U.S. details its extensive LGBTQI rights advocacy in India

EIGHTH IN A SERIES: In the past year, United States officials have been working hard on behalf of LGBTQI rights throughout India — in Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkata.

In September 2018, gay rights supporters in Bangalore, India, celebrate the Supreme Court ruling that overturned India's anti-gay law. (Photo courtesy of USA Today)
In September 2018, gay rights supporters in Bangalore, India, celebrate the Supreme Court ruling that overturned India’s anti-gay law. (Photo courtesy of USA Today)

This is the last in an eight-part series focusing on the impact of President Joe Biden’s February 2021 order to U.S. government agencies to “promote and protect the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world.” In April 2022, a total of 14 U.S. departments and agencies, ranging from the State Department to the Peace Corps, combined to create a comprehensive report about what they have done in response to that presidential order.

Related commentary: “Biden is silent when a loud message on global LGBT rights is needed” (Erasing 76 Crimes, November 2021)

Today’s post includes the report’s descriptions of U.S. officials’ activity in India, where the nation’s colonial-era anti-homosexuality law was overturned in 2018.

Mission India aims to raise awareness about national laws needed to safeguard the human rights of LGBTQI+ communities and the implications of recent judicial rulings on advancing LGBTQI+ rights. Mission India will continue to look to the activists to lead the way, respecting their expertise and lived perspectives to best understand their needs and how the United States can support them.

In India, Mission activities include the following: as a follow up to Mumbai’s “Beyond the Binary” program on Legal Rights of the LGBTQI+ Community,

U.S. Consulate General Chennai plans to host a hybrid roundtable to engage lawyers, activists, NGOs, law enforcement and judicial officers, academics and representatives of the LGBTQI+ community and feature prominent judges and lawyers. In the coming months New Delhi will host three LGBTQI+-related events, including a program on LGBTQI+ tourism in conjunction with the Foreign Commercial Service; a conversation on the inclusion of LGBTQI+ persons in the workforce featuring activists and human resources professionals to share best practices for sensitizing professionals and implementing inclusive HR policies; and Voice for Voiceless #7 to engage with voices from diverse backgrounds to illuminate the experiences of LGBTQI+ community. Voice for the Voiceless runs through June 2022.

Mumbai held two additional Beyond the Binary programs in December and January. As a capstone, the Consulate General plans to work with an industry partner to convene Indian and U.S. companies who have proven successful at creating LGBTQI+-friendly workspaces and HR policies – such as extending same-sex partner benefits – to share best practices with local businesses eager to do the same but uncertain about the way forward. SPAN, a magazine published by the U.S. Embassy in India offering articles from writers in both countries on education, business, technology, health, culture, social development, arts, and achievements in U.S.- India relations, highlighted in the November/December 2021 edition the importance of the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons through a research-based article that will advocate for the rights of the community by featuring the places that tell the stories of LGBTQI+ heritage in the United States (i.e., the Stonewall Monument, the Butt-Millet Memorial Fountain, the Dr. Franklin Kameny Residence).

U.S. Consulate General Hyderabad is proposing a partnership with the Society for Cyberabad Security Council, a representative body in the IT sector, to organize employability and life-skill training to transgender persons and facilitate access to job opportunities. The Consulate is planning a visit by the Consul General to India’s first transgender help desk set up by the Telangana Police in Cyberabad Police Commissionerate and with support from an IVLP alumna. The help desk assists in filing cases related to offences, violence, or discrimination against any transgender person.s

Consulate Kolkata’s Public Affairs Section supported an LGBTQI+ Vaccination Drive. On May 30, local organization SAYAN partnered with the West Bengal Government and Techno India DAMA Healthcare & Medical Centre to provide free COVID-19 vaccines to fifty LGBTQI+ persons in Kolkata. The drive provided vaccines for 2,500 people from the community during Pride Month, and the kick-off event encouraged other private hospitals to announce special vaccination camps for gender minorities. SAYAN, which continues to foster partnerships across South Asia, is a community-driven network that evolved from the PAS Kolkata-funded Rainbow Talks series. Consulate Kolkata also celebrated the inauguration of a transgender health and wellness clinic, and the American Center provides programming on Transgender Health and HIV.

PAS Kolkata’s Rainbow Dialogues Grant recently launched with the objective of strengthening LGBTQI+ networks, building new alliances, and providing tools to connect and find acceptance within the larger community. The program will be implemented through a series of perception-mapping surveys, dialogues, and workshops to raise awareness about national laws that safeguard the rights and choices of LGBTQI+ communities and build a strong public campaign advocating for educational opportunities and access to public spaces and employment. The grantee will measure the short-, medium-, and long-term success through pre- and post- surveys, data analysis, new partnerships and alliances, visibility in work environments, and focused recommendation for pro-inclusion policy and practice.

Another Consulate Kolkata grant will bring together local organizations and the U.S.-based nonprofit StoryCenter to support 15-20 LGBTQI+ leaders in diverse fields in representing their stories as short digital videos and podcasts, using Kolkata American Center resources, storytelling, and participatory media to amplify their voices. Multiple screenings and selective use of the stories will ensure that community members are “seen, accepted, and supported,” connecting them to a broader audience of more than 5,000 students, educators, law enforcement officers, medical workers, multinational companies, and related professional sectors. The grantee will monitor progress and determine overall success and impact of the project through a combination of quantitative and qualitative documentation, including social media metrics and data through YouTube, Apple, and Spotify platforms.

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)

  • In India, HRSA supported the Inauguration of the Transgender Health & Wellness Centre and Help Desk. The ‘Transgender Health and Wellness Centre’, the first ever TG health clinic in India, was inaugurated and launched in Imphal, Manipur (NE state in India) on March 25, 2021. The Centre will provide ‘holistic healthcare’ to the transgender community for improving accessibility to HIV and related services as well as psychosocial development and economic empowerment.

 

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor / publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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