Thriving with Pride: India steps forward to empower and enable LGBTIQ+

- by Zainab P and Dr. Chiranjeev B

June 29, 2022

Heena alias Biswajeet Barai, a transgender who identifies as a woman works as a counsellor at West Bengal-based Kolkata Rista- an organisation that works for the LGBTIQ+ community.

UNDP India/ Indranil Bhoumik

The streets of cities across India have been awash with rainbow colours, music, and smiles this past month as the city's Pride parades returned for the first time in two years.

Colourful floats – some blasting music to energize the crowd – dancers, marchers waving rainbow flags and carrying signs about love and acceptance were common as people came together to celebrate love and identity.

June is the month of Pride!

The Pride Month is a reminder that everyone is equal no matter their sexuality or gender.

Empowering and enabling LGBTIQ+

India has made strides toward empowering and enabling the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, and Queer+ (LGBTIQ+) communities. After the verdict of the Honorable Supreme Court in favor of LGBTIQ+ on September 6, 2018, the community has witnessed a gradual shift in mindset . Members of the LGBTIQ+ community can be increasingly seen competing against others across varied sectors. 

The mainstreaming of the community has also found support in corporate India. More and more Indian companies have started building awareness and adopting best practices that aim to provide equal opportunities to all, irrespective of gender or their sexual orientation. Business chambers like FICCI have developed a 'Workplace Equality Index' recently to promote inclusiveness in Indian workplaces.

For transgender persons, the passing of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019 and the setting up of the National Council for Transgender Persons by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) have provided critical legislative support that spurred their progress. The Act has helped design and roll out the SMILE scheme to improve access of the Transgender community to health, education, housing, and personal security.

UNDP strengthening the response for LGBTIQ+

Through the 2030 Agenda and the promise of leaving no one behind, UNDP works with governments and partners to address inequalities experienced by LGBTIQ+ people worldwide, mainly supporting efforts to strengthen laws, policies, and programmes that respect human rights.

To mainstream the Transgender community, UNDP, in collaboration with community-based organisations like Humsafar Trust and C-SHaRP, developed a Framework for Transgender Welfare in India in 2021. The robust framework was the guiding document for welfare measures for the community and supported MoSJE in designing the SMILE scheme launched in 2022.

UNDP is also working with NITI Aayog to develop a National Action Plan for LGBTIQ+ communities. The Action Plan will address the community's challenges in accessing basic services like health, education, housing, jobs, and livelihoods. It will also recommend actions and implementation plans to address the issues. It is expected to be rolled out by the end of 2022.

Promoting mental and physical well-being

Health, including the mental health of the LGBTIQ+ communities, has been another key focus area for UNDP.

Together with the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) and community-based organisations, UNDP has supported two National Symposiums on LGBTIQ+ health in 2019 and 2021. The symposiums attended by 1,000+ participants have been critical to laying the groundwork for a National Action Plan for LGBTIQ+ Health. This Action Plan will act as a guide for policymakers, enabling them to plan programmes that seek to promote a more inclusive health support system for the LGBTIQ+ community. 

Also on the cards are Psychosocial support modules developed by UNDP in partnership with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS). These soon-to-be launched modules, will enable services providers like counselors, public health professionals, doctors, etc., to counsel and better manage the mental health of the community, across the country.

Given the community's vulnerability, UNDP is also working with NACO on the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Act 2017 by designing training and awareness materials.  

Looking ahead

India has set out on the right path to fulfilling the aspirations of the LGBTIQ+ communities.

As we move ahead, we must identify, discuss, and eventually move beyond the obstacles that contribute to exclusion, discrimination, and restrict access to social protection for the community. This Pride Month, we invite everyone to stand up and become an LGBTIQ+ ally. Today and always, let’s celebrate love, diversity, and inclusion.

Happy Pride to All.

Zainab P is Member of the National Council for Transgender Persons.

Dr. Chiranjeev B is National Programme Manager - Health Systems Strengthening at UNDP India.