unaware that they are secretly gay.
The All India Hijra Kalyan Sabha fought for over a decade to get voting rights, which they finally got in 1994. In 1996, Kali stood for office in Patna under the then Judicial Reform Party. Munni ran in the elections as well for South Mumbai that year. They both lost.
After the defeat of Kali and Munni, three years later, Kamla Jaan ran and won the position of the Mayor of Katni. Later, Shabnam Mausi was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Madhya Pradesh in 2002. Over the next few years, multiple other transgender candidates won office. These include Heera who won a seat at the City Council of Jabalpur and Gulshan who was elected to the City Council in Bina Etawa. In December 2000, Asha Devi became the Mayor of Gorakhpur, and Kallu Kinnar was elected to the City Council in Varanasi.
Shabnam Mausi is the first transgender Indian to be elected to public office. She was an elected member of the Madhya Pradesh State Legislative Assembly from 1998 to 2003. In 2000, Shabnam Mausi became India's first eunuch MP. Transgender people were granted voting rights in 1994. In 2003, hijras in Madhya Pradesh announced the establishment of their own political party called "Jeeti Jitayi Politics" (JJP), which literally means "politics that has already been won". The party also has released an eight-page election manifesto which it claims outlines why it is different from mainstream political parties.
Kalki Subramaniam is a transgender rights activist, writer and an actor. In the 2011 assembly elections in Tamil Nadu, Kalki tried in vain to get a DMK ticket. In March 2014, Kalki announced in Puducherry that she would contest a seat in an election in the Villupuram constituency in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
Manabi Bandopadhyay became India's first transgender college principal on 9 June 2015 when she assumed the role of principal of the Krishnagar Women's College in Nadia district, West Bengal.
On 5 November 2015, K. Prithika Yashini became the first transgender police officer in the state of Tamil Nadu. At the time, the Tamil Nadu police had three transgender constables, but Yashini became the first transgender person to hold the rank of officer in the state.
On 12 February 2017, two transgender people were appointed by the Kolhapur District Legal Services Authority (KDLSA) as panel members for the local Lok Adalat (People's Court). 30 panels were appointed to settle general local disputes that arise within the community. Members of the KDLSA have stated: "Our main achievement wathe s inclusion of transgenders as panelist in Lok Adalat. As per the Supreme Court's judgment, transgenders must be recognised as the third gender in our country. As per the norm, we have put in efforts and included two transgenders Mayuri Alawekar and Yuvraj Alavankar as panel members."
In July 2017, Joyita Mondal was appointed to the Islampur Lok Adalat, becoming West Bengal's first transgender judge. In 2018, Swati Bidham Baruah became the first transgender judge in Assam. Swati, founder of the All Assam Transgender Association, was appointed to the Guwahati Lok Adalat.
Intersex issues in India may often be perceived as third gender issues. The most well-known third gender groups in India are the hijras. After interviewing and studying hijras for many years, Serena Nanda writes in her book, Neither Man Nor Woman: The hijras of India, as follows: "There is a widespread belief in India that hijras are born hermaphrodites [intersex] and are taken away by the hijra community at birth or in childhood, but I found no evidence to support this belief among the hijras I met, all of whom joined the community voluntarily, often in their teens." Sangam literature uses the word pedi to refer to people born intersex, but the indigenous gender minorities in India were clear about intersex people and referred to them as mabedi usili and gave a distinct identity to denote them. Also, there is evidence that few intersex people choose to identify as transgender.
Physical integrity and bodily autonomy
Intersex persons are not protected from violations to physical integrity and bodily autonomy.
Cases of infanticide have been reported involving infants with obvious intersex conditions at birth, along with a failure to thrive by infants assigned female. Medical reports suggest that parents in India prefer to assign infants with intersex conditions as male, with surgical interventions taking place when parents can afford them.
In a reply to a letter from an intersex rights activist Gopi Shankar Madurai, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India replied that "Any kind of invasive medical procedure including sex reassignment surgeries are done only after thorough assessment of the patient, obtaining justification for the procedure planned to be conducted with the help of appropriate diagnostic test and only after taking a written consent of the patient/guardian".
