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Out in the World: LGBTQ news from Europe and Asia

Sept. 16 marked a year since Mahsa Amini’s death in Iran

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(Los Angeles Blade graphic)

Iran

Shadi Amin, the executive director of Germany-based Iranian LGBTQ network 6rang (Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network), grew up in Iran thinking she was “sick” because she’s queer. In a recent interview with PinkNewsUK, Amin reflected on the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for allegedly not wearing a headscarf properly by Iran’s dreaded “morality police.”

The death of the young Iranian Kurdish woman on Sept. 16, 2022, touched off massive protests across the country, especially in its capital city of Tehran. But Amin points out that those protests over Amini’s death led to become a rally call to fight for the rights of women, LGBTQ folks and other marginalized groups in Iran.

“[LGBTQ+ people] are one of the most active and involved groups in these demonstrations and protests last year … We saw everywhere when there was a demonstration [there was] the rainbow flag, even if sometimes the people didn’t agree with that and they said go back,” Amin told PinkNewsUK.

“They tried to put us out of the demonstration, but I think our LGBTI youth community is really powerful and they try to bring their demands in this movement,” she added.

More than 22,000 people were arrested and hundreds killed, including some who were executed by the Iranian government in an effort to crush dissent through violence. 

Read the entire interview here: [Link]

Serbia

Earlier this month several hundred LGBTQ people and the allies marched in the Serbian capital of Belgrade marking the celebration of a Pride march that was unmarred by violence in this religious conservative Balkan nation.

Belgrade Pride in 2019 (Photo courtesy of Belgrade Pride)

Radio Free Europe noted that in a similar event last year, at least 21 people were arrested in connection with attacks against police, with most of them suspected of being far-right hooligans protesting against the LGBTQ Pride march. 

The government of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic reversed its decision to ban the international EuroPride parade event on Thursday, Serbian state media reported.

On Sept. 12, officials from EuroPride and Belgrade Pride, commemorated the start of EuroPride 2022 in Belgrade with a ceremonial flag raising. On Friday led by the Dutch Embassy, members of the European Union and other non-EU states issued a joint statement applauding the Serbian government’s roll-back of the ban.

United Kingdom

Security footage of the attack on the Queer Superstore on Sept 10, 2023.

A 29-year-old man was arrested by Greater Manchester Police in connection with the vandalistic attacks on the Clonezone store on Sackville Street in the heart of Manchester Center. The store is the U.K.’s first and favorite Queer Superstore.

The suspect also being held on suspicion of 24 motor vehicle thefts and remains in custody for questioning.

Clonezone has been attacked five times this year, with the latest incident on Sept. 10 at approximately 2 p.m. Two men approached the shop on a bike on Sunday and attempted to smash the windows before throwing an object at the doors.

Chief Inspector Steve Wiggins, of GMP’s City Center Neighborhood Team, said: “This is the second arrest in connection with this series of disturbing incidents but the investigation is still very much ongoing.

The attacks are very specific with offenders arriving on bikes and causing significant damage.

We are keen to find out the motivations behind the attacks and believe that will help us trace those responsible and bring them to justice.

We have a dedicated team investigating these incidents, so if anybody knows anything about these attacks I would urge them to call police.”

Information can be passed on to police by calling 0161 856 3345 or via 101, or anonymously through Crimestoppers at 0800 555 111.

More than 60 people joined the protest organized by Reading Pride outside the Oracle shopping center in downtown Reading, where Chick-fil-A opened its first U.K. temporary pop-up store on Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Reading Pride)

American fast food chain Chick-Fil-A announced its plans to open five new franchise stores around Britain in as yet to be disclosed locations, the BBC reported on Sept. 15.

Chick-fil-A had previously launched a pop-up store for a six month lease in the Oracle shopping center in Reading in 2019, but was met with severe opposition and its lease wasn’t renewed. British LGBTQ rights activists protested the College Park, Ga.,-based food chain’s donations to groups that have a record of being opposed to LGBTQ rights.

During the 2019 protests in Reading, the BBC noted that Reading Pride spokesperson Kirsten Bayes told protesters: “Companies like this have no place here in Reading and they have no place anywhere.

