At the recently held Youth Summit on Sustainable Development Goals organized by Sikkim Institute of Rural Development (SIRD) which also happened to one of Sikkim’s first ever youth summit, there was a section on SDG number 5, gender equality. The goal speaks of gender equality and the need of equal opportunities for both genders, male and female. But what it doesn’t speak of is the same for other genders. Gender, as we know isn’t restricted to the binary of male and female anymore and it also includes other alternative genders as well. As of now, the 30 pages UN charter on goal number 5 of the SDG doesn’t have a single mention of other genders. Hence there is a desperate need of amendment in that particular goal to include other alternative genders like, transgender, gender non-confirming, gender neutral etc.

The Honorable Supreme Court of India in 2014 declared transgender people as a “Third gender”, affirming that they have the rights to self-identification of their genders as either male, female or third gender. Yet we see ample amount of discrimination against transgender people and people form the LGBTQIA+ community. The Honorable MP from Sikkim, Mr. Indra Hang Subba mentioned about how there was nothing unnatural about people from the LGBTQIA+ community which coming from the lone representative of the people of the state in the national levels, is a huge validation and acceptance of the people of this community.

The absolute need to bring people from the LGBTQIA+ community into the mainstream by giving them more opportunities in terms of jobs and livelihood was discussed in the summit along with the need to deliberate on how to plan the process of mainstreamisation of the community. At the moment the people of the LGBTQIA+ community are mostly in the fringes and almost invisible to the rest of the world.

Having said that, there has been an overwhelming support for the LGBTQIA+ community post the summit, which only goes on to point that people in the hills of Sikkim and Darjeeling are progressive.

Sikkim hosted its first Pride March on the 27th January 2019 and Darjeeling hosted its Pride March on the 10th December 2018, which until recently was unthinkable. Unthinkable because it is still believed that the people of the hills are regressive in their outlook which, however, has categorically been proved wrong.

There will be no society which will support LGBTQIA+ rights a total 100% and the truth have to live with, but the kind of majoritarian support and vocal allying in the hills of Sikkim and Darjeeling, just goes on to show the progressive and accepting nature of the society we live in.

The response to the pride marches were evidence enough of the changing times, of changing mentalities and of changing perceptions. Despite that, there is still a lot of work to be done and that, shall and must be done.

It is still needed to work towards smashing gender stereotypes, allowing people to love who they want to love, allowing people to align to whatever gender they identify with. Creating awareness regarding the rights of LGBTQIA+ community to people who belong to the community.

The verdict on IPC 377 that came out on the 6th September 2018, has definitely helped across the board, it has helped in gaining acceptance and the courage to stand up against discrimination. However, there needs to be a lot more that remains to be done.

Setting up support-groups, creating centers for awareness, work towards including alternative genders and sexuality into the ambit of an umbrella ministry which will ensure the rights of the community isn’t being violated.

Though all of it might seem like an uphill task, but slowly and steadily the society will work towards achieving it and making itself a more inclusive one.

By Gaurav Probir Pramanik.

About the author: Gaurav Probir Pramanik is a lgbtqi+ activist and also a columnist. He writes on ‘Gender issues and sexual minorities. He can be contacted via his email gauravpramanik@gmail.com

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