Let’s Give Them The Respect They Deserve

    • By, Anjali Sreeram – Student, Kautilya

When were you first introduced to LGBT+ community, and what were your first few responses/emotions? I`ll go first. I came across them while I was in grade 12, and honestly speaking, I wasn’t very welcoming of this new idea, something that speaks and goes against whatever I had learned over the last 14 years. It felt wrong. Fortunately, I had family and friends who educated me about it and helped me uncover the various layers. But do we really need to ‘learn’ about it separately? Why is it termed as something ‘unnatural,’ and why cannot our mind accept facts?

We cannot plainly blame schools. They are there to provide education about things that matter in society, but they have to teach us topics recognized and acknowledged by the masses. We are shaped by our experiences and by the teachings of our parents/models; we follow their behavior. Society does not recognize the community and their rights, hence we are inherently conditioned not to do so. We all have, at some point called out someone chakkas/kinnars because they walked/spoke in an effeminate way. We are crazy fans of Bollywood movies, and can you recollect how transsexuals are portrayed? You can see them wearing ‘girly’ colors, again something stereotyped by our society. It is not termed comedy if we are repeatedly hurting a community struggling to find its place in society, by misrepresenting it and reinforcing the incorrect stereotypes. If you argue that this has changed with Ayushmann Khurana entering the frame with a movie like Shubh Mangal Jyada Saavdhaan, you are highly mistaken – shoddy portrayal and putting forward incorrect information is just as bad.

Schools have yet to stop stereotyping in the gender binary construct where girls are stereotyped for specific job positions and activities. This has started changing recently; however, one can just imagine how long it will take for some proper representation for the LGBT+. In a study of 371 people (LGBT+) falling in the 18-22 age group, 60% were victims of physical bullying in high school. 43% said they were sexually harassed in primary school. Consequences were that 73% of them reduced social interactions, 70% suffered from anxiety and depression, 63% scored poorly in exams. Any small attempt made towards education and sensitization is met with thousands of hurdles by those in power who do not want such changes to occur. For example, the NCERT had introduced a teacher training manual on gender inclusion which included sensitization about non-gender conforming and transgender children. This manual had to be taken down by the body from its website as it was met with backlash by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). Recommendations in the manual included setting up gender-neutral toilets, talking about gender-neutral uniforms, and providing information about puberty blockers that can help delay certain developments in the body. An NCPCR representative responded saying – “The recommendations cannot go beyond what the law permits. Such toilets may lead to cases of sexual assault.” Some have also said that it is capable of traumatizing students.

Section 377 was brought in by the British, who called this an unnatural offense – “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.” The representation is so less that in the Suresh Kumar Kaushal judgment of 2013, one of the Judges, Justice Singhvi, asked the lawyer to the government if he knew any gay people, to which he replied, saying no. The Supreme Court said that the gay people in India were a “minuscule minority”, and they had ‘so-called rights.’

Finally, in 2018, section 377 was scrapped, and the courts said that – “LGBT people are full citizens of India. They are protected by the full gamut of rights and guarantees under the Indian Constitution, equality, dignity, privacy. History owes an apology to LGBT people and their families”. However, has the knowledge and reach increased? Have laws been put forth to give them justice? Do we have same-sex marriage laws? Are adoption rights defined for such couples? The answer to these questions still remains no. These are essential questions, and they are one of us, and hence they should not have to fight so much to earn what they truly deserve. And one step to recognizing and understanding them is to start educating yourself.

References –

  1. NCERT removes manual on transgender inclusion in schools from site: Stand by report, says expert who worked on document
  2. Stories Can Change the Law [Video]. (2019). YouTube.
  3. Quint. (2019). What Has Changed For The LGBTQI+ Community Ever Since Section 377 Was Read Down [Video]. YouTube.

*The Kautilya School of Public Policy (KSPP) takes no institutional positions. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views or positions of KSPP.