“We are standing in solidarity with campaigners across the United States … for justice and freedom for LGBT people.”

A local elected official, Reading Labor Councilor Sarah Hacker said: “We can make sure that they don’t spread their hatred across the U.K.”

The fast food chain firm is run by the Cathy family, who have publicly stated their opposition to same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ issues.  In 2020, the firm softened its stance and shifted its focus, hiring a diversity vice president. The BBC reported that the company changed its approach to charitable giving, focusing on education and hunger alleviation, moving away from donations directed at anti-LGBTQ organizations, including several of those listed as extremist hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“From our earliest days, we’ve worked to positively influence the places we call home and this will be the same for our stores in the U.K.,” Joanna Symonds, Chick-Fil-A’s head of U.K. operations, told the BBC.

“We encourage our operators to partner with organizations which support and positively impact their local communities, delivering great food and wider benefits to those around them,” she added.

In announcing the new U.K. investment, the chain highlighted its current charitable work, which include a $25,000 one-off donation to a local non-profit organization when a Chick-fil-A restaurant is opened, and donations of surplus food to local shelters, soup kitchens and food charities. Those policies would apply to its U.K. branches too, it said.

Ireland

The apparent rebranding of a beloved LGBTQ bar and safe space in Cork and makeover provoked protests by the local queer community.

Irish LGBTQ publication GCN reported that in recent weeks, people began to notice a change in the appearance of Chambers Bar, no longer recognizable as an LGBTQ space. A new sign had been displayed above the doorway with the name “Sinners” in black and white, a stark contrast to the venue’s once vibrant appearance.

Patrons gather outside of Chambers Bar on Washington Street in Cork, Ireland, in June 2021 after its relaunch, having been closed down for the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Chambers Bar/Facebook)

This name is nothing new to people in Cork, as Chambers Bar has been hosting student nights under this name for a number of years. Even so, this year was the first time that, in addition to hosting a student night for “Freshers” Week, all Pride flags, rainbow curtains and posters for upcoming drag shows were also taken down.

However, the catalyst for sparking an onslaught of backlash seems to have come from the cancellation of a weekly drag show. This was to be hosted by Cork drag queen Krystal Queer, who took to Instagram to express her disappointment in a video that now has over 300,000 views.

In stark contrast to the small group of anti-transgender protesters gathered in Dublin to hear anti-LGBTQ TERF Kellie-Jay Keen, a.k.a. Posie Parker, speak at her “Let Women Speak Rally” at Merrion Square, Trans and Intersex Pride Dublin had nearly a thousand supporters turn out to counter demonstrate.

The Irish Times reported that a large police presence was visible in and around the square and metal barriers were erected to create a space between the rival demonstrations.

The counter demo by Trans and Intersex Pride Dublin assembled outside the lower house of the Irish legislature on Kildare Street ahead of marching into Merrion Square.

Leading pro-trans activist Jenny Maguire told the crowd: “We as queer people are forced into a world that’s not meant for us.”

“We do everything we can to force a world that accepts us and that can love us all unapologetically, and it is them that wants to reverse any progress we’ve made so far and pull us back into the Dark Ages.”

Italy

Italy’s right-wing Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has demanded local councils only list biological parents on birth certificates, flinging hundreds of same-sex couples into a legal morass, France 24 News reported Thursday.

Journalist Lara Bullens reported that after same-sex civil unions were legalised in Italy in 2016, and in the absence of any clear legislation on parental rights for same-sex couples, a handful of city councils across the country started listing parents of the same gender on their children’s birth certificate.

This led to a situation of creating a host of “ghost parents.”

Rainbow Families Association families gather in Rome on July 25, 2023, to protest the anti-LGBTQ policies of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. (Photo courtesy of Famiglie Arcobaleno/Facebook)

But in recent months, Italy’s right-wing government has been cracking down on city councils to stop listing same-sex parents on birth certificates, France 24 reported. Led by the hardline traditionalist Meloni, the ministry of interior issued a directive in January 2023 instructing Italian mayors to stop automatically registering the births of children conceived or born abroad through assisted reproductive methods. 

