The Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” it was only in 1990 (17 May) that homosexuality was declassified as a mental disorder by the World Health Organization, and in 2018 that the judiciary read down Sec 377 that criminalises sex between same-gender individuals.
World-wide, 69 countries have laws that criminalise homosexuality, and almost half of them are in Africa. There are about 15 jurisdictions that criminalise the gender identity and/or expression of transgender people. In many other countries, people from the transgender community are frequently targeted by a range of laws. There are still eleven countries that prescribe the death penalty.
If not legally or systemically, societally, LGBTQI people face prejudice, discrimination, stigma, hatred, and violence on a daily basis. Some of them are denied basic human rights and legal protections, as well as basic queer-affirmative health care (physical and mental). These include a right to bodily autonomy, as sometimes the individuals are forced to go through “conversion therapy” and needless medical interventions.
Keeping all this in focus, the theme for this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia is “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights.” Every individual has the fundamental right to make decisions about their bodies, futures, and lives.
This year, International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia marks 17 years since the first time it was observed. Started in 2004, this day is to commemorate the day that the World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization approved the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD 10) that no longer listed homosexuality as a diagnosis.
It is an international opportunity for groups and organisations to address and plan various conversations and activities to draw attention to the discrimination faced by individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community.
Although there are significant judgments and changes, there is still a lot to be done. The country still has students who are facing massive amounts of bullying, sometimes from the authorities, not just their peers, and we have seen cases of individuals from the queer community dying by suicide. A step that might have helped was the NCERT’s gender-neutral teacher training manual, which was taken down and never seen the light of the day!
There are still transgender individuals struggling to access gender-affirming health care, both for physical and mental health, in various parts of the country. A glimmer of hope is the “Mitr Clinic – The First Transgender Clinic in India” that is available in three different cities as of 2022.
These were just two of the many issues that are the result of the massive effort by individuals striving to make the world we live in an inclusive society. To achieve an inclusive society, we must recognise and fight discrimination at various levels. We cannot have fair, just, and inclusive societies unless everyone can enjoy equal rights and protection. So on IDAHOT, start a conversation around discrimination at the dinner table or read about the rights that queer people have or don’t have when compared to cis-het people, or just be queer and vocal about it!