Updated: 31 October
By Sonali Khan (she/her), IGLTA Intern
The transgender community in India is a diverse group of people with a rich history and culture. Although the community has been historically marginalized, in recent years, there has been a growing movement to create change. This has led to the passage of laws and the implementation of policies that guarantee transgender people more legal rights and access to socio-economic opportunities.
According to the 2011 Census, there were nearly 490,000 transgender persons in India, with that number expected to be even higher today. Prior to 2011, the transgender population was not even counted in the Census of India. They remained an invisible, forgotten population. Transgenders, also known as hijras, suffered social ostracism, legal inequality, and total marginalization.
In recent years, there has been a growing movement of support for the rights of transgender people in India. This movement has been successful in achieving a number of important milestones including:
The Supreme Court's historic NALSA judgment in 2014, recognized the 'third gender' and upheld the fundamental rights to equality, freedom of expression, and free life with dignity.
The passage of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, guarantees transgender people the right to self-identify their gender, access to education and employment, and healthcare.
The launch of a number of government initiatives to improve the lives of transgender people such as the SMILE-75 Initiative led by the Social Justice Ministry, scholarship opportunities, and skills training programs like PM-DAKSH, healthcare coverage, and housing assistance (Garima Greh).
These milestones represent a significant step towards a more inclusive society in India. But there is still much work to be done. Challenges and resistance persist, but India is making progress. Despite these advances, the India Supreme Court’s recent ruling against same-sex marriage was a major setback for the LGBTQ+ community in the country. However there is hope on the horizon.
The Road Ahead
While laws, policies, and initiatives are supporting greater inclusion of the transgender community, real change must come at the societal level. Mindsets and behaviors need to evolve to be more sensitive and welcoming towards LGBTQIA+ persons.
Collective action is the need of the hour — from government, organizations, media outlets, civil society, and citizens to build a safe, violence-free India where transgenders feel secure, empowered, and are able to fully contribute their talents as equal citizens. The Supreme Court has accepted the government's offer to establish a committee to consider granting more legal rights and benefits to same-sex couples. This committee's work will be crucial in shaping the future of LGBTQ+ rights in India.
Tips for the Tourism Sector
To further assist the tourism sector in supporting the empowerment of India's transgender community, consider the following tips and initiatives:
Inclusive Tourism Packages: Develop inclusive tourism packages that highlight the rich cultural contributions of transgender individuals. Promote tours and experiences led by transgender guides, artists, or artisans, showcasing their talents and heritage.
Training and Sensitization: Train tourism industry professionals, including hotel staff, tour guides, and travel agencies, in LGBTQIA+ sensitivity and awareness. This will create a more welcoming and respectful environment for transgender travelers.
Trans-Friendly Accommodations: Encourage hotels and guesthouses to adopt policies that are inclusive and respectful of transgender guests. Ensure these accommodations have gender-neutral restrooms and provide information on nearby LGBTQIA+-friendly establishments.
Promote LGBTQIA+ Events & Engage with the Community: Promote LGBTQIA+ events and pride celebrations happening in different regions of India. Highlight these events as part of tourism calendars to attract travelers interested in supporting LGBTQIA+ causes.
Accessibility: Ensure that tourist attractions, transportation, and facilities are accessible to all, regardless of gender identity. Implement measures to address any existing barriers.
Feedback Mechanism: Establish a feedback mechanism where transgender travelers can report any discriminatory or negative experiences they encounter during their trips. Use this feedback to continually improve the tourism sector's inclusivity.
By implementing these strategies, the tourism sector can play a vital role in promoting the empowerment and inclusion of India's transgender community while enriching the travel experiences of all visitors to the country.