It cited a case from December 2022, in which Italy’s top court ruled that a child of a gay couple who was conceived through surrogacy abroad shouldn’t have their birth certificate automatically transcribed in Italy.  

Though the directive primarily concerned surrogacy, which is banned in Italy and now even a crime for those seeking surrogacy abroad, its interpretation by local councils has disproportionally affected LGBTQ families — including those who resort to other reproductive methods.

Italy’s Family Minister Eugenia Roccella told Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra: “In Italy, one becomes a parent in only two ways — either by biological relationship or by adoption,” and urged same-sex parents to follow the adoption procedure.  

Currently the support for LGBTQ families on this issue is being provided by the LGBTQ rights organization, Famiglie Arcobaleno working alongside Rete Lenford, which is committed to advocacy for LGBTQ rights as an association of lawyers, lawyers, practitioners, scholars, students and people with experience in the issues surrounding LGBTQ rights.

Both Rete Lenford and Famiglie Arcobaleno, are representing hundreds of cases of the affected LGBTQ families in court.

Russia

(The following article is from Human Rights Watch

Last week the European Court of Human Rights handed down a ruling in the case of Maxim Lapunov, the only victim of Chechnya’s vile 2017 anti-gay purge who dared seek justice for the torture he suffered at the hands of local law enforcement.

The court found Lapunov was “detained and subjected to ill-treatment by State agents,” which “amounted to torture” and was perpetrated “solely on account of his sexual orientation.”

European Court of Human Rights (Photo courtesy of the Council of Europe)

Lapunov took his case to the European Court in May 2019 because the Russian authorities had failed to investigate his assault. Despite great personal risk, Lapunov had been eager to cooperate with Russia’s investigative authorities through the assistance of his persistent lawyers from the Committee Against Torture, a leading Russian human rights group.

Tanya Lokshina, the associate director, Europe and Central Asia Division for Human Rights Watch noted:

“I first met Lapunov nearly six years ago, when I moderated a news conference in Moscow at which he publicly told his story for the first time. Lapunov, then 30, described to a roomful of journalists how he had been rounded up and tortured along with dozens of others. His hands shook as he detailed the horrific experience. He stopped several times to regain composure but kept going.”

A Russian from Siberia who had traveled to Chechnya for work, Lapunov did not have to face what every Chechen man caught in the purge feared: Being targeted by his own relatives or exposing his entire family to overwhelming stigma because of his homosexuality. His captors threatened to kill him if he spoke out, but he refused to be silent. “We all have rights …,” he said at the news conference. “If we just let it be [in Chechnya], … we’ll never know whose son or daughter will be taken next.”

At the time, Russian authorities claimed they could not investigate the purge because no victims stepped up to testify. When Lapunov provided his staggering testimony, they still failed to investigate. In early 2019, Chechen police rounded up and tortured more men because of their presumed sexual orientation. Realizing they would never get the Russian authorities to do their job and investigate, Lapunov and his legal team filed their complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. Today, they won.

After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia lost its Council of Europe membership and there is no hope that the Russian authorities will implement this ruling anytime soon. Yet it sets the record straight. This, I hope, will serve to support all survivors of the purge.

Additional reporting from PinkNewsUK, BBC, Agence France-Presse, GCN Ireland, the Irish Times and Human Rights Watch.

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Africa

Kenyan lawmaker’s bill would further crackdown on LGBTQ rights

Provisions include 50-year prison sentence for gays and lesbians convicted of non-consensual sex

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Kenya flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

A fresh bid to prevent the recognition of and equal rights for LGBTQ people in Kenya through a constitutional amendment has been introduced in Parliament.

The move is in response to this month’s ruling from Kenya’s highest court affirming its February decision that allowed the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to register as a non-governmental organization.

Opposition MP Peter Kaluma, an outspoken critic of homosexuality, is the sponsor of the new initiative that is part of tightening the noose on LGBTQ people after the Kenyan Supreme Court dismissed his petition that challenged its February ruling. 

Kaluma wanted the ruling reversed since the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission advocates for homosexuality, which is against the law, and sought the court’s clarification on the term “sex” to exclude LGBTQ persons.  

