Illustration Credits: Anshul Gupta & Abhishek Verma
HISTORY OF LGBTQIA+ MOVEMENT- INDIA
If one traces the history of the LGBTQIA+ movement, there are certain episodes our country has witnessed that need to be highlighted.
The first known protest for LGBTQ+ rights was held on Aug. 11, 1992. An organization called AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan (ABVA) organised a campaign in Delhi, and in 1994, ABVA activists filed a (PIL) in Delhi High Court challenging the constitutionality of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). This was the first attempt to legalize homosexuality in India.
In 1999, Kolkata witnessed India’s first ever Gay Pride Parade. The parade, with only 15 attendees, was called the Calcutta Rainbow Pride and sent the long-awaited message to the whole country i.e., being queer and being proud.
The same year, a Delhi-based organization called CALERI (Campaign for Lesbian Rights) released a manifesto titled ‘Lesbian Emergence’ which attempted to break the silence around the lives of queer women, who according to CALERI, were even more invisible than queer men.
The Naz Foundation (Trust) India and the Lawyers Collective filed a petition in the Delhi High Court in 2001 against Section 377, which then brought a desired & overdue but short-lived verdict on July 2, 2009, decriminalizing homosexuality.
Eight years of battle by the Naz Foundation and the Lawyers Collective were finally dismissed by the Supreme Court on Dec. 11, 2013, when the apex court in Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Naz Foundation, overturned the Delhi High Court verdict, citing that Section 377 was not unconstitutional.
Many Indian activists consider the post-2013 period as a vital phase in the history of the LGBTQ movement in India.
In 2015, Shashi Tharoor prepared a private bill to amend Section 377, but it was clamped down before it could be presented in Lok Sabha, the lower house of the parliament.
On Sept. 6, 2018, the Supreme Court in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India ruled that Section 377 was unconstitutional "in so far as it criminalises consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex".
While the battle against Section 377 has ended but the bigger battle for equal rights for the LGBTQIA+ community continues, and it is our duty, as citizens, to contribute to this cause.
ORGANISATIONS WORKING FOR THE UPLIFTMENT OF LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITY IN INDIA
The Naz Foundation (India)
The Naz Foundation (India) Trust, established in the year 1994 by Anjali Gopalan, is a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that primarily works in the area of HIV/AIDS, sexual health, & sexuality. It has worked to strengthen the care and support services provided to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) as well as counselling and referral for the LGBTQIA+ community.
It is widely known in the country for successfully petitioning against the archaic Indian Penal Code (IPC) provision under Section 377 which criminalised homosexuality, in the Delhi High Court in 2009.
The Humsafar Trust
The Humsafar Trust (HST) was established in the year 1994 by the renowned journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist, Ashok Row Kavi. It primarily aims to work for and provide support to the LGBTQ+ community in Mumbai and other surrounding areas. The organisation has been involved in organising workshops, discussions, support groups, and collaborating with other civil society organisations and individuals, to work for the upliftment of the LGBTQ Community.
It is the first and only openly Gay Community based organisation, to be allotted an office in the Municipal Building in Mumbai.
The Sahodari Foundation is an organisation working for the welfare of the transgender, intersex and gender non-binary community. Founded in 2008 by the transgender rights activist, writer, and artist, Kalki Subramaniam, it describes itself as “a movement, a family, and a team of young transsexual people, volunteers and friends.”
The organisation campaigns for social, political, and economic equality for transgenders and intersex persons and has focused on legal recognition, on education and employment, and also on arts, literature and media for the transgender community.
The Lakshya Trust
The Lakshya Trust is a community-based organisation established in the year 2000 and primarily works on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention among MSM (men having sex with men) and GBT(gay, bisexual and transgender) in three major cities of Gujarat (Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot).
The organization works on various issues addressing and advocating the social, economic, legal, psychological, spiritual and health aspects of sexual minorities, and is also a national surveillance site for the country for National AIDS Control Organization.
Sangama, founded in 1999, is a sexual minority, sex worker and people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) rights organisation based in Bangalore. With an aim to help them in living a life of dignity and self-respect, it provides support, spreads awareness, and campaigns against discriminatory policies. It also aims to bring these issues in the public discourse.
It places special emphasis on the concerns of sexuality minorities from poor and/or non-English speaking backgrounds and sexuality minority sex workers, who otherwise have little to no access to information and resources.
Please note that this list is only suggestive in nature and does not intend to discredit or ignore the tireless efforts of countless other organisations working day & night across the country for the LGBTQIA+ Community in India.
For a comprehensive list of such organisations and other similar resources, please do visit - https://lgbtqindiaresource.wordpress.com/
THE PRESENT SITUATION
The LGBTQIA+ community (“The community”) is in a precarious position in India. Despite the landmark judgement of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, which decriminalized homosexuality, the community at large continues to remain vulnerable, as the absence of good protective and enablement legislations leaves the community susceptible to discrimination, oppression and societal stigmas.
Indeed, the Government has tried to make good legislation for the Transgender community, post the NALSA v. Union of India Judgement in the form of ‘The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019’. However, the Act cannot be construed as a positive change for the advancement of the transgenders as it fails to embody the NALSA Judgement on several grounds.
Similarly, two years have passed since the Navtej Singh Johar and there is no indication of the Government’s intent to follow & embody the landmark judgement of 2018. This has had an adverse impact on the present situation of the community in India. However, various NGOs, Pride Collectives, members of the community and other supporters are standing strong in the face of this calamity and are constantly trying to fight for the rights of their community. Our Initiative also wishes to contribute to this fight through meaningful and effective research.