–Kakali Das |
In Maharashtra, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has now formed an LGBTQIA+ cell to serve the people of the community. This is the first in the country that there is a dedicated cell now to support the community that a political party has come up with. There are two different views that are coming in at this point – Firstly, it speaks of inclusion and this will help the community break more barriers. Secondly, there are a couple of people who say that this might be problematic in the future. Supriya Sule of the NCP had put out a tweet the moment the news was announced and I quote, “We must eliminate the prejudice that we have towards the Queer community and be more inclusive towards alternative gender identities and gender expression, what needs to be done to make sure that we are more inclusive as a society free from prejudice, homophobia and transphobia”. The ‘I’ and ‘A’ in LGBTQIA+ refers to ‘Intersex’ and ‘Asexual’ respectively. There are other identities as well which is why there is a ‘+’ sign in the term.
Speaking on why does she believe that there is this need to have the cell and what does the cell aim to do, Priya Patil, who is spearheading the cell said, “To create the cell arose in my mind when the country was in a complete lockdown. I have witnessed the people of this community surviving in the worst of conditions amidst this crisis. I have been working with NCP for the last 2 years as a Maharashtra State Working Committee member. Somewhere I deeply felt that there was a need for a strong voice within the community to raise their questions and concerns in front of the system and the world. I, then approached my party to form a type of cell for the LGBTQ+ community since there are minority cell, students cell, women cell etc. already existing in the country. Upon researching a lot, I found out that the LGBTQIA+ population in Maharashtra is 12% of its entire population which is huge. Then I felt how strongly they require political support in order to voice out their opinions and to be a part of the mainstream world. We, as individuals, social activists have supported this community a lot over the years through countless protests, marches and it is time now to have political inclusion in this matter. It has been 73 years since Independence and we were still lagging behind in providing this community the rights that they deserve. These are the reasons behind the start of an LGBTQIA+ cellafter mulling over it for years”.
Priya Patil further said, “According to the statement there has to be 24 other office bearers apart from me in the cell. It’s important to have representations from every other gender identity within the community as well because it’s LGBTQIA+. As of now there are 15 members and amongst them we have included lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (both transmen and transwomen) as its representators. Later on when the intersex people and others voluntarily join they will be wholeheartedly welcomed”.
Speaking of the initiatives and the agendas of the cell, she said, “Firstly, we will build awareness campaigns in the advocacy level; we will explain the concept on the formation of this cell to the ministers, senior officials of our party which will help eradicate the misconceptions and misbeliefs in the minds of them for the community. Secondly, education would play a pivotal role in building the formation of the cell. Through education we would attempt to devise various programmes and activities in order to educate the mass. Thirdly, the way the Trans Act, 2019 was imposed despite the criticism and protest from the community across the country, we would try to make proper amendments in the Actin favour of the community and implement it with the right provisions in the future. Even thoughSection 377 was decriminalised in 2018 in India, yet they are deprived of their rights; there are still doubts and hesitations in the minds of people regarding same sex marriage. Recently, the central government has declared same sex marriage as a sin for the culture of our country. So my point is that if the Honourable Supreme Court of India believes that marriage of the same sex isn’t a crimeand against the law, how can the government claim it to be immoral for the culture and values of our society?”
In 2017, Priya Patil was the first candidate of the LGBTQ+ community to contest in the BMC election. She has been somebody who has broken barriers as far as politics for the transgender is concerned. This would indeed encourage more people from the community to break these barriers and get into politics and be a part of the mainstream society.“I want to witness any person belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community as a member of the Parliament, Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha in the next 5-6 years. Not only in Maharashtra, I hope that an LGBTQIA+ cell is formed nationally. Every party should have such a cell”, she said.
Shabnam Mausi was the first transgender to be elected as an MLA in the country. She was an elected member of the Madhya Pradesh State Legislative Assembly from 1998 to 2003.
There is not much inclusivity even in the education sector as well. There are many schools and colleges which doesn’t provide the option for‘LGBTQIA+’ alongside the specific sections for ‘male’ and ‘female’ in the admission forms even after the distinct guidelines by the University Grants Commission (UGC). And no part of this education system tries to highlight this issue in the higher level and promote education for the people of this community. But on behalf of this LGBTQIA+ cell, Priya Patil said that they would put forward a proposal in front of the Cabinet Minister of Maharashtra, Varsha Gaikwadto provide and include a subject on ‘gender sensitisation’ in the course for the students of grade 8 and above. The younger they learn about it, the better.
It’s important to have reservations for this community as there is no fair play otherwise. It’s important to form the cell because it is the first step towards inclusivity and to build awareness among people and why not have a cell for the LGBTQIA+ community when we have for the other minorities in the country!