Kaluma has already written to National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula, notifying him of his proposal to have the term “sex” redefined in the constitution by repealing Article 259 (4) which judges perceive to also include consensual same-sex sexual relations. 

“This will seal the constitutional gaps the courts are exploiting to introduce homosexuality into the country under the guise of ‘judicial interpretation’ and secure the legislative mandate retained in Parliament and constitutional-making power remains with the people,” Kaluma said. 

He faults the judges for interpreting the term “sex” under Article 27 (4) of the constitution to also refer to sexual orientation of any gender, whether heterosexual, lesbian, gay, intersex, or otherwise, not to be discriminated from sexual identity. 

The controversial court’s verdicts have sparked an uproar in the country since Article 45 of the constitution only recognizes consensual opposite-sex sexual relations and Section 162 of the penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations. 

In redefining “sex” in law, Kaluma wants the term to be limited to the biological state of being male or female as assigned at birth and not “foreign sexual orientation and gender identity ideology” which he argues the judges based on wrongly. The MPs proposal to redefine sex, however, would not impact intersex people in Kenya since their recognition and sex identity are protected under a landmark law that took effect in July 2022. 

Kaluma notes that the court’s ruling renders sex/gender fluidity away from the biological state of being male or female “to over 150 current gender categories abbreviated as LGBTQ+” which has serious consequences for women in terms of equality.     

“The courts, unelected arms of government not directly accountable to the people, have been the weakest link in the battle for family values across the world. The Supreme Court of the United States failed the Americans and the European courts have failed the Europeans,” the MP said.  

Kaluma, who has also sponsored a stiffer anti-homosexuality bill that awaits introduction in the House, added “we are in a war not only to save our society but to salvage humanity from the LGBTQ+ perversion”. 

The lawmaker has also sought to strengthen his anti-homosexuality measure by adding punitive clauses, including one that would impose a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison for gays and lesbians who are found guilty of engaging in non-consensual sex. Other provisions include a ban on gay Pride parades, assemblies, street marches, cross-dressing in public and all LGBTQ-related activities.

The MP has also proposed proposes a fine of $14,000 or a 7-year prison sentence for owners of premises used for same-sex sexual practices. 

“I urge all persons and institutions of goodwill to stand firm and ready themselves to fight against homosexuality. Even when we don’t win before the courts as is the case across the world, I am certain we will win before the people’s representatives in parliament,” Kaluma stated. 

Muslim and Christian religious authorities last Saturday staged anti-homosexuality protests in the coastal city of Mombasa, which is the country’s second largest city. Protesters condemned and denounced the Supreme Court’s ruling and asking President William Ruto to “unequivocally denounce LGBTQ” like his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni.  

The Kenya Muslims National Advisory Council, a leading Muslim governing body, on Thursday also condemned the Supreme Court and demanded the ouster of Chief Justice Martha Koome and other judges who ruled in favor of the LGBTQ community. The group argues the ruling offends Kenya’s social, cultural and religious beliefs while asking the president and Parliament to be “firm” like Uganda, which enacted a harsh anti-homosexuality law in May.    

A presidential education reform working group last month in a detailed report presented to Ruto after gathering views across the country recommended the teachers’ employers to hire pastors and Imams in elementary and high schools to help fight homosexuality and other so-called immoral practices. This call came after the Education Ministry in March confirmed to MPs its decision to form a Chaplains Committee, led by Kenya’s Anglican Church Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, to stop the infiltration of LGBTQ practices in schools.

The working group’s report has yet to be introduced in Parliament.

Kenya’s relentless move to curb homosexuality comes at a time when top government officials, politicians, and during this week’s U.N. General Assembly in New York raised concerns over backlash against LGBTQ and intersex rights around the world.

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Canada

Eight jailed across Canada during anti-LGBTQ sex ed rallies

Prime minister condemned bigotry; counterprotests outnumbered demonstrations

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Protests sparked across Canada over gender policies in schools took place on Sept. 20, 2023. (Screenshot/YouTube CBC)

A highly coordinated series of anti-LGBTQ protests rocked more than 80 cities across Canada on Wednesday, in a significant escalation of tactics by Canada’s anti-LGBTQ extremists.

