After 10 years of struggle for identity, the fight now will be about getting affirmative rights for homosexuals. On July 2, 2009, Delhi High Court (HC) became first to pronounce the landmark judgement of decriminalising homosexuality in the country. And it can be said that our country has progressed on a positive scale in the past decade.
Delhi-based NGO, Naz Foundation was at the forefront by filing a petition against criminalising homosexual intercourse or consensual gay sex in 2001. A Delhi HC bench comprising Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice S Muralidhar had held criminalising homosexual intercourses as a violation of the fundamental right to equality and freedom under the Constitution.
It was later overturned by the Supreme Court (SC) in 2013. However, the community heaved a sigh of relief, when SC in 2018, had partially scraped Section 377 again decriminalising homosexual intercourse.
Beginning of the talk...
The 2009 verdict had initiated the first open talk about homosexuality and its existence. In these 10 years, the community has fought for its identity and now the next question to be solved is about legalising same-sex marriage and bringing policies which provide the community equal rights that are enjoyed by heterosexual community.
“There are certain questions which are still unsolved like dependency claim, pension scheme, health and life insurance policies etc. However, now in the past couple of years, many corporate firms and companies in India have started to bring in wider policy changes by making it inclusive,” said Sagar Barve, member of Indradhanu committee which organises Pride March in the city.
Barve told Sakal Times that companies have started mentioning third gender category in insurance forms and the homosexual employees are free to fill in his/her partner’s name against the spouse option. “While many foreign-based companies are already practising it, now Indian-origin companies are soon likely to inculcate it. Health insurance will also cover sex-transplant surgeries which will be beneficial for several employees of LGBTQ community,” he said.
But what remains a question is that; whether homosexual employees will be asked for marriage certificates. As the heterosexual community goes unquestioned about their spouse and marital status.
Declaration of Gay Marriage Act
“Only a few companies and insurance providers have started to give this facility to homosexual couples. However, many among them insist on producing documents. Even though many companies say they don’t discriminate on gender, but by asking for documents, they do so. Same-sex marriage is still not legalised in our country, this blocks the purpose then,” said Sameer Samudra who married his husband Amit Gokhale in the US, nine years ago.
“Once the same-sex marriage act is declared, it will ease several policies and beneficiary-based processes for the community. For example, life insurance, provident funds, leave travel allowance etc where you have to declare or nominate your spouse. LGBTQ community isn’t eligible to avail these facilities,” said Samudra, who founded the Cummins Pride Employee Resource Group.
Samudra agrees that it would have been difficult to settle in India with his husband 10 years ago, whereas now things are much sorted in the country.
One of the major effects of the 2009 verdict is that now LGBTQ has started to get into the mainstream. “For instance, the film industry has largely represented on the issues of LBGTQ and brought them into the mainstream. Plus, another positive revolution is, first ever LGBTQ+ job fair will be held in Bengaluru in mid-July. There are national level government programmes which counsel school children, adults and help them accept their sexual orientation. Although, the programmes don’t run in their full strength, but the mere existence of these programmes itself is empowering for the community,” said Pravin Sonawane, Branch Manager of Family Planning Association India, Pune.
Inclusivity on steady rise
Founder of Sampathik Trust, Bindumadhav Khire stated that around 2013, the number of individuals coming out with their sexual orientation had decreased. But it steadily began to rise up again since a few years.
“There is no doubt that awareness about homosexuality and transegenders has increased drastically. Since 2016, several IT companies have invited me for gender sensitisation programmes. Hospitals have become inclusive and Bharati Vidyapeeth (Deemed to be University) Medical College and Hospital, Pune and KEM hospital are at the forefront,” said Khire.
“Doctors have also become more considerate, especially after Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) had stated not to treat homosexuality as illness,” said Khire. However, Khire also highlighted that cases of HIV/AIDs among LGBTQ community haven’t decreased.
In these years, stories of coming out are increasing and embracing their gender identity has become easy. Parents have become more considerate and sensitive towards their children, society has become aware about LGBTQ community at whole. Yet, India has a long way to complete before becoming a total inclusive and safe society for all genders. There are still homophobes, stigma attached to homosexuals and moral policing which needs to be done away with.