At the stroke of midnight on 6th September 2018, the landmark judgement scrapped out section 377, wherein it no longer criminalized consensual relationships between two or more adults of the same sex. This judgement provided the LGBTQ+ community with the much-required representation as well as legal protection to be who they have always been. However, as much a step forward this judgement was, it is crucial to acknowledge that this judgement only decriminalises homosexuality. It does not legalize the same.
The LGBTQ+ community has a long withstanding history of discrimination, injustice, prejudice, and extreme violence. Decades ago, homosexuality was considered to be linked to mental illnesses. Coming from a different sexual orientation that falls away from the accepted norms was often seen as a mental disorder. However, there have not been any conclusive studies that show a significant correlation between one’s sexual orientation and psychopathology. This is where India needs to progress. There still exists conversion therapy which is based on the principle that homosexuality is just a bad soul taking over and that it is just a “phase”.
All of this inadvertently affects people in the LGBTQ+ community. Constant ridicule and shame are more likely to induce stress and anxiety. In many cases, the fear of not being accepted by society by one’s own family is deeply terrifying. Gender dysphoria, a clinical condition where a person’s identity assigned at birth does not match their gender expression, is a severe and dangerous mental disorder. Hundreds of lives are lost to this very cause every year. LGBTQ+ individuals often question their sexual and gender identity, which causes extreme stress. The whole “coming-out” process can also be excruciating and intense. Reactions of friends and family can impact an individual’s mental health in several ways. Family, the first agent of socialization for a child, forms a core part of an individual and their lifestyle.
Bullying and lack of representation in media and otherwise can negatively impact a person’s growth. Kids learn from television and other forms of media what society symbolizes. When there does not exist adequate representation, it enables the idea that being a specific type or fitting a particular box is the most desirable. Representation and teaching in a more inclusive manner can help people identify themselves as they are and what they are feeling. Updating the curriculum is one of the essential steps to move toward equal representation. Introduction of sex education where awareness is created not only about safe sex but also about the different forms of expression and orientations.
Lack of acceptance and the fear of being rejected leads the community’s individuals to hate themselves, especially the young impressionable minds. As humans, we dwell on community support and acknowledgement. Lack of the same can drastically impact their self-esteem and confidence. In many cases, the only way out for the LGBTQ+ community is to take their lives. Suicide rates are on a constant rise which poses a problem in the growing economy. Young kids and others from the community need to know that what they are feeling is valid, and as a society, we need to do better. Introduction and efficient implementation of laws and protection of the LGBTQ+ community is imperative to help India grow in all political, economic, and cultural aspects.
Access to education is still a privilege in our country. With the world’s second-largest population, education becomes an indispensable tool to ensure the upliftment of marginalized communities. A significant focus on the quality of education and modernizing the curriculum to reflect current trends and demography need to be introduced. Governmental policies that cater specifically to different forms of gender expressions can assure equal opportunities and representation. Creating awareness and normalising the community’s existence can help family, friends, and peers accept and embrace the community.
Learning more about the history and the story of the LGBTQ+ community in India can provide the necessary education to the cis-gendered population. Studies reveal that simply communicating and sharing opinions can alone help in reducing oppression of any form. When you learn about the assumptions and views held by people against the community, it can help in explaining and better addressing their issues. It is possible that by basically engaging in a conversation with them, you can challenge their opinions in a peaceful and healthy manner. This promotes healthy discussion and for people to question their deeply held values and views.
India is famous for its diversity; where people from different backgrounds and regions can live harmoniously without losing their identity. It is astonishing to see that a country like India, which is known for its unity despite the existing diversity, cannot accept heterogeneity in forms of gender expression and sexual orientation and is failing to bring about acceptance in gender diversity. Every individual is fighting their own battles. As a society, we must ensure that people can thrive by being their true selves, be it heterosexual, homosexual, asexual, and so on.