Queer and Trans inclusion in Electoral Manifestos

The Need for Queer and Trans inclusion in Electoral Manifestos

What happened? 

As India gears up for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, political parties are unveiling their manifestos, outlining their visions and promises for the nation’s future. Amidst this electoral spirit, LGBTQIA+ rights have gradually carved out their own space, with parties like the Indian National Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) incorporating inclusive measures into their manifestos. The Congress’s pledge to allow civil unions between queer couples and the CPI(M)’s manifesto with various inclusive measures for queer and trans communities is an important precedent in electoral manifestos. Let’s explore the agendas of a few political party vis-a-vis the lens of queer and trans inclusion. 

The 2024 Lok Sabha Elections affords a chance for inclusive electoral agendas 

The 2024 Lok Sabha elections mark a critical juncture in India’s political landscape. Announced by the Election Commission of India (ECI) on March 16, these elections are scheduled to unfold in seven phases throughout April and May. The electoral process involves over 90 crore eligible citizens casting their votes for 543 seats of the Lower House, with results slated for declaration on June 4. 

These elections occur amidst significant socio-economic challenges, including the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the imperative to rebuild the economy. With healthcare, education, unemployment, and social justice topping the list of concerns, voters seek leadership capable of addressing both immediate needs and long-term development goals. Regional dynamics and local sentiments further shape the electoral landscape, with parties striving to garner support across diverse demographics and geographies. 

In this light, the manifesto of a political party serves as a blueprint of the parties’ promises and commitments. Against this backdrop, including LGBTQIA+ rights in party manifestos emerges as a crucial marker of their stance on inclusivity and social justice. As political parties rally for popular support, their positions on LGBTQIA+ rights indicate the evolving nature of Indian democracy, where diversity and inclusivity are increasingly valued as foundational principles of progress and development. 

Congress, CPI(M) and NCP Manifestos: Accommodations for LGBTQIA+ Rights 

In their respective manifestos, both the Indian National Congress and the CPI(M) have articulated their commitments towards advancing LGBTQIA+ rights and consolidating their inclusion into public spaces. 

The CPI(M) manifesto advocates for legal recognition and protection for same-sex couples, proposing legislation akin to the Special Marriage Act of 1954. This legislation aims to provide same-sex partners with rights such as inheritance and alimony, mirroring those enjoyed by married couples. Furthermore, the manifesto underscores the creation of safe spaces in educational settings and measures to address bullying and violence faced by LGBTQIA+ individuals, reflecting a holistic understanding of inclusivity and protection when it comes to queer and trans milieu. 

Meanwhile, the Congress manifesto, “Nyay Patra,” promises to allow civil unions for LGBTQIA+ couples, marking a significant step towards equal recognition of diverse partnerships. Additionally, the manifesto emphasizes the importance of collaborative reform in personal laws, ensuring that legal changes are made with the consent and participation of affected communities. These commitments signal a progressive stance on LGBTQIA+ rights and underscore the parties’ dedication to promoting inclusivity and equality. 

NCP has always tried to take an inclusive stance when it comes to the queer and trans community in India. Their manifesto promises to accord legal rights for LGBTQIA+ issues like civil union, the right for queer couples to adopt and accessibility to healthcare facilities. Their manifesto also includes space for awareness trainings like educating teachers to be queer affirmative, or sensitizing the police to handle queer and trans cases humanely.

The manifesto equally provides for inclusive infrastructure. At the outset, they have stiputed provisions for affirmative healthcare including access to mental health care, gender-affirming care, and HIV/AIDs awareness and treatment. In the legal side, their manifesto provides for the creation of laws that strictly deal with anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes.

The manifesto also envisions the creation of youth centers, where community-specific barriers would be handled through counseling and support groups. The manifesto also intends to make inclusive policies that tackle discrimination based on gender and sexuality at the workplace. Finally, the manifesto includes a larger goal to sensitize the public and debunk stereotypes and stigma around queer and trans identities, and garner a healthy attitude of acceptance towards them.

The Government’s Stance and Supreme Court Decision on LGBTQIA+ Rights 

The BJP Election manifesto mentions a promise to provide finances for the creation of more shelter homes for trans persons. However, no other mention of queer and trans affirmative provisions were seen in the manifesto. In this circumstance, it’s essential to examine the party’s previous stance on LGBTQIA+ rights. During the Supreme Court hearing on civil unions, the BJP government opposed the move. Furthermore, there was a prolonged delay in addressing demands towards horizontal reservations for trans people. This points to a systemic gap and highlights the need for greater sensitization towards the lived realities of queer and trans folx within the party and underscores the importance of including LGBTQIA+ rights as a crucial electoral issue. 

The Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage further underscores the complexity of LGBTQIA+ rights in India. While the majority opinion emphasized legislative recognition for same-sex relationships, Chief Justice DY Chandrachud’s dissenting opinion advocated for the establishment of civil unions. This divergence underscores the need for a structured regulatory framework to address LGBTQIA+ rights effectively, foregrounding the role of both the judiciary and the legislature in advancing inclusivity. 

How the Government can foster Inclusion at Work 

Inclusivity isn’t merely a moral aspiration; it’s an essential component of effective governance, particularly in a diverse and multifaceted society like India. As the country’s largest organizational framework, the government wields a pervasive influence in shaping societal norms and practices. Addressing gaps in equitable treatment and fostering a culture of acceptance and respect for all individuals, including those from the LGBTQIA+ community, falls squarely within its purview. 

At its core, the government functions as a legislative body entrusted with enacting laws and policies that safeguard the rights of every citizen, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity. By introducing comprehensive anti-discriminatory legislation and policies, the government can ensure that LGBTQIA+ individuals are afforded equal opportunities and protections across all facets of life, including employment, education, healthcare, and housing. 

The government’s role extends beyond the confines of employment. It encompasses a broader mandate to address social disparities and promote acceptance and understanding of LGBTQIA+ individuals in society at large. This involves allocating resources towards initiatives to raise awareness about LGBTQIA+ issues, provide support services for LGBTQIA+ individuals, and facilitate LGBTQIA+ representation in media, education, and cultural institutions. By mainstreaming LGBTQIA+ perspectives and experiences, the government can foster greater societal acceptance and create awareness around the issues that the LGBTQIA+ community must contend with. 

Moreover, the government can leverage its resources and influence to support LGBTQIA+ advocacy groups and organizations. By providing funding, resources, and platforms for these organizations to amplify their voices and advance their causes, the government can catalyze positive change and address the unique challenges faced by the LGBTQIA+ community. Collaborating with civil society and grassroots organizations allows the government to tap into diverse expertise and experiences, enabling more effective policymaking and program implementation. 

Some of the inclusive measures that should be adopted by an electoral manifesto, when it comes to queer and trans rights are as follows: 

  1. Streamlining the process of self-identification of trans individuals, and taking away current bureaucratic stopgaps, aligning with a trauma-informed approach. Country-wide sensitization programs aimed towards educating government employees in queer and trans affirmative action. 
  1. Allowing legal recognition of same-sex civil unions. Allowing citizenship rights like holding joint assets, or joint insurance together. Or being allowed to adopt children together. 
  1. Legally recognizing chosen families and allowing them to act in the capacity of guardians.  
  1. Validating the reality of natal family violence within queer and trans communities and making legal provisions to protect them against the same. 
  1. Mandatory queer affirmative sensitization campaigns in schools and colleges. Bringing in anti-discriminatory awareness drives and making queer inclusive policy making at the institutional level a must. 
  1. Allocating funds to queer and trans initiatives, especially those that are run by community members. Investing in and equipping community members with tools and resources that better chances at employment and a healthy financially independent future. 
  1. Making horizontal reservations for trans people an accessible and streamlined procedure. Making other policy changes that address the intersectionalities within the trans and queer communities. 

Therefore, inclusion at work is not merely a matter of social responsibility; it’s a strategic imperative for the government. By championing LGBTQIA+ rights and creating an environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered, the government can pave the way for a more equitable and just society for all its citizens.  

 Advancing LGBTQIA+ Rights is the way forward 

As India prepares for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, including LGBTQIA+ rights in party manifestos signifies a progressive shift towards equality and inclusivity. While the Congress and CPI(M) have taken commendable steps towards recognizing and protecting LGBTQIA+ rights, it’s essential for other political parties to follow suit. India can move towards a more equitable and just society by prioritizing legislative reforms and policy measures that uphold LGBTQIA+ rights. 

Looking ahead, it’s imperative for political parties and legislative bodies to engage with the LGBTQIA+ community and address their evolving needs and demands. From anti-discriminatory laws to comprehensive legal recognition of same-sex partnerships, there’s a long road ahead in ensuring full equality and acceptance for LGBTQIA+ individuals in India. As the nation marches towards progress and development, inclusivity must remain at the forefront of the political agenda, reflecting India’s commitment to diversity and human rights. 

-Written By Akanksha Singh (Reviewed by Usri) 

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