The coordinated protests dubbed 1 Million March 4 Children are demanding an end to discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity in Canadian classrooms. They come as several Canadian provinces have enacted policies that require students to have parental permission to change their preferred name or pronoun used in schools, and shortly after the federal Conservative Party adopted a series of anti-trans policies at its national convention.

According to its website, 1 Million March 4 Children is calling for “the elimination of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum, pronouns, gender ideology and mixed bathrooms in schools.” The website also lists among its supporters numerous groups that were opposed to masking policies during the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-vaccine groups, groups that promote conspiracy theories, and groups that support the truck convoys that laid siege to Ottawa and several U.S. border crossings last year.

Protests happened from coast to coast, in big cities, suburbs and small towns, but in most cases, they were met with coordinated counter-protests in support of LGBTQ rights who greatly outnumbered the protesters. 

CBC reported that counter-protesters numbered roughly double the anti-LGBTQ protesters in St. John’s, Newfoundland.  

Inclusive sex education has long been part of school curriculums in most provinces in Canada and has generally enjoyed support from all major political parties.

While the protests where mostly peaceful, at least four anti-LGBTQ protesters were arrested after getting into altercations with counter-protestors in British Columbia, and police advised that the protest in front of the provincial legislature had become “unsafe.”

Police in Nanaimo, British Columbia, tackled and arrested one man who attempted to flee after allegedly getting into a physical altercation at City Hall. Two protestors were also arrested in Victoria, British Columbia, as they demonstrated in front of the provincial legislature, and another protester was arrested in Vancouver. Police in both cities did not provide additional information.

Ottawa police also arrested two protesters for allegedly inciting hatred and another for causing a disturbance in at the protest in front of Parliament.

And Toronto police arrested 47-year-old protester Julia Stevenson for allegedly bringing a weapon to the demonstration outside the provincial legislature. Police did not give further details about what kind of weapon she is alleged to have been carrying.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, condemned the anti-LGBTQ protests in a tweet on X, formerly Twitter.

“Let me make one thing very clear: Transphobia, homophobia and biphobia have no place in this country. We strongly condemn this hate and its manifestations, and we stand united in support of 2SLGBTQI+ Canadians across the country — you are valid and you are valued,” he wrote.

Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre did not put out any statement on the protests, nor did deputy leader Melissa Lantsman, who is openly lesbian and has previously spoken out on LGBTQ issues on behalf of the party. 

The leader of the left-leaning New Democratic Party Jagmeet Singh joined the counter-protestors who demonstrated in Ottawa and marched toward Parliament Hill.

“We know that there’s a lot of folks that don’t feel safe because of the rise in hate and division that’s targeting vulnerable people,” Singh told CTV. “But then you see a lot of people coming together, and it shows the strength of solidarity, of us supporting each other, of having each other’s back.”

Alberta Teachers’ Association President Jason Schilling says the protesters are part of a North America-wide movement fomenting hatred against queer people using misinformation and lies.

“Using ‘parental consent’ as camouflage, this rally was part of a coordinated strike across North America to promote misinformation, intolerance and hate toward the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, as well as toward teachers who work to protect the safety and well-being of all students,” Schilling said in a statement.

In many cities, the anti-LGBTQ protests were officially condemned by mayors and school boards.

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow, who has publicly supported LGBTQ rights since the 1980s, issued a strong statement condemning the protests

“We stand against all forms of discrimination, hatred and bigotry, and for the safety and well-being of all young people. Some wish to target our schools and libraries to spread hate. We know these must be spaces that welcome everyone, especially students,” Chow wrote.

The city of Whitehorse, Yukon, issued a statement condemning bigotry in advance of the protests.

“While the city supports people’s right to organize and protest, we stand by our 2SLGBTQIA+ community members and their right to live their true selves safely and free of harassment and hate. The promotion of anti-2SLGBTQIA+ ideas has no place in our community and messages that target fellow community members will not be tolerated,” the statement says.

However, New Brunswick Primer Blaine Higgs, who was the first to introduce a “parental consent” policy for trans students, joined the protesters in front of the provincial legislature in Fredericton. 

