The changing attitudes towards homosexuality in India and the tech pushing it forward
For many Indian’s the idea of homosexuality, is still a difficult subject. Despite its criminalisation not being enforced by authorities, the LGBT community is still battling age-old stereotypes and de facto segregation deeply entrenched in the country’s culture. This is a result of traditional family values, and the idea of being part of an extended family, being an essential aspect of Indian culture. Breaking these values can often leave individuals ostracized by the people they love.
Although there is good news. In August, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that privacy is a fundamental constitutional right for all its citizens. As a result of this ruling, a wider conversation surrounding privacy has opened up, with one of the main topics being homosexuality.
According to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, homosexuality is illegal and punishable by a fine and imprisonment. However, thanks to the premise that the ban is unconstitutional as a person’s sexual preferences are private, personal matters, this topic has sparked an outcry to review the code. Consequently, India’s Supreme Court has now ordered a review of the gay sex ban.
On top of this a greater number of individuals are coming forward to voice their support for the LGBT acceptance such as Prince Manvendra, who opens his palace to LGBT people in December stating “I want to give people social and financial empowerment, so eventually people who want to come out won’t be affected. They will have their own social security system,” Prince Manvendra said to The Independent.
But acceptance hasn’t always been this promising in recent years. An article by VICE titled “‘We Exist’: Inside India’s Secretive Gay Nightlife Scene,” brought to light the troubles faced by LGBT couples in India, detailing how nightclubs would turn them away with openly anti-LGBT policies.
In light of this, a community formed using online networks and dating apps such as Grindr, Planet Romeo and Gaydar in order to send out invites. Now the community has produced an impressive amount of mainstream events, with attendees in the hundreds, from a variety of backgrounds.
“We usually write to the team at the app and inform them that we are holding a party,” says Shyam Konnur, an LGBTQ activist and event planner who regularly organizes queer parties in Pune and Bangalore, states VICE. “They are always cooperative, and users almost immediately get a notification about a party happening at a certain location when they open the app.”
These apps have given isolated individuals a sense of belonging which has not gone unrecognized by the app’s creators. In India, 75% of LGBT people surveyed fear for their lives because of their sexual orientation. The dating app Grindr has recognized this loneliness felt by its users. This drove the company to produce a division on the app called Grindr for Equality that aims to “mobilize, inform, and empower” its users.
“Unlike other groups who may be minorities within society, LGBT people don’t necessarily have LGBT parents, right?” states Harrison-Quintana, reports National Geographic. Adding “I’m Mexican-American, and my mom is Mexican-American, so growing up I could see from her what that means, learn about our culture, our history. That’s just not true for LGBT people, which leads to some of the extreme isolation that you see in the worst cases.”
This is particularly important when considering the crucial role family plays in India. Despite the strong unity that Indian families display, they are not always a welcoming environment for individuals to discuss serious issues such as sexual orientation or even mental health.
Thus, the availability of online networks and dating apps have come to accommodate those in need of a place to turn when family is not an option. Delta, a startup building India’s first LGBT community, support and networking app hopes to revolutionise this area, providing a safe space for the LGBT community to turn to for support and advice.
Last year the app attracted attention due to a crowdfunding campaign which raised a total of 9,26,800 rupees. The app is not currently available, however, their website does state “We’ve been hard at work for months conducting research, holding focus groups & meeting with industry veterans across technology, app businesses & LGBT policy, healthcare & advocacy arenas. With our advisers, partners & incredible community of supporters, we’re now ready to build Delta – the first app of it’s kind in the Indian ecosystem.”
These advancements are undoubtedly benchmarks of remarkable progress, and signs of great things to come, however, there is still plenty of work to be done. It is important to bear in mind that many of these progressive movements mostly reside in cities which is problematic for a large portion of the population who live in rural areas.
To ensure the country makes critical advancement for the rights of the LGBT community, it is important to acknowledge those outside of urban areas, allowing rural residents to receive the same acceptance as those in the larger cities. Nonetheless, it is important to celebrate the small victories, and India’s LGBT community looks like it is on track for a much bright future.