Many improvements and activism in support of the LGBTQIA+ community have occurred in recent years. Everyone has suffered personal and professional losses as a result of the pandemic, but we also know that every disaster wreaks havoc on already marginalised groups, both in terms of health and the economy.
In the post covid era, pleas and efforts to annihilate the “otherness” of the LGBTQIA+ community in society have led to many pro-LGBTQIA+ community legislation, further safeguarding these citizens’ rights.
The events in 2022 were broad, spanning from legislation to the artistic industry to sports. As the year is ending, here are some notable queer moments from 2022 that made us all feel a bit more proud.
1. Supreme Court extends the definition of ‘family’
The concept of a family has always been heteronormative. The fixed definition of family is believed to be limited to heterosexual couples having children. In the recent verdict of Deepika Singh vs. CAT, the Supreme Court has broken the predominant understanding of a “family” in the eyes of law, expanding it to any form of domestic, unmarried partnerships, or LGBTQ+ relationships. According to the law, “family” can be defined by numerous combinations of people serving as primary caregivers for biological and non-biological children. The law includes same-sex couples and unmarried partners under the parasol of social welfare benefits.
The Supreme Court made the statements in a case involving a petitioner seeking maternity leave. The petitioner, a government employee, was refused maternity leave for her biological kid because she had previously received childcare leave for her husband’s two children from a previous marriage. The government employee guideline indicates that a female government employee can take up to 730 days of leave throughout her government employment for up to two children. This leave can be taken in increments over time and used to care for children of any age. Since she had obtained leave to care for her non-biological children, the high court stated that her biological kid would be deemed a third child, for whom no child care leave is provided by law.
The Supreme Court overturned the high court’s decision, stating that the petitioner should not be punished for unconventionally becoming a mother. The legislative deconstruction of the traditional construct of a family is a vital step, if not adequate, towards plurality.
2. Cure. fit launched a gender-neutral parental leave scheme
Tata-backed Cure. fit implemented a gender-neutral parental leave policy for its employees. This is a 6-month extension of the current maternity and paternity policy of the family, and it would expand the program to cover non-binary parents. Employees who choose to become parents through natural birth, surrogacy, or adoption, regardless of gender, will now be eligible for parental leave.
Furthermore, if the employee desires to receive project updates, monthly check-ins with the team and project participants have been established. When the employee returns, they can choose to work on the previous project or be assigned to new duties. Cure. fit’s policy equalised benefits for all parents removing the gender-binary barrier. It is a 6-month paid leave of absence, followed by flexible working choices for those who choose to take a longer vacation.
Ankit Gupta, Head of Product & Engineering at the organisation said, “In an era, where we’re collectively on a journey to remove labels and enable all individuals to discover their best selves and be better every day, this program organically seemed like the right thing to do. The program empowers our employees to design a life best suited to their aspirations and eliminates bias.”
3. National Medical Commission declared conversion therapy as professional misconduct
National Medical Commission (NMC), the highest regulatory body of medical professionals in India, condemned conversion therapy and deemed it as “professional misconduct”. The body has permitted the state medical councils to take disciplinary action against medical practitioners who engage in “conversion therapy.” Conversion therapy is a practice that targets LGBTQ+ youth aiming to manipulate and change their gender or sexual identity. This manipulative technique includes mental treatment, drug usage, electroshock therapy, and frequently physical assault and exorcism on the person to purportedly ‘cure’ them.
The decision follows the ruling of Madras High Court Justice N. Anand Venkatesh in S. Sushma & Anr. vs. Commissioner of Police & Ors (2021), where the court ordered the NMC to initiate disciplinary action against conversion therapy practitioners. The court further informed that these treatments can be practised widely because they are frequently aided by law enforcement. With this legislation, the heinous practices against the LGBTQ+ community will lose legislative support and, perhaps, be a little restricted.
4. Gender-affirming healthcare covered by insurance
In August of this year, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Health Authority to provide a comprehensive medical package to transgender people. All health benefits, including general health provisions, hormone therapy, and gender reassertion surgery, are provided to transgender people under the Ayushman Bharat Yojana health benefits package. Each transgender individual was guaranteed to receive medical coverage of 5 lakh rupees per year under this scheme.
5. Dutee Chand holds the pride flag at CWG 2022
Dutee Chand, India’s first openly gay athlete, hoisted the pride flag at the opening ceremony of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, sending a powerful and symbolic statement against homophobia. Dutee, along with many other LGTBQIA+ athletes, unfurled the flags. At the same time, British synchronised diver and Olympic gold winner Tom Daley raced with the Queen’s Baton to raise awareness about homophobia in Commonwealth countries. Dutee Chand, in the event, urged for the individuals belonging to the LGBTQ+ community to be free from “fear of persecution or death.”
Dutee said, “LGBT+ athletes should be made to feel safe and comfortable, being their usual selves without fear of persecution or death.” She added, “When I first acknowledged my relationship status I did not know about the LGBTQ+ movement. People derided me and told me I was ‘mentally sick’ and used swear words in public.
I had sleepless nights, but now things have changed for the better. I never thought this would happen one day and I would be invited as the brand ambassador of CWG. It could not have been bigger than this. Now everything has stopped and the same people come up to me and show respect.”
