Indian Surrogacy Bill Reinforces Social Conservatism

When it comes to LGBT rights India has show a different progression to other countries. In many Western countries the chronology of LGBT rights struggles have been largely focused on LGB individuals, because the three are very inter-related, before attention turned to transgender issues. However this has not been the case. Transgender rights in India are more socially acceptable the rights for same-sex couples, which is refreshing but there is still much to be done.
Homophobia, on the other hand, is still commonplace and this issue isn’t discussed enough, both domestically and by foreigners like myself. The LGBT community’s progress is aided by the work of straight allies and India’s new surrogacy bill is an opportunity to build some bridges.

The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016 seeks to strictly define who can have children through surrogacy, however in doing so the bill institutionalizes discrimination against certain groups of people. Specifically the bill bars non-Indian citizens, single parents, same-sex couples, unmarried couples from choosing surrogacy. Although currently a setback I believe this can become a good thing for the LGBT community.
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Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj said that surrogacy for same-sex couples “doesn’t go with our ethos”. (The Indian Express)
Socially conservative attitudes towards the LGBT community have successfully been challenged through exposing people to LGBT individuals. The generic example has always been that a conservative person wouldn’t want to discriminate against an LGBT couple if they knew them as good people. Exposure seems to dull hatred and this can be the case here. As I said above the bill doesn’t only discriminate against same-sex couples, but also a whole host of heterosexuals. The way to break down socially conservative attitudes is for LGBT groups to publicly agitate on behalf of these sections of society.
The social conservatism prevalent in India often stems from religious conservatism, and as a result LGBT people are perceived as immoral or, in the eyes of more extreme individuals, evil. If LGBT people are actively campaigning for the civil rights of people who have paid no attention to the plight of same-sex couples, people’s perceptions of the LGBT community will be challenged.
When it comes to LGBT issues, unless there is a conceited attempt by those in power to suppress a group, I am a firm believer in the ripple effect. That is to say that when one person’s view of LGBT people changes, this can change their friends and family, and so on. It lights a fire of curiosity and openness, and it is very easy to find messages of love and tolerance in religions around the world.
LGBT activists in India are already working around the clock to create a more equal society but real progress is made when people who have nothing to gain from changes to the law speak out. Most people in the world are not LGBT, so conceivably the majority of the world could oppress the minority, but this doesn’t happen in countries around the world because straight people stand in solidarity with their LGBT brothers and sisters. Working on a national level to help couples start families would be a great way of generating publicity and challenging people’s preconceived notions about who LGBT people are.
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