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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS: A community and a health issue of concern

 Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Current events of national importance(Different social service Schemes, NFHS, LGBTQ+ community, section 377, NALSA
  • Mains GS Paper I & II: Social empowerment, development and management of social sectors/services related to Health, Issues faced by vulnerable sections of society etc.

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • During the recent celebration of Pride month (June) globally and in India, social media presence filled with striking images and stories of LGBTQIA++.
  • Despite the reading down of Section 377, the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) judgments and successive progressive movements, India’s class, caste and regionally diverse LGBTQIA++ communities remain at risk of life long mental illnesses and challenges.
  • A document released by the International Labour Organisation(ILO) on “Inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer(LGBTIQ+) persons in the world of work” recommended member countries, employers’ organisations and representatives of workers tolaunch social protection programmes to remove barriers that LGBTIQ+ persons face insociety.

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

(LGBTIQ+):

  • LGBTQ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning.
  • These terms are used to describe a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

Difficulties Faced by LGBTIQ+ Community:

  • Heterosexuality: They are experiencing intolerance, discrimination, harassment, and threat of violence due to their sexual orientation than those that identify themselves as heterosexual.
  • In-equality & Violence: They face inequality and violence at every place around the world. They face torture from people who mock at them and make them realize that they are different from others.
  • Deprived in Rights: In many countries, the rights enjoyed by opposite-sex couples are not enjoyed by same-sex couples. They are prohibited from those rights.
  • Isolation from society: They gradually develop low self-esteem and low self-confidence and become isolated from friends and family.
  • Conflict in Family itself: Lack of communication between LGBT children and the parents often leads to conflict in the family. Many LGBT youths are placed in foster care or end up in juvenile detention or on the streets.
  • Racial Discrimination: Additionally, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face poverty and racism daily. They suffer from social and economic inequalities due to continuous discrimination in the workplace.

 

Implications of Stigma towards LGBTQIA++:

  • Life long dissonance, deep rooted stigma, discrimination and often abuse, that the community experiences.
  • Extreme distress and poor self worth, resulting in self hate and suffering.
  • The community is often fearful and has such deeply internalized stigma that it is challenging to even articulate what it feels like, forget about seeking help.
  • Social contexts and the discrimination give them stress that impact their mental health, relentlessly, from a young age.
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity are rarely discussed in our social, educational or familialenvironments, and if ever done,these discussions are stigmatising.
  • Society marginalizes LGBTQIA++people throughout life, no matter how accomplished they may be.
  • If a person’s gender identity is different from the sex assigned to them at birth, this conflict and othering is extreme.
  • The person feels trapped and conflicted, that feeds their gender dysphoria.

 

Reasons for Inadequate Health services to LGBTQIA++:

  • When help is sought even by the most empowered, queer affirmative mental health services are hardly available.
  • A large majority of the psychiatrists in India still consider diverse sexual orientations and gender identities as a disorder and practice ‘correctional therapy’. This is also true of general health care as well.
  • In an ongoing study, the Raahat Project found that a large number of trans and gay men preferred to pay and seek help in the private sector rather than access government health care due to harassment and stigma.

 

Constitutional Safeguards:

  • Right to Privacy enshrined under Article 21: It upholds that if a person cannot enjoy his privacy then it hampers his right to dignified life.
  • Article 14: Equality before law and equal protection of laws.
  • Article 15: It provides for a prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
  • Article 19: Petitioners argue that Section 377 is a violation to Freedom of Expression under Article 19 (1) (a).

 

Various Judgments in favour of the LGBTIQ+ Community:

  • Naz foundation v/s Government of Delhi case
  • Koushal Judgment: In 2013, the Supreme Court criminalizes homosexuality (Koushal judgment)
  • Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs. Union of India (2017)
  • Navtej Singh Johar vs. Union Of India (2018)

 

Government measures:

 

 

 

Section 377:

●    Section 377 of the IPC states: “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 ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

●    This archaic British law dates back to 1861 and criminalises sexual activities against the order of nature.

●    The Supreme Court (SC) decriminalised homosexuality by striking off parts of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which were held violative of Fundamental Rights of LGBTQ Community.

 

National Legal Services Authority(NALSA):

●    It was constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 which came into force on 9th November, 1995 to establish a nationwide uniform network for providing free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society.

●    The Chief Justice of India is the Patron-in-Chief and the second senior most Judge of the Supreme Court of India is the Executive Chairman of the Authority.

●    Article 39 A of the Constitution provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society, to promote justice on the basis of equal opportunity.

●    Article 14 and Article 22 (1), obligates the State to ensure equality before law.

●    The role played by NALSA and its networks is very much relevant to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal-16 , which seeks to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.

 

 

 

Way Forward

  • Need for national focus: We need a national focus on LGBTQIA++ mental health that has been further exacerbated by the global COVID19 pandemic.
  • Long term solutions: We need comprehensive long term solutions that make queer mental health a priority and address community needs but also engage everyone to change the environment in which they exist. These solutions must engage with all the stakeholders, including educational institutions, communities,healthcare providers, mental health professionals, police personnel and families who are often a key source of mental health stress.
  • Inclusive policies: One way to change the status quo is to ensure that every aspect of mental health work in India must include aspects of queer mental health issues, especially in schools and universities, to destigmatise diverse gender and sexual identities.
  • Spilling youth: Building selfcare skills among queer adolescents and youth.
  • Awareness: Strong components of behaviour change and awareness and also building capacity are important ways to build agency among these youth populations.
  • A movement guided by society: We need is a movement on queer mental health guided by non-discrimination and public awareness in order to change social attitudes.
  • Creating a safe environment: Community building is an important part of improving the mental health for LGBTQIA++ people. We need to create supportive, safe and educative spaces, access points for healthcare and information on mental health. Example project that the Raahat Project has been working on through participatory methods has opened host of issues that LGBTQIA+ communities
  • Prevention of injustice to the community: Without addressing both the preventive and support aspects of the mental health of LGBTQIA++ people we will compound an already neglected problem of mental illness that will be hard to handle in the future. This would not just be injustice, but also a crisis created by deliberate neglect.
  • Adhering to document by ILO: Following document released by the International Labour Organisation(ILO) on “Inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer(LGBTIQ+).

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

The mental illnesses and challenges that India’s LGBTQIA++ people face need comprehensive and long term solutions. Discuss

(200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)