6. Madras HC issued a glossary to address the LGBTQ+ community
Language is political, and, often, fails to encourage plurality. The Tamil Nadu government, under the recommendation of the Madras High Court, issued a glossary of terminology in English and Tamil to be used for addressing members of the LGBTQIA+ community. On August 20, 2022, the glossary, which included acceptable terms for the LGBTQ community, was published in the official gazette of the Social Welfare and Women Empowerment department. On August 23, the Additional Advocate-General delivered a copy of the glossary to the court of Justice N Ananth Venkatesh. The terms specified in the gazette would have statutory support, and the LGBTQIA+ group is to be called or described using legally acknowledged terms.
7. First queer pride parade in Tripura
In the aftermath of the incident that went viral where four transgender individuals were harassed at a police station in Tripura, the state’s queer community, in September, held its first pride walk in Agartala, asserting their right to live in dignity and equality, free of gender discrimination, stigma, and taboo for being different.
Several members of the community marched in the colourful pride parade, brandishing rainbow flags and banners urging people to reject gender stigma and stereotypes. The event was organised by an NGO, Swabhiman.
The president of the NGO, Sneha Gupta Roy, commented on the occasion, “Pride walks are organised in almost all the major cities and states of the country. However, this is the first time such a walk has been held in Tripura. The main motive of the walk is to make society aware of LGBTQ rights.”
8. Kerala High Court grants lesbian couple to live together
Even after four years of Section 377 being dissolved, same-sex relationships have continued to remain a taboo within families. Adhila Nassrin and Fatima Noora, the lesbian couple of Kerala, were forced and tortured by their families forcing them to separate. However, Adhila filed a plea to the court, and a landmark verdict was given by the Kerala Court, allowing the couple to reunite and live together on May 31 of this year. The court summoned Fathima, who was abducted by her family, and announced that it is not forbidden for two consenting adults, irrespective of their gender and sexuality, to live together.
Adhila said in an interview, “Society has to change a lot to recognize people like us though we are celebrating the 75th year of Independence. Several people are advising us on social media and outside even now. We face a lot of cyber bullying too. The main reason is the absence of sex education, among others. “
Legislative support is imperative for marginalised communities, like the LGBTQ+ community, to survive upholding their rights and dignity in society, a society that has not yet been accepted completely.
9. Kerala photographer recreates Ravi Verma’s paintings with trans models
Art is intricately associated with society. Art is political. Theorists have debated against hierarchical standards of art and literature which systematically excluded the marginalised. We have been conditioned to believe a certain type of appearance to be aesthetically pleasing. Photographer Sharun S broke this stereotype when he recreated Ravi Verma’s paintings with trans women models. His work deconstructs the prescribed beauty standards that we are fed to accept by media and society, and the stigma involving the transgender community. The celebrated artist Ravi Verma’s painting depicts women as Indian goddesses. These women painted fitted a specific standard of beauty. Sharun with his work wanted to shatter the construct of beauty.
10. First pride walk in Pune after covid-19
Pune Pride Walk returned after 2 years of absence due to Covid 19. Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj Garden, JM Road, and Fergusson College road witnessed rainbow hues all over on June 5. Organized by Bindu Queer Rights Foundation and Yutak LGBTQ support group, this year’s theme was “Marriage Rights for All”. The participation of not only the younger generation but many parents and family members also participated in this event, marking a significant change in people’s attitudes toward the community. Bindumadhav Khire, director Queer Rights Foundation, author, and LGBTQIA+ activist observed the diversity of participation and said, “We could see people coming from the rural parts of India walking this year, to support the cause of gay marriage rights. We also saw a lot of parents walking with their children. It feels great to find parents who want their children to be aware and grow inclusive of all other genders. Even some pet organisations took part too.”
11. Petition for legalising same-sex marriage
The Supreme Court has accepted and requested the government’s response to petitions to enable same-sex marriages to be solemnized under the Special Marriage Act. A couple recently petitioned the Supreme Court for legal recognition of same-sex marriage under the Special Marriage Act and a provision to legalize their marriage. In the interest of the LGBTQ+ community, the petitioners launched the Public Interest Litigation under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. The petition said that weddings between members of the LGBTQ+ community should be recognised since basic rights are for everyone to enjoy, regardless of their position or identity. The recognition of same-sex marriage under the law will broaden the protection of LGBTQ+ community rights.
No, it is not enough. There are miles to go before marginalised communities are equally recognized and respected in the eyes of mainstream society as well as the law. Every individual has the right to live with dignity, free from violence, and stigma. There lies several ignored scopes to realise the community’s representation. Necessary acts must be made for the whole queer community, not just the transgender segment.
LGBTQIA+ citizens should be involved more in the state’s decision-making process because every individual enjoys equal rights to participate in policy-making and policy implementation in a democratic state, either directly or indirectly. Like American activist Barbara Gittings said, “Equality means more than passing laws. The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community, where it really counts,” society has to work on being more inclusive and accommodating.
Disclaimer: This is by no means an exhaustive or representative list. Suggestions to add to the list are welcome in the comments section.