Sexual orientation and gender are integral aspects of one’s life. This choice largely shapes the identity of an individual. LGBQTIA+ communities have been oppressed, marginalized, ostracized, and discriminated against in almost all communities across the world and are subjected to deep-rooted and persistent structural inequalities and discrimination. People belonging to LGBQTIA+ communities have constantly fought back against the inhuman conditions that they face. Conservative groups across the globe, in the name of religion, tradition, etc. and to maintain the status quo have often deprived these groups of their basic rights, claiming such unions as ‘against the laws of nature’. This has put their basic human right to live their lives with dignity at stake.
The extent of repression and cruelty that the LGBQTIA+ communities are met with can be well understood simply by looking at the number of countries that criminalize homosexuality. In almost ⅓ of the world i.e., in 64 countries across the world homosexuality is a crime, which can be met with punishments as harsh as death sentences in countries like Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, etc. LGBQTIA+ groups are met with deep-rooted prejudice, homophobia, and mental harassment in the form of slurs and bullying in most parts of the world which makes them vulnerable to conditions like low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, suicidal feelings, etc.
Deeply-embedded homophobic and transphobic attitudes along with a lack of comprehensive legal mechanisms to protect these groups against discrimination expose them to egregious violations of their rights. The overlapping of these sentiments for LGBQTIA+ groups with racial, and ethnic discrimination, and xenophobic convictions make them among the most vulnerable sections of society. There have been numerous and widespread instances of hate crime/hate-induced violence against members of LGBQTIA+ communities. The most recent example of the same is the Colorado Springs gay nightclub shooting on 19 November 2022 where a 22-year-old man named Anderson Lee Aldrich carried out a deadly mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs. Such attacks across the world are mostly guided by deeply entrenched homophobic and bigoted mindsets against LGBQTIA+ groups.
Even in the ‘highly developed’ ‘liberal’ countries like the US, UK, and many parts of Europe, these groups do not enjoy equal freedom and opportunities and have the same set of sacrosanct and comprehensive rights as others.
One glaring example of the same in recent times is the Blocking of the Scottish Gender Recognition Reform Bill 2023 by the UK government led by the Conservative party under the leadership of PM Rishi Sunak. On January 16, 2023, the Westminster government, for the first time, used section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 (which grants the Secretary of State of Scotland the power, in certain circumstances, to veto legislation enacted by the Scottish Parliament, even if it deals with a devolved matter) to prevent a Scottish Parliament bill from moving forward to receive Royal Assent and become law. The bill rejected on grounds of having "significant impact" on equality matters in Scotland, England, and Wales. Another reason cited by the British government was the concern for safety and rights ‘specific’ to women and young girls. The controversial aspect of the situation is that such conservative governments try to make believe people that such decisions taken by them are in the best interest of the greater population, the truth is that these steps are guided by deep-rooted homophobic sentiments and intolerance which inhibits the making of such progressive laws.
Another discriminatory act heavily influenced by intolerant and anti-LGBQTIA+ rhetoric is the signing of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Act signed by Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis. The act was further approved by Florida’s education board which prohibits discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity at school across all grade levels. This forbids educators in Florida to “intentionally provide classroom instruction to students in grades four through 12 on sexual orientation or gender identity unless such instruction is either expressly required by state academic standards … or is part of a reproductive health course or health lesson for which a student’s parent has the option to have his or her student not attend.”
The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ act is a part of larger series of anti-LGBQTIA+ initiatives/bills being proposed in Florida which includes a ban on gender-affirming care e.g., puberty blockers, banning pride flags from public buildings, as well as removing college majors and minors on gender studies and critical race theory, among other similar disciplines, etc. These are clear examples of anti LGBQTIA+ attitudes and sentiments among lawmakers which significantly impacts the lives of these communities making it very difficult.
Another type of discrimination comes in the form of dismissal of recognition of LGBQTIA+ rights and identities altogether making it nearly impossible for them to lead a normal life. India is one such country where the right-leaning, conservative national government labels same-sex marriage as an “urban elitist concept” and vehemently opposes same-sex marriage citing concerns related to tradition and religion. It is important to note that until 2018, section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalized sexual acts against the order of nature homosexual sexual relationships. The Indian government under PM Modi’s leadership has at times shown homophobic, intolerant, and dismissive attitudes towards these communities, let alone allowing them to enter the realm to demand equal rights. The Indian government in recent years has made passed stringent laws making the lives of LGBQTIA+ communities more difficult. Blocking of gay lawyers to be appointed as judges to apex courts because of their sexual orientation, limiting adoption to heterosexual couples, etc. are amongst many examples of the deep-rooted homophobic, transphobic, and anti-LGBQTIA+ sentiments/attitude of the government.
To conclude a large percentage of the population in the world identifies/belongs to LGBQTIA+ groups, though it is nearly impossible to have an estimate of the exact number as many individuals who belong to these groups are forced to ‘remain in the closet’ (an expression used by LGBQTIA+ people who have not publicly disclosed their sexual orientation). The reason behind such a disappointing scenario is the ill-treatment, discrimination, and societal backlash that they are subjected to. People across the globe need to realize despite their sexual orientation LGBQTIA+ groups are people/citizens who deserve and should be given the same rights, respect status, and opportunities as any other citizen. The need of the hour is that civil society stands in solidarity with LGBQTIA+ communities to raise their demands and compel lawmakers to create a healthy, free, supportive, and encouraging environment for these people ensuring their overall development and well-being.
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