On 22 April 2019, the Madras High Court issued a landmark judgment, in which it upheld the marriage rights of transgender women, and directed the state of Tamil Nadu to ban sex-selective surgeries on intersex infants. Based on the works of intersex activist Gopi Shankar, the Court took note of the rampant practice of compulsory medical interventions performed on intersex infants and children. The court further cited examples from Hindu mythology in its ruling, namely the story of Aravan.
Protection from discrimination
Multiple Indian athletes have been subjected to humiliation, discrimination and loss of work and medals following sex verification. Middle-distance runner Santhi Soundarajan, who won the silver medal in 800 m at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, was stripped of her medal, and later attempted suicide. Track athlete Pinki Pramanik was accused by a female roommate of rape and later charged, gender tested and declared male, though she and other medical experts dispute these claims. Indian athlete Dutee Chand won a case against the IAAF in 2015, enabling women athletes with high testosterone levels to compete as women, on the basis that there is no clear evidence of performance benefits. In 2016, some sports clinicians stated: "One of the fundamental recommendations published almost 25 years ago ... that athletes born with a disorder of sex development and raised as females be allowed to compete as women remains appropriate".
Intersex people in Indian politics
Gopi Shankar Madurai was one of the youngest, and the first openly intersex and genderqueer, candidate to run in an Indian election, contesting a seat in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly election, 2016.
Public opinion regarding LGBT rights in India is complex. According to a 2016 poll by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, 35% of Indian people were in favor of legalising same-sex marriage, with a further 35% opposed. A survey by the Varkey Foundation found that support for same-sex marriage was higher among 18-21 year olds at 53%.
According to a 2017 poll carried out by ILGA, 58% of Indians agreed that gay, lesbian and bisexual people should enjoy the same rights as straight people, while 30% disagreed. Additionally, 59% agreed that they should be protected from workplace discrimination. 39% of Indians, however, said that people who are in same-sex relationships should be charged as criminals, while a plurality of 44% disagreed. As for transgender people, 66% agreed that they should have the same rights, 62% believed they should be protected from employment discrimination and 60% believed they should be allowed to change their legal gender.
Notable Indian LGBTI rights activists
|1||Anjali Ameer||Malayalam film actress|
|2||Nakshatra Bagwe||Award-winning filmmaker, actor, and India's first gay brand ambassador|
|3||Manabi Bandyopadhyay||India's first openly transgender college principal and first transgender person to hold a PhD|
|4||Vinay Chandran||Gay and human rights activist|
|5||Bobby Darling||Transgender actress and vocal supporter of LGBT rights|
|6||Tista Das||Transgender activist|
|7||Sushant Divgikar||Mr. India Gay 2014|
|8||Pablo Ganguli||Cultural entrepreneur, artist, director and impresario|
|9||Rituparno Ghosh||Popular filmmaker, winner of 11 Indian National Film Awards|
|10||Anjali Gopalan||Human rights activist|
|11||Andrew Harvey||Author, religious scholar and teacher of mystic traditions|
|12||Harish Iyer||Activist, columnist and blogger|
|13||Celina Jaitley||Miss India 2001|
|14||Firdaus Kanga||Writer and actor|
|15||Karpaga||First transgender person in India to perform a leading role in a mainstream movie|
|17||Agniva Lahiri||Social activist (PLUS Kolkata)|
|18||Nolan Lewis||Mr. India Gay 2013|
|19||Leena Manimekalai||Poet, writer and film maker|
|20||Shabnam Mausi||First openly transgender person to participate in Indian elections|
|21||Hoshang Merchant||Teacher, poet and critic|
|22||Ismail Merchant||Film producer and director|
|23||Raul Patil||Mr. India Gay 2011|
|24||Zoltan Parag||Mr. India Gay 2008|
|25||Onir||Award-winning film director|
|26||Sridhar Rangayan||Filmmaker, and founder and festival director of Kasish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival|
|27||R. Raj Rao||Writer, professor of literature|
|28||A. Revathi||Actor, artist, writer and theater activist|
|29||Wendell Rodricks||Fashion designer and choreographer|
|30||Ashok Row Kavi||Founder of Humsafur Trust|
|31||Aishwarya Rutuparna Pradhan||First openly transgender civil servant and Odisha Financial Services officer|
|32||Nishit Saran||Filmmaker and gay rights activist|
|34||Gopi Shankar Madurai||Genderqueer activist, recipient of the Commonwealth Youth Worker Asia Finalist Award and founder of Srishti Madurai|
|35||Parvez Sharma||Writer and documentary filmmaker|
|36||Manvendra Singh Gohil||Hereditary Prince of Rajpipla|
|37||Ramchandra Siras||Linguist and author|
|38||Living Smile Vidya||Actor, artist, writer, and theater activist|
