Gender rights is the most controversial and spoken topic in recent times. The world is now recognising the LGBTQ+ community and familiarising it with the existence of something outside from the box of the mainstream, everyone has been sitting in for decades. Even though the world has crossed some milestones but the fight is still going on for a 100 percent recognition and independence.

One such fight has been laid out by school students in Thailand. The students in Bangkok organised a rally over the existence of gender inequalities in schools, calling themselves ‘Bad Students’. Students as young as 10 participated in the rally and demanded an end to outdated curriculum and discriminatory rules on uniforms and haircuts in educational institutions.

The students carried banners, placards, umbrellas, fans, rainbow flags and marched to the education ministry with a demand to acquire greater gender rights. They demanded for the modification of the education system, which according to them is far behind times.

Talking to Reuters, Panupong Suwannahong, 19, a protest organiser stated, “What about students of other genders? This is something the ministry needs to consider because it is normal to be diverse.”

One of the other protesters also stated, “The school uniform segregates the students’ genders.” The students denied to co-relate the protest from other anti-government movements. The only thing they aim at is to be heard, and demand a change in the system that controls even their haircuts and gain democracy in the educational institutions.

Thailand majorly is a conservative Buddhist Society but has a reputation for supporting the LGBTQ+ community at large.

On July 8, 2020, Thailand’s cabinet supported a civil partnership bill which aimed at recognising same sex relationships as legal and binding as opposite gender marriages. Although the support of the cabinet, the education ministry is having a hard time in accepting the idea and introducing flexibility regarding gender identification in education institutions.

Multiple instances of students rising up and demanding democracy, calling out the ministries for change have come up in recent years and more than 60 percent of the protests have been for the agenda relating to gender equality.

Gender Rights; LGBTQ+ and the World in 2020

In 1990, the World Health Organisation (WHO) barred homosexuality from being considered as a mental disorder. It recognised homosexuality as a natural phenomena of human sexuality, just like the other two genders.

Even after three decades, the impact of the decision and acceptability does not come easy for the LGBTQ+ community.

2020 has seen an intimidating increase in the ratio of violence on the basis of gender identification, all over the world.

In Uganda, almost 20 homeless gay, bisexual, and transgender people spent two months of prison time on the suspicion of violating the COVID-19 curfew regulations. According to the prisoners, they were thrown out of their homes, because of their gender identity and hence they decided to live in shelters, which was considered illegal by the police.

In Hungary, during quarantine, a legislation was introduced by the government which bans legal gender recognition for transgender people.

In Panama, women and men are to be quarantined for alternative days, transgender people went through abuse from people and security officials.

In Philippines, Ukraine, and Senegal, the LGBTQ+ people faced punishments and public humiliations, by forcing people to perform intimate activities in public. The announcement by religious leaders that COVID-19 is the result of immoral behaviour by humans, resulting in the scapegoating of the people belonging to the LGBTQ+ community.

In Japan, transgender people are forced to be sterilised to qualify for the acquirement of legal documents identifying then gender identity.

In the US, the Department of Health and Human Services has put forward a rule for the allowance of organisations with discriminatory policies to be entitled to federal funds. Also, it has decided to disregard the health-care policies defined by Obama. Obama had passed the Affordable Care Act, according to which, all the discrimination based on gender identity, pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, and sex stereotypes was concluded under the forms of sex discrimination and were prohibited.

In India, the article 377 of the Indian Penal Code, was scrapped by the Supreme Court of India in 2018. Article 377 discriminated against individuals on the basis of their gender identity and sexual orientation. After the scrapping of Article 377, same-sex intercourse and relationships were decriminalised in the country. After two years of the decision, the verdict has been challenged now, on the basis of the Hindu Marriage Act, the petitioner states that same-sex marriage is against the country’s law, the legal system, society, and the values. As the struggle continues to acquire acceptance in the country, the LGBTQ+ community has been given one more thing to worry about.

The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 v. The legalisation of same-sex marriage in India

A petition made in the Delhi High Court seeking the legalisation of same-sex marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 was opposed by the Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, stating that same-sex marriages are not accepted in “our law, legal system, society, our values.”

He also stated, “These marriages run contrary to the provisions which are already in place in our society. Our values do not recognise a marriage, which is sacrosanct, between two people of same-sex marriage,”

The Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed on September 8, 2020, stated that the Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act does not mention that the marriage should be between a Hindu man and a Hindu woman, it only refers to the marriage between ‘two Hindus’.

The petition seeking legalisation of same-sex marriage also referred to Article 21 of the Indian Penal Code, which guarantees right to life, stating that marriage is a part of the fundamental rights of a person.

Talking to Hindustan Times, Mehta said, “I said the culture of any country is codified in a statutory law like Degrees of Prohibited relationship, special or additional rights to “wife”, different age limits for “husband” and “wife”, use of the terms “husband” and “wife” (which cannot be determined in same-sex marriage), etc special protection to “wife” in criminal law such as section 498-A of the IPC, etc. Unless several statutory provisions are altered (which the court cannot do) the relief as prayed for cannot be granted,”

He also argued in the court that The Supreme Court had only legalised same-sex relationships in the country but did not provide any further laws and sections for the community. He also said, “It does not concur with constitutional values.” 

What is Hindu Marriage Act of 1955?

Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is a part of the Hindu Code Bill, put in place to codify marriage law between Hindus. The Act set the validation and invalidation of conditions in case of a marriage in Hindus, it also regulates other aspects of personal life among Hindus and the applicability of their life in the society.

The Act applies to all forms of Hinduism that exist in the country, and to all states except Jammu and Kashmir, which have its own Jammu and Kashmir Hindu Marriage Act.

Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act concludes several conditions that should be met for a marriage to be able to take place legally. If the marriage is done and it does not meet the conditions of the act, it is considered to be voidable.

The Act has separate sections, which focus on Grounds of Divorce, Alimonies, Remarriage, Registration of the marriage, Ceremonies, Void, and Voidable Marriages, etc.

To know more about the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Click Here.

The struggle for the identification of more than two gender identities has been going on in India since 1949, and for many years before in the world. Still struggling for their proper rights, as basic as the right to life and right to live without violations, the LGBTQ+ community has been strong and positive through it all. Although illegal, still taking pride in their identity, and being who they are free, is something everyone should learn from them. After all, we need to step outside the mainstream box we have been sitting in all our lives.