Two Private member bills introduced in Parliament for LGBTQIA+ persons’ rights

The bills were introduced by DMK MP Dr S Senthil Kumar and NCP MP Supriya Sule.
 DMK MP Dr S Senthil Kumar and NCP MP Supriya Sule against the backdrop of pride flag
DMK MP Dr S Senthil Kumar and NCP MP Supriya Sule against the backdrop of pride flag
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Putting forth 12 essential rights for people of the LGBTQIA+ community, DMK MP for Dharmapuri, Dr S Senthil Kumar, has introduced a private members bill named Equal Protection of Rights for LGBTQIA+ Persons Bill, 2021. The bill was introduced in the Parliament on April 1, Friday. It proposes the grant of 12 rights to LGBTQIA+ persons including right to adoption, guardianship, surrogacy, recognition of LGBTQIA+ as families, marriage, maternity benefits and right to serve in the military. The bill also seeks to prohibit discrimination in workplace and housing, protection against sexual harassment in workplace, and bullying in educational institutions. “Any act, ordinance, rules, regulations, by-laws, order or other instrument which provides rights to heterosexual couples or in sense of gender binary, shall also apply for LGBTQIA+, unless and until said otherwise,” the bill states.

In his statement of reasons, the MP says that 17% of India’s total population identify themselves as non-heterosexual and there is need of separate law for protecting the rights of LGBTQIA+ people as they still face many legal and social difficulties. He has put forth two ways of creating awareness and eliminating stigma. One is through amending existing personal and secular law and places which lack gender neutrality, and second, through formulation of new laws for protection of LGBTQIA+ persons. Dr Senthil has also quoted Justice N Anand Venkatesh saying that “ignorance is no justification for normalising any form of discrimination.”

On similar lines, NCP MP of Baramati Supriya Sule, has also introduced a bill named The Special Marriage (Amendment Bill), 2022, aiming to provide equal marriage rights to LGBTQIA+ individuals, on April 1. The bill seeks amendment to the Special Marriage Act, 1954, so as to solemnise marriages between any two persons of same sex. The bill also seeks to fix marriage age at 21 years for men and 18 years for women. Further, the bill proposes to substitute ‘spouse’ instead of ‘husband and wife’ in the Act.

Supriya also cited Justice DY Chandrachud’s observation in Justice KS Puttaswamy (Retd) and Anr Vs Union of India, that “family, marriage, procreation and sexual orientation are all integral to the dignity of the individual. Above all, the privacy of the individual recognises an inviolable right to determine how freedom shall be exercised.”  She further said that while people are able to determine their sexual orientation, “individuals are still unable to marry and create their own families.” Stating that it is important to amend the Special Marriage Act, 1954, she said it will ensure that the Articles 14 and 21 are upheld.

Private Member Bills are bills that can be introduced by any legislator in the Parliament. However, only 14 such bills have been made into laws in India. The last time a Private Member’s Bill was made into law was in 1968. The closest the Parliament has come to passing a Private Member’s Bill in recent times was in 2015, when DMK’s Tiruchi Siva’s bill for protecting the rights of transgender persons was passed in Rajya Sabha. In the Lok Sabha, the Executive asked for the bill to be withdrawn and promised to bring in their own bill to this effect.

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