“I think our parents should become knowledgeable about what their kids are being taught and what is important for them to learn in schools and what’s important for parents to make decisions on with kids that are under 16-years-old,” Higgs told reporters.

British Columbia Conservative Party leader John Rustad went further in a statement on the protests. While he says he doesn’t “officially” support the protests, if his party wins next year’s election, he promised to cancel the province’s sex ed curriculum and implied he would ban transgender girls from sports.

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India

India penal code reform bills do not include LGBTQ, intersex rights

Supreme Court earlier this year heard marriage equality cases

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(Photo by Rahul Sapra via Bigstock)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019 said that all the laws implemented during British rule should be made in accordance with modern norms and with society’s interests in account after adequate discussion and consideration. The government this year introduced a bill that would amend India’s criminal laws, but the measure is not inclusive.

Home Minister Amit Shah on Aug. 11 introduced the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill 2023, Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill 2023 and Bharatiya Sakhshya Bill 2023 in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament. The three bills would replace the Indian Penal Code of 1860, the Criminal Procedure Code of 1898 and the Indian Evidence Act of 1872.

Shah said while introducing the bill that these three laws strengthened and protected British rule, and their purpose was to punish, not to give justice.

“The soul of three new laws will be to protect all the rights given to Indian citizens by the constitution, and their purpose will not be to punish but give justice,” said Shah. “These three laws made with Indian thought process will bring a huge change in our criminal justice system.”

Shah, while introducing the bill, also said that the government has taken a very principled decision to bring citizens to the center, instead of governance. These laws, however, still fail to be inclusive. 

Chapter Five of the proposed revision to the penal code, which deals with offenses against women and children, did not talk about people who do not fall under specified categories, leaving out LGBTQ and intersex rights.

Section 63 of the code still defines rape as sexual assault by a man against a woman and continues to preserve gender stereotypes. The definition fails to recognize sexual assault by a man against another man or by a woman against another woman.

Another concerning section of the proposed criminal code, Section 38, would extend the right to private defense of the body to voluntarily causing the death of or any other harm to an assailant if an assault is with the intention of gratifying “unnatural lust.” The code does not define “unnatural lust” though it is very similar to now abolished Section 377 that criminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations.

The Supreme Court in 2018 decriminalized homosexuality in India, thus repealing Section 377. 

The British first introduced Section 377 and it was modelled on the Buggery Act of 1533. Thomas Macaulay in 1838 wrote the colonial-era law and it came into force in 1860. The Buggery Act defined buggery as an unnatural sexual activity against the will of God and man. 

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code defines unnatural offenses as whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Even though Section 377 has been repealed, the new criminal laws do not include the LGBTQ and intersex community under the same legal protection that is available to others. The new bill fails to mention LGBTQ and intersex people, leaving out any protection against violent crime. 

There are no official statistics available on crimes against LGBTQ and intersex people, including those based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in India.

“The language of the new laws has undergone substantial positive changes to further include the LGBTQ community. After the passage of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019, the proposed new criminal laws also have gender-inclusive language,” said Krishna Deva Rao, vice chancellor of the National Academy of Legal Studies and Research in Telangana state. “For instance, the meaning of the term ‘gender’ has been expanded as section 2(9) of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (the law to replace the existing Indian Penal Code 1860) now defines ‘gender’ as the pronoun ‘he’ and its derivatives are used of any person, whether male, female or transgender. The penal law in Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita has also formally removed the controversial provision Section 377 from the IPC.”

Rao said that the government should have done a better job of further addressing the discriminatory treatment meted out to such marginalized communities. 

In an email to the Washington Blade, Rao said that despite the Supreme Court’s landmark NALSA verdict in 2014, the government has yet to provide horizontal reservations to the transgender community.

“Despite the passage of the Transgender Persons Act 2019, the concerns of the community remain unredressed as the penalties provided therein are very low. Similarly, despite the 2014 Supreme Court verdict providing for self-determination of gender identity without having to undergo surgical intervention, the 2019 Act and related rules are interpreted in a way to mandate surgery,” said Rao. “Recently, in August 2023 Hyderabad police came under heavy scrutiny for cracking down on a begging racket. The police personnel discriminated against members of the transgender community because they had not undergone surgery or had genitalia not corresponding to their identified gender.”

