LGBT rights in Kerala

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Kerala in India (disputed hatched).svg
StatusLegal since 2018
Gender identityThird gender recognised; transgender people may change legal gender
Discrimination protectionsDiscrimination protections in line with Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India and National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo recognition of same-sex relationships

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Kerala face legal and social difficulties not experienced by non-LGBT persons. However, Kerala has been at the forefront of LGBT issues in India.[1] It became one of the first states in India to establish a welfare policy for the transgender community and in 2016, introduced free sex reassignment surgery through government hospitals.[2][3][4]

Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 2018, following the Supreme Court ruling in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India. In addition, numerous LGBT-related events have been held across Kerala, including in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Homosexual intercourse was made a criminal offence under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in 1861. This made it an offence for a person to voluntarily have "carnal intercourse against the order of nature." In 2009, the Delhi High Court decision in Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi found Section 377 and other legal prohibitions against private, adult, consensual, and non-commercial same-sex conduct to be in direct violation of fundamental rights provided by the Indian Constitution.[5][6]

On 11 December 2013, the Supreme Court of India overturned the 2009 Delhi High Court order decriminalising consensual homosexual activity.[7][8][9] Justices G. S. Singhvi and S. J. Mukhopadhaya, however, noted that the Indian Parliament should debate and decide on the matter.[10] Protests against the Supreme Court verdict ensued. On 28 January 2014, the Supreme Court dismissed a review petition filed by the Central Government, the NGO Naz Foundation and several others against the ruling.[11][12][13][14]

On 2 February 2016, the Supreme Court decided to review the criminalisation of homosexual activity.[15] On 6 September 2018, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down Section 377 as unconstitutional, ruling that it infringed on the fundamental rights of autonomy, intimacy, and identity, thus legalising homosexuality in India, including in Kerala.[16][17]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Same-sex marriages are not recognised or performed in India. However, in recent times, movements advocating for such recognition has emerged in Kerala, and India in general.[18]

Discrimination protections[edit]

In line with Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India and National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited via Article 15 of the Constitution of India. However, this article only extends to discrimination by state or government bodies.[19]

Adopted in 2019, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 bans unfair discrimination against transgender people in educational establishment and services, employment, healthcare services, access to the "use of any goods, accommodation, service, facility, benefit, privilege or opportunity dedicated to the use of the general public or customarily available to the public", the right to movement, the right to "reside, purchase, rent or otherwise occupy any property", the opportunity to stand for or hold public or private office, and in government or private establishments.[20]

Transgender rights[edit]

In 2014, the Indian Supreme Court ruled to recognize a "third gender" in the case of National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, affirming the transgender community's freedom from discrimination and right to equality. The state of Kerala was the first to follow up on the ruling, introducing a government transgender policy in 2015. The policy addresses the right for people belonging to transgender communities to identify as "male", "female" or "TG" (Third Gender). It has provisions to protect the community by providing equal access to social and economic resources, protecting the right to equal treatment under the law, the right to life, liberty and justice, and the right to non-discrimination based on sex.[21][22]

Kerala has been at the forefront of transgender rights in India. In 2016, the State Government introduced free sex reassignment surgeries in government hospitals. Kannur district in 2016 allocated a part of its budget towards employment and skill training programs for transgender people.[23]

In February 2016, President Pranab Mukherjee opened the "Gender Park" in Kozhikode as an institution dedicated to policies concerning gender equality and LGBT issues.[24]

In 2016, the first transgender school opened in the city of Kochi. The school prepared students for the 10th and 12th standard board exams and provided vocational skills training. The school welcomed 10 transgender students ranging from ages 25-50. Transgender activist Vijayraja Mallika, who was the head of the school, stated, "the school aims at making transgender people eligible for taking decent jobs and living a dignified life." She further stated, "we have admitted six candidates so far, all male-to-female persons, from 14 applicants. Of the 10 seats, we have reserved one for female-to-male and one for the disabled." The teachers of the school were also transgender. The school sought to open more opportunities for the community to gain an occupation and an education.[25] Three months after its opening, however, the center stopped functioning as a school with no academic staff, students, or accreditation.[26] The building was turned into a hostel for the transgender staff of Kochi Metro and related institutions.[27]

In 2017, the clothing brand Red Lotus hired two transgender people to model their sarees, Maya Menon and Gowri Savithri. This gained a lot of attention and went viral on social media. The line is part of Sharmila Nair's collection "Mazhavil" (മഴവില്ല്) or "rainbow", representing the rainbow colours associated with LGBT rights, and is dedicated to transgender people.[28]

In 2017, a workshop was held in Kozhikode to address the implementation of the state's transgender policy within social institutions. It was organized by the Social Justice Department, and around 30 representatives of the transgender community attended. During the workshop, they discussed proposals such as having identity cards for transgender people, developing a pension plan for those within the community who are over 60, the implementation of skill development training programs, having scholarships and educational loans for transgender students, and providing driving lessons in order for transgender people to be employed as Uber drivers.[29]

The Government Medical College Hospital in Kottayam opened a clinic in 2017 that exclusively attends to the transgender community. The clinic has a panel of doctors who are specialized in the area. This was the first government clinic of its kind, and focuses on serving the transgender community, as well as opening its doors to sex workers. The proposal for the clinic was put forward by the District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) after a campaign had voiced health concerns for the transgender community.[30]

Living conditions[edit]

Participants at a pride parade in Thrissur in October 2018

Until very recently, LGBT people were "invisible" in Keralan society. Despite Kerala being the most literate Indian state, ignorance concerning homosexuality was very high; with few LGBT people opting to come out, in fear that family members would "take them to a psychiatrist or file a police complaint against friends."[31] Local activists associate these attitudes as "the result of the Victorian sense of morality that treats sex as sin". This climate has eased in recent years.