|39||Kalki Subramaniam||Transgender activist, actor, artist, writer and founder of Sahodari Foundation|
|40||Manil Suri||Indian-American mathematician and writer|
|41||S. Swapna||First transwoman to clear Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission exam and first transgender I.A.S aspirant|
|42||Laxmi Narayan Tripathi||Transgender activist|
|43||Ruth Vanita||Writer and academician|
|44||Abhinav Vats||Equal rights activist and India's first openly gay actor; featured in a music video from Euphoria in 1996 in a first ever gay character shown on Indian media|
|45||Rose Venkatesan||First transgender TV host in India|
|46||Riyad Vinci Wadia||Filmmaker|
|Same-sex sexual activity legal|| (Since 2018)|
(In Jammu and Kashmir)
|Equal age of consent||(Since 2018)|
|Anti-discrimination laws in employment||/ (Only extends to discrimination from the state or government bodies)|
|Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services|
|Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech)||/ (Only extends to discrimination from the state or government bodies)|
|Anti-discrimination laws concerning gender identity||/ (Only extends to discrimination from the state or government bodies; bill pending to expand these protections to private discrimination)|
|Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. unregistered cohabitation, life partnership)||(Proposed)|
|Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples||(Proposed)|
|Joint adoption by same-sex couples||(Proposed)|
|Adoption by single people regardless of sexual orientation|
|LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military||(Pending)|
|Right to change legal gender||(Since 2014)|
|Third gender option||(Since 2014)|
|Access to IVF for lesbian couples|||
|Conversion therapy banned by law|
|Intersex minors protected from invasive surgical procedures||/ (Banned in Tamil Nadu)|
|Homosexuality declassified as an illness|
|Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples||(Explicit ban pending regardless of sexual orientation)|
|MSMs allowed to donate blood|||
Queer international relations and the Indian state
The Indian Government faces both domestic and international pressures regarding the 'homosexual question'. Some Queer International Relations (IR) scholars have cited the Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) recent return to political power as detrimental for LGBT rights. The IR scholars argue that some of the anti-LGBT policy goals of the party are in part a result of 'state homophobia' that is meant to distract citizens from growing social tensions attributable to the onset of globalization and the rise of neoliberalism. Indian foreign policy specialists regard these policies as a typical part of 'territorializing' where a nation such as India finds itself in need of self-identification as a post-colonial prominent rising power in a heterogeneous international space. Other Queer IR specialists have recognized how "sovereignty and sexuality are entwined with one another". These scholars argue that the state in question exerts its power and justifies its regulation over sexuality because it is the mechanism by which it ensures its presence, inevitability, and expansion. The debate continues of whether strong anti-LGBT policies are a means by which the state asserts an appearance of a singular unified stance or whether the state is simply too divided and its leadership too decentralized for these policy shifts to be clearly planned or intentional. The Indian National Congress Party is the only party with a clear official position opposing Section 377, yet other congressional parties also fall somewhere on the spectrum of support for or opposition to the section. Indian diplomats, in support of Indian sovereignty, at times find themselves in opposition to their own state's jurisprudence in an effort to resist the 'homocolonialist', articulated as a form of Western neoimperialism. The 'homocolonialist' is identified as the US and other Western nations that use a form of 'Pink-testing' in order to judge other states as being either 'normal' or 'pathological' based on their own interpretations of 'modernity' and of how those states treat and view their LGBT populations. Scholars have suggested alternative approaches that support international queer populations while also recognizing the social, historical, and regional context of each country on which humanitarians focus their efforts.
Another concern has been voiced in this debate of queer international relations. Some Indian diplomats have expressed concern that what other diplomats may view as their 'intrinsic homophobia' is actually their reservations and skepticism that they reserve for the structural adjustment programs initiated by institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. They argue that these international institutions sometimes ignore their role in initiating homophobic moral panics.
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