In a statement made about Chapter Five of the newly proposed Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Act, Rao said that the law catered to address crimes against women and children. Rao added it should have been expanded to include the LGBTQ and intersex community as well.

“While Section 377 has been struck down from the IPC, as per the landmark Navtej Singh Johar decision by the Supreme Court of India in 2018 the provision was only partially read down to exclude consensual homosexual relationships. By removing the provision entirely, non-consensual or illegal acts of intercourse against men as well as transgender community are left completely unaddressed by the new penal law,” said Rao. “The arrest and medical examination safeguards under the criminal procedure have been exclusively catered to the protection of women. For instance, women survivors of sexual abuse have to be medically examined in a prescribed way, women can’t be arrested after sunset and before sunrise, etc. Such procedures should also be extended to people from the LGBTQ community. Similarly, when transgender persons have to be examined, they should be allowed to provide their written consent for the gender of the doctor.”

Two Supreme Court judges in their 2014 NALSA vs. Union of India ruling said that trans people fall within the purview of the Indian constitution and thus are fully entitled to the rights guaranteed therein. 

“In a country which once considered us to be a ‘minuscule populace’, the LGBTQIA+ community has been overlooked as a demographic group to be considered during any revelations of the constitution,” said Ankana Dey of Sappho for Equality, an activist forum for lesbian, bisexual woman and trans men. “In research in 2018, the LGBTQIA+ group was one of the 12 groups in India that was least represented in any research or legislative amendments. In context to the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita bill, it is no different for us. However, the LGBTQIA+ movement will continue to fight for its rights and representation in legal reforms. LGBTQIA+ activists and groups will continue to navigate the laws and policies in order to bring relief of some form to the community and will continue spreading that information with a bottoms-up approach.”  

In an email to the Blade, Dey said that every time Sappho for Equality’s team is in the field, they work along the lines of advocacy and try to strike a dialogue with the legal representatives of the state such as police, lawyers and paralegal workers.

“Through these dialogues, we understood that the laws which have been passed and have not been circulated enough within the networks of legal representatives. Most of the lawyers in our state are unaware of what constitutes the NALSA judgment, The Transgender Persons Protection of Rights Act and Bill, and even the Mental Healthcare Act. The State Legal Services Authority (SALSA) categorically mentions that any person from the LGBTQIA+ community who has faced violence and discrimination has the right to free legal services from the state,” said Dey. “Albeit most of the community persons are not aware of this service and even if they are, money extortion and intimidation are grave concerns that make these services severely inaccessible. Some of these dialogues have translated into heated conversations since most lawmakers do not enjoy being told that their knowledge lacks constructive information and their work generally surrounds misinformation, stigma, and stereotypes associated with us. Despite this, we are hellbent on continuing our fight to counter the legalities that affect us negatively. We are intently striving towards working with lawyers at a regional level and sensitizing them about queer-trans* lives and liveabilities.”

Dey said that most of these bills that would specifically address trans lives have not been implemented since the NALSA ruling in 2014. She said there is a severe lack of implementation of these laws at the grassroots level.

“We strongly believe that with the revised IPC that deals with offenses against women and children, there is an urgent need to expand the very definition of a ‘woman,'” said Dey.

While talking to the Blade, Harish Iyer, an equal rights activist, said he hopes that the actual draft will be more inclusive for all genders and sexualities.

“I think culture is not static, culture is evolutionary. Our laws also have evolved from time to time. We have made more progressive laws. With gender and sexuality, I would hope that the changes in laws would be more inclusive for all citizens of India,” said Iyer. “It is an Indian culture to accept different sexuality. British culture was Section 377 of IPC. If we are going to define the law that is not IPC, it becomes imperative for us to follow Indian culture. We have always accepted and respected LGBTQI+ people.”

Ankush Kumar is a reporter who has covered many stories for Washington and Los Angeles Blades from Iran, India and Singapore. He recently reported for the Daily Beast. He can be reached at [email protected]. He is on Twitter at @mohitkopinion. 

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