LGBT issues and problems

Life still very hard for LGBTQIA+ community

It has been close to two years since homosexuality was declared legal in India. Life is still hard for couples from the LGBTQIA+ community, as they do not enjoy the same rights and freedoms as their heterosexual counterparts. Let’s see what these challenges are:

Cultural and social biases 

The LGBTQIA+ community still has to grapple with cultural and social biases at every step of the way. Acceptance from family on coming out still remains a big challenge. LGBTQIA+ youth are usually forced by their families to make a choice between keeping their identities and desires secret and lead ‘normal lives’ or cut ties forever. Although gradual change in perception and some acceptance is visible, it is only a tiny percent and also coming in at a very slow pace. 

LGBTQIA+ persons are also still fighting for basic rights and facilities such as equal employment opportunities, renting properties to live or work, access to dedicated bathrooms for transgenders. Besides, they have to deal with challenges of sexual harassment, forced conversions and unconsented surgeries (trans people agreeing to gender-change procedures under pressure or perforce). 

We may have decriminalised homosexuality, but a lot of work needs to be done in removing the prejudices against the community from with in our society. There is also still a lot of discrimination, judgment and ridicule that LGBTQIA+ have to face online and offline simply because the public perceptions and opinions are yet to change and progress with the times. 

Same-Sex marriages are not legally recognised 

Same-sex marriages are not considered legal in India. Neither can these couples claim rights to a domestic partnership (legally living in together) or a civil union (legally recognised companionship with the same rights as a marriage). However, same-sex marriages are not a criminal offence either. This means you cannot jailed for entering a same-sex marriage but such a union simply has no value in the eyes of the law. 

Since these marriages have no legal value, homosexual couples even if married cannot claim the same privileges that couples in a heterosexual marriage enjoy. 

No adoption or surrogacy right 

Ever since homosexuality was decriminalised, several activists and people from the community have filed petitions to obtain civil rights to marriage and parenthood. But there has been no progress on this front so far. Most recently, a review petition (a follow-up appeal on an existing one) that asked for surrogacy (where a woman agrees to give birth to another couple’s child) and adoption rights for same-sex couples was dismissed by the Supreme Court was in August 2019. The top court of the country claimed it found ‘no merit’ in the petition.

Limited health cover and insurance avenues 

Until recently, none of the key companies in the insurance sector offered any health or life insurance policies for homosexual couples. However, things are beginning to change, slowly but surely. In 2019, a handful of companies – Godrej Group, Citigroup, SBI General Insurance and Aditya Birla Group – started offering health insurance policies for same-sex couples. 

Even though there is no legal provision against it, a vast majority of insurance companies still do not provide insurance coverage to legally unmarried partners (live-in partners), irrespective of their sexual orientations (the provision applies to both heterosexual and homosexual couples). Since same-sex marriages do not have legal recognition, this clause often prevents homosexual couples from listing their partners as beneficiaries of their insurance policies. 

Limited financial rights  

Their financial rights also remain limited. Heterosexual married spouses can gift each other assets and property without any tax liability (these gifts are exempt from tax). In case of a couple from the LGBTQ community, this right is capped at Rs 50,000. They also cannot apply for joint loans for buying property or other assets. 

Besides, inheritance laws (involving the passing on of assets, money, debt and obligations to another person in the event of an individual’s death) do no apply to same-sex couples. In case of the death of one partner, the other does not automatically inherit the deceased partner’s assets. The only way to secure each other’s financial future is by executing a will. 

Gender identity crisis 

After the repealing of Section 377, the Government of India passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill. However, the bill has several limitations that come in the way of it doing its intended job of protecting Trans Rights. For instance, to be eligible for protection under this bill, a trans person has to change their gender in all legal documents such as birth certificate, driving licence, Aadhar card, passport etc. This, in turn, requires a Transgender Certificate issued by a district magistrate. To obtain this certificate, a person needs proof of a gender-change surgery signed by a competent medical authority (doctor or surgeon).  

Given that these surgeries are costly and not covered by health insurance policies, and the limited employment opportunities available to the trans population, the chances of getting this certificate become bleak. Besides, it takes away the right of self-identifying one’s gender. 

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Arushi Chaudhary is a freelance journalist and writer with 5 years of experience in print publications such as the Pune Mirror and Hindustan Times, and has spent close to a decade writing for digital platforms and print publications – The Tribune, BR International magazine, Make My Trip, Killer Features, The Money Times, and Home Review, to name a few. Of the many things she's written about over the years, exploring the space of love and relationships through the prism of psychology excites her the most. Writing is her first and forever love. You can find her on Twitter here.

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