(An Inter Nation Comparison)
Words like ‘’Transgender’ and talking about sexuality is considered a taboo even among the educated segment of the Indian society. Often the parents are hesitant while giving sex education and consider it as something secondary or irrelevant.
As a consequence of it, seldom had the biased and outdated information on what constituted sexual orientation and gender identity as well as stereotypical portrayal of the LGBTQ had contributed to the shaping of negative attitude and aggression towards these communities giving way to hate crimes like mob lynching.
Thus before shedding light on the aspect of why homosexuality is not a ‘mental disorder’ but a way a person perceives his own identity or why anger is rising against the LGBTQ+ or why banning same sex-marriage is a denial of their fundamental right; let us first refresh our basics and understand what does the mean?
LGBTQ is basically an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning where:
- “Lesbian” means a female who is attracted to other females.
- “Gay” means people who are attracted to people of the same sex.
- “Bisexual” are attracted to people of both sexes.
- “Transgender” or “Trans” encompasses people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgender people may identify themselves as heterosexual, homosexual, people who are not exclusively masculine or feminine or who may decline to label their sexual orientation.
- “Queer or questioning” is an individual who is unsure of and/or exploring their gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
But there is not only LGBTQ+ there are even more hues to it 😛
- An “intersex” is a person born with variation in sex characteristic including chromosomes, sex hormones, or genitals.
- “Asexual” or “ace” have little or no sexual attraction to others and/or a lack of interest in sexual relationships/behavior. They may or may not experience emotional, physical, or romantic attraction. Asexuality differs from celibacy in that it is a sexual orientation, not a choice.
- “Pansexual” experiences sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction for members of all gender identities.
- While people who feel that they belong to neither of the genders (M/F) or to both genders are identifed as “gender neutral,” “gender fluid”or “genderqueer”.
Why homophobia is on a rise:
‘GAY’ a word that originally meant happy and carefree became a label to describe homosexuality in the 20th century and has now ended up being a term used to abuse someone. People didn’t realize the impact it could have on a person’s persona and sense of self.
If a teenager growing up gay, constantly hears the word being used to refer to something that is disliked or is embarrassing, they are quite naturally going to feel that there is something wrong with them or would start resenting others or concealing their own sexual orientation from those who have a gender identity or expression different than theirs thus creating a social divide in the society.
An Inter-Nation analysis of Countries who have passed unjust laws against LGBTQ Communities:
Despite being termed as developed there are many countries that are way too backward in their approach towards the Queer community.
For instance; Brunei, Oman and Kuwait, which are considered as developed nations have as strict punishment as death penalty, lashings or imprisonment for same-sex relationships, thus bracing and allowing bullying. In Saudi Arabia, police routinely arrests people based on their gender and sexual expressions. Malaysia and Nigeria criminalizes transgender and gender non-conforming people. In Nigeria people can be put in prison for up to 14 years just because they are gay, and some states even have death penalty under Sharia. In the United Arab Emirates, laws prohibit men “posing as” women and this law has also been used to prosecute gay and transgender people.
Even in so called world’s developed democracies; the violence and discrimination born of intolerance and marginalization continue to take lives and create barriers to equity and opportunity for LGBTQ people and their families. For instance, in 2017 the Trump administration took steps to undermine protections for LGBTQ people by repealing Obama administration’s guidance clarifying the rights of transgender students in schools. Not only this the Federal government hampered in the process to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity in federal surveys and promoted a vision of so-called religious liberty that was misused to discriminate against LGBTQ communities. Thus often than not the fear of isolation has led many LGBT people to live in the closet, and had prompted some of them to enter heterosexual marriages. A number of them are even thrown out of their homes or cut off from financial support. Many have experienced homelessness and life at the margins of society, rendering them vulnerable to psychical and mental violence and exploitation.
The situation is barely pleasing in India where most often than not LGBTQ students face discrimination as school teachers are often not properly trained to cater to their soft impressionable minds. Also the very constitution of the recent Transgender 2019 bill, which was hastily passed in the parliament without allowing it to go through a select committee, is discriminatory in nature. For instance the bill makes it mandatory for underage Trans to live in rehabilitation centers if their immediate families are not keen to support their living. But we all are well aware about the condition and quantam of rehabilitation centers in India. Instead the bill should have made it a choice rather than making it a mandation for them.
The bill also talks about obtaining a ‘certificate of Identity’ from DM; who would issue it if he gets “Satisfied” and states that in the case of a minor, a parent/guardian has to apply for an identity certificate. This completely overlooks the reality that most parents are not supportive of gender non-conforming behavior and will, in all likelihood, not make such an application. Furthermore Gender identity is something intrinsic to one’s personhood, and can only be determined by that person’s psychological and emotional state, not by any external criteria or authority. Thus the requirement of obtaining an ‘identity certificate’ amounts to insult, indignity and humiliation at the hands of bureaucrats.
Also according to it a person committing ‘sexual abuse’ against a transgender is liable for only 2 years of imprisonment while if the victim is a cis-gender or straight then punishment is of 7 years. Hence this clause not only undermines the dignity of LGBTQ population but also encourages underreporting of cases since any punishment of less than 3 years is bailable at police station.
Economic cost of stigma against LGBTQ communities:
Homophobia against Queer community not only raises humanitarian concerns but also leads to economic harm; such as potential labor time loss, lost productivity and the inefficient allocation of human resources via creating labor market stigmatization for LGBTQ people. This forces them into endless generational cycle of prostitution and begging.
A lot had already been said and argued but why is there a need for LGBTQ Marriage at all?
The ban on same-sex couples marrying is unacceptable and against humanitarian grounds as it can lead to chronic social stress and mental health problems for the LGBTQ community.
Quite a number of psychologists had pointed out that such stigma and prejudice may undermine the healthy development of Queer adolescents and young adults.
Also, marriage not only bestows economic and social support to these couples in committed relationships, but also results in substantial health benefit as married men and women generally experience better physical and mental health than comparable cohabiting couples.
Put simply, equality means making the same choices available to all. If Cisgender (that is, a person whose gender identity matches their sex at birth) is allowed to marry; then why not a transgender or homosexual for that matter.
In order to break the stigma, LGBTQ-inclusive education in schools could be a great start. Also the parents should teach their children to accept and respect differences. For this there should be updation of school curricula to make it more gender-inclusive so that students receive accurate information from authentic sources and that too under proper guidance.
Apart from this the school authorities can invite experts to give practical information on safe copulation, engage open conversations on identity, relationships and mental health with both parents and children. Apart from this teachers can be provided training sessions on a regular interval so that they are better able to handle the situation in case a child confides with them to seek help. Every school should appoint atleast one counselor or psychologist so that the student can easily seek help if required.
Also reservations in education and employment sector can play a prominent role in ensuring financial independence of the Trans community; thus allowing them to move hand in hand with the mainstream population. For instance the creation of ‘Gender Inclusion Fund’, which seeks to ensure equitable education for all girls and transgender students; under the recent National Educational Policy (NEP) 2020 is a laudable initiative. But still the road is long and a lot is to be done.
Although the equal marriage legislation passed by the Indian government suggests that society had advanced in its thinking, but there still remains a gap in its grasp of gay identity, culture and sexuality. Laws would just remain a document on paper till the time we are not able to transform the core beliefs, sentiments and ideas of the people itself. Hence nations need to adopt a more inclusive – gender holistic approach via recognizing the LGBTQ community. And until the approach towards them changes, young people will continue to grow up feeling that the word “gay” means alien, embarrassing or has something wrong associated with it.
With this thought I Srishti Jain would sigh off!
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