India: Report declares that ‘all sexual identities deserve protection’

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A committee formed to investigate how to curb sexual violence in India following the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman has recommended education about same-sex relationships and respect for LGBT identifying people.

The Justice J S Verma Committee, lead by former Chief Justice J S Verma, published a 631 page report on Wednesday after 29 days of research and writing. The panel of three heard 80,000 suggestions and anecdotes from members of the public while carrying out their investigation.

The Committee was created after several high-profile cases of rape against women, but broadened its scope to encompass all kinds of sexual violence, as well as the difficulty of reporting such crimes to the police.

Their decision to include recommendations to protect LGBT people was praised by activists in India and abroad.

The report declares that all sexual identities are deserving of protection: “If human rights of freedom mean anything, India cannot deny the citizens the right to be different. The state must not use oppressive and repressive labelling of despised sexuality. Thus, the right to sexual orientation is a human right guaranteed by the fundamental principles of equality.”

“We must add that transgender communities are also entitled to an affirmation of gender autonomy. Our cultural prejudices must yield to Constitutional principles of equality, empathy and respect.”

The report continues to say that LGBT identities are part of “human reality”.

It says, “In view of the lack of scientific understanding of the different variations of orientation, even advanced societies have had to first declassify ‘homosexuality’ from being a mental disorder and now it is understood as a triangular development and neurological underpinning owing to genetic reasons.”

Among a slew of recommendations the committee said that children should receive a thorough sexual education, including education about same-sex relationships.

“Sexuality can be diverse…. Children need to be able to access informed, non-prejudiced sources on sexuality. Challenging the perception of sexuality as being purely heterosexual is an ongoing agenda for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activism…. Collaborating or networking with LGBT activists is a beginning to understanding different sexuality experiences,” says the report.

The panel recommended the use of theatrical workshops and audio-visual entertainments to challenge children’s perceptions of gender and sexuality norms.

As well as declaring support for LGBT education the panel made a broad range of recommendations to curb sexual violence, including a crackdown on human trafficking, action against domestic violence and marital rape, abolition of the “two finger” rape test, and depoliticisation of the police force.

Critics have cautioned that the Indian Government and police force may be slow to enact the recommendations, but the Committee remains optimistic.

“This is a chance for a psychological transformation of society,” said Committee member Gopal Subramaniam.