Queerala (Malayalam: ക്വിയറള), is one of Kerala's main LGBT advocacy groups, campaigning for increased awareness of LGBT people and sensitisation concerning healthcare services, educational curriculum and workplace policies.[32] Queerythm (Malayalam: ക്വിയറിഥം), another LGBT organisation, also plays a key role in organising the annual pride marches in Kerala and runs a 24X7 helpline for community members in distress.[33]

Pride marches[edit]

Kerala Queer Pride (കേരള ക്വിയർ പ്രൈഡ്) has been held annually across various cities in Kerala, beginning in July 2010 in the city of Thrissur.[34] The tenth edition was held in Kochi in November 2019.[35] It was launched in the aftermath of the 2009 Delhi High Court judgement decriminalising all consensual sex between adults. The event focuses on advocacy regarding LGBT issues, as well as sensitisation of the police and media to prevent violence and discrimination against members of the LGBT community.[36] The Trivandrum Pride Walk has been organised by Queerythm annually since 2017.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kerala Government Has Unveiled A Policy To Enforce Constitutional Rights Of Transgenders". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-06-28.
  2. ^ Devasia, T. K. "Why Kerala's free sex-change surgeries will offer a new lifeline for the transgender community". Retrieved 2019-07-05.
  3. ^ "After She-Taxi, Kerala to launch G-Taxi for transgenders". Times of India. Thiruvananthapuram. PTI. 31 January 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  4. ^ "How Kerala left the country behind on transgender rights". dna. 2015-11-14. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
  5. ^ Kusum Ingots v. Union of India, (2004) 6 SCC 254: "An order passed on a writ petition questioning the constitutionality of a Parliamentary Act, whether interim or final, keeping in view the provisions contained in Clause (2) of Article 226 of the Constitution of India, will have effect throughout the territory of India subject of course to the applicability of the Act."
  6. ^ Pervez Iqbal Siddiqui (28 December 2010). "Crackdown on gay party in Saharanpur, 13 held". The Times of India. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  7. ^ "Supreme Court sets aside Delhi High Court judgment in Naz Foundation; Declares S.377 to be constitutional". Archived from the original on 2013-12-14.
  8. ^ Nelson, Dean (11 December 2013). "India's top court upholds law criminalising gay sex". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  9. ^ "Supreme Court makes gay sex punishable offence, again; Twitter war breaks out between those for and against the verdict". DNA India. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  10. ^ "Homosexuality is criminal offence: Supreme Court". Economic Times. 11 December 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  11. ^ "Supreme Court refuses overruling its Verdict on Section 377 and Homosexuality". IANS. Biharprabha News. Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  12. ^ J Venkatesan (11 December 2013). "Supreme Court sets aside Delhi HC verdict decriminalising gay sex". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Retrieved 2013-12-12.
  13. ^ Harmit Shah Singh (11 December 2013). "India's Supreme Court declares homosexual sex illegal". CNN.
  14. ^ "Naz Foundation to file review petition against SC order on section 377".
  15. ^ ABC News. "ABC News". ABC News.
  16. ^ "Section 377 verdict: Here are the highlights". The Indian Express. 6 September 2018.
  17. ^ "India court legalises gay sex in landmark ruling". BBC News. 6 September 2018.
  18. ^ "Breaking the norm! Transgender-couple in Kerala gets legally married – Big win for LGBT community in India". Financial Express. 10 May 2018.
  19. ^ "Article 15 in The Constitution Of India 1949".
  20. ^ "Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2019" (PDF). Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  21. ^ Mahapatral, Dhananjay (15 April 2014). "Supreme court recognizes transgenders as 'third gender'". The Times of India. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  22. ^ "Kerala becomes first state to unveil transgender policy". The Indian Express. 12 November 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  23. ^ "Leading by Example: Kerala Opens India's First Transgender School". The Quint. 2 January 2017.
  24. ^ "President Pranab Mukherjee to inaugurate Gender park on February 27". The Economic Times. 24 February 2016.
  25. ^ "India opens first school for transgender pupils". BBC News. 30 December 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  26. ^ Mathew, Teresa (2017-03-27). "When Nuns Tried to Kick-Start India's First Transgender School". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018-06-30.
  27. ^ "Kochi: Transgender school turns flop, converted into hostel". 2017-12-23. Retrieved 2018-06-30.
  28. ^ Rajeshwaril, Ankita (24 May 2016). "This designer's transgender models are winning hearts". The Times of India. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  29. ^ Chitharanjanl, Sreedevi (14 February 2017). "Workshop on transgender policy held at Kozhikode". The Times of India. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  30. ^ Nairl, Jaikrishnan (3 February 2017). "MCH to open transgender clinic". The Times of India. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  31. ^ "Kerala's LGBT community shows first signs of coming out; but people largely hostile". The Economic Times. 5 August 2014.
  32. ^ "Affirming their right, they march with pride". The Hindu. Special Correspondent, Special Correspondent. 2017-08-13. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2018-06-30.CS1 maint: others (link)
  33. ^ "A helpline for LGBT community". The Hindu. 19 January 2018.
  34. ^ "Kerala to host its first gay parade". The Times of India. 30 June 2010.
  35. ^ "Kochi hosts 10th queer pride march". The Times of India. 18 November 2019.
  36. ^ "Rainbow on the streets of Kochi". The Hindu. Special Correspondent. 2017-08-04. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2018-06-30.CS1 maint: others (link)
  37. ^ "A matter of pride". The Hindu. Aswin V.N. 2017-07-21. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 2018-12-26.CS1 maint: others (link)

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