Living with Dignity: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity-based Human Rights Violations in Housing, Work and Public Spaces in India
This report documents the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) persons in India, in relation to their legal rights to housing, work and public spaces. It was published in June 2019 by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), which is headquartered in Switzerland and aims to promote the implementation of international human rights.
September 6, 2018, the Supreme Court struck down Section 377 of the Indian
Penal Code, which had been interpreted to prohibit same-sex relations. The
Section criminalised “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” with any
man, woman or animal. While the law can no longer be used to perpetuate
discrimination against the LGBTQ community, its members still face obstacles in
accessing basic social institutions and spaces. The report discusses these
difficulties and recommends that the Indian government introduce and strengthen
policies to protect LGBTQ rights.
from secondary literature, the 152-page report draws on 65 qualitative
interviews conducted across six states: Delhi, Gujarat, Manipur, Tamil Nadu,
Kerala and Karnataka. It notes that sexual orientation and gender identities
can be multiple and overlapping, and that the report does not represent the
experiences of intersex persons.
There are several cases of discrimination and violence against those whose real or perceived gender expression is not in conformity with their sex assigned at birth – the report notes.
LGBTQ persons are often denied housing; discriminated against in the rental market; segregated into neighbourhoods without adequate resources; forcefully evicted; and harassed by family, landlords, neighbours and the police. Many face homelessness.
The report notes that transgender persons are frequently forced to live in localities without basic amenities even when they can afford better housing due to discrimination by landlords.
Members of the LGBTQ community often face threats to their personal safety and abuses that amount to torture or degrading treatment as per international law. This includes sexual and physical violence, confinement, forced marriage and institutionalisation which may entail ‘corrective’ therapies.
Discriminatory eligibility requirements for jobs – including invasive medical tests – effectively exclude transgender and gender non-binary persons from recruitment.
Most workplaces are gendered within the male-female binary by default. This can have unfair consequences such as the imposition of restrictive dress codes and standards of appearance. Workplace discrimination often keeps LGBTQ persons from having job security.
In an interview conducted for the report, a transgender woman from Delhi spoke of her dismissal from the Indian Navy after a sex reassignment surgery. Another trans man from Bangalore recounted the improper and sexually suggestive questions of his former employers: “They asked me how I had sex, whether I had periods.”
Members of the community have trouble accessing public sanitation and toilets. In many cases, they are denied the right to use toilets of their self-identified gender, which curtails their rights to water and freedom of movement.
“I have long work hours and shoot days so I just avoid drinking too much water,” said T, a trans man and filmmaker from Bangalore. “If I have to urgently use it [the bathroom], then I try to see if there is someone I know who can look out for my safety, then I go with them.”
LGBTQ persons are discriminated against in accessing privately-owned spaces that are open to the public – including shopping malls and restaurants – as denial of entry; refusal to provide services; invasive surveillance; and discriminatory pricing.
The ICJ recommends that the government enact a comprehensive law mandating equal rights and non-discrimination for transgender persons, in accordance with international law and standards.
The central government should create a uniform and simple process for identity documentation and changing gender markers, as well as repeal or amend Section 377 of the IPC in line with the 2018 Supreme Court judgement – advises the report.
Administrative bodies under central and state governments should provide official documents – such as birth certificates, graduation certificates and marksheets – with the individual’s preferred name and gender, through a simple process without the need for proof of medical intervention.
Focus and Factoids by Shreya Ramachandran.
International Commission of Jurists
International Commission of Jurists