'Sathiya' and LGBT Rights in India
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched Sathiya which is an instruction manual for the adolescents. The instructions which are written in its manual are progressive, broad and scientific which is a welcome step for our society. Here, we have discussed these instructions with a look into other issues related to them.
What is Sathiya?
The Indian government launched the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram on 7th January 2014. The key features of this program are adolescent participation and leadership, Equity and inclusion, strategic partnerships with other sectors and stakeholders, and Gender.
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund, has developed a National Adolescent Health Strategy. This program plans to train nearly 1.65 lakh Saathiya 'educators' who will engage the young brigade of the country.
It is a big step to tackle the taboos, misconceptions, and misinformation about sexuality, health and gender that have been in circulation since the inception of time. This move of the Health Ministry is hopeful, progressive, and sane.
The Basic Tenets of Sathiya
For instance, this move of the government addresses same-sex attraction with gentleness and wisdom. In India, despite Section 377 declaring homosexuality a crime, Saathiya states it’s alright to feel attracted to someone of the same sex as yours.
Sathiya stresses that it is important to treat such feelings with respect. It prioritizes mutual consent among human relationships. It emphasizes that when a woman says no it means no.
Elsewhere, Saathiya also tries to break the norms set by patriarchy for the boys. It brings flexibility to such norms, saying it’s alright for boys to cry, to like “female” past-times like design or cooking.
It elaborates to boys that not conforming to macho stereotypes doesn’t mean a loss of masculinity. Similarly, girls who like sports are no less female.
Saathiya highlights the absurdity of locking individuals into iron-clad roles, encouraging young persons to be their own selves.
The material talks about safe sex, abortions, contraception and also treats them as facts of life. It unveils the moral embarrassments ignorance related to such issues.
Saathiya treats adolescents in a radically new fashion by saying adolescents are not babies to be indulged or chided. It says they are young adults, to be treated with dignity and wit.
The material provided by Sathiya is relevant to others issues related to life and society. It is relevant for the issues like Love Jihad, Anti- Romeo Squads, moral policing, and LGBT rights in India.
LGBT Rights in India
In July 2009, the Delhi High Court, recognizing the inherent injustice in Section 377’s operation, rendered a momentous verdict and found that the law, in persecuting a community purely based on the sexual orientation of its members, was patently opposed to the Constitution’s essential promises. However, just over four years later, in Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Naz Foundation, the Supreme Court reversed this finding.
The Supreme Court upheld section 377 of the Indian Penal Code on its verdict in December 2013. The Section 377 of Indian Penal Code seeks to punish “carnal intercourse against the order of nature. This verdict given by the two-judge Bench states that it was up to Parliament to decide whether to retain, amend or delete the section.
The Supreme Court has shown on not striking down Section 377.
The reasoning behind leaving it to the legislature to decide whether or not to decriminalize homosexuality indicates that it fell short of Indian judicial standards. Section 377, plainly read, punishes with imprisonment for life or for a term of up to 10 years any person who voluntarily has “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”.
In April 2014, The Supreme Court ordered the government to treat eunuchs or transgender people as an educationally and socially backward class. The court had directed the government to provide them with incentives and benefits in education and jobs in order to help them gain dignity, ability to fight for their constitutional rights and get accepted into mainstream society.
In September 2014, the government sought a clarification from the Supreme Court on whether gays, lesbians, and bisexuals qualify as “third gender”.
The Centre also sought a clarification on the grant of Other Backward Class (OBC) status to transgenders. The Center reasoned all such people cannot be brought under the OBC category as some of them belong to Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe by birth.
In 2016, The Supreme Court clarified that only the transgender community would qualify as the “third gender”.
Globally, it has been witnessed that many countries are liberalizing their laws regarding homosexuality, and transgenders. Many countries have legalized the gay and lesbian marriages.
Apart from it, many historical and anthropological evidence prove that homosexuality had its presence in past too. And many other types of research indicate that it’s a natural to have homosexual inclinations.
In India, section 377 of Indian Penal Code which criminalized homosexuality, should be abolished. This law was formed in the colonial era which seems draconian in 21st century.
The Supreme Court of India did not strike down the 377 section of IPC but it has left it for the government to take a decision on it. So the need of the hour is that the government should soon make a new law addressing this issue. This will immensely help the LGBT community and provide them one of their basic rights.