India

In 2014, its 67th year as a sovereign country with a population of 1.21 billion (Government of India 2011a), India is the second most populous country in the world, the most populous democracy and has the longest written constitution among all sovereign countries. Its gross domestic product (GDP) is ranked tenth in the world (out of 184 countries) when measured through current prices (2014) and third on the basis of purchasing power parity (IMF 2014).

In 1990, just before India embarked on an unprecedented economic liberalisation, the ranking by current prices was eleventh but by purchasing power parity it was ninth, indicating a significant jump forward in a 25-year period. Against this background, we should explore the socioeconomic experiences of gender and sexuality minority peoples in India, especially in respect of ways in which sexual and gender ‘difference’ may be correlated to economic hardship and restricted opportunities for livelihood in the context of Indian socioeconomic ‘modernity’. 

Partners

The case study and policy audit featured here were a product of collaborations between IDS and Nirantar, the University of Sussex and an independent research consultant, Pawal Dhall.

Case study

The case study by Dhall and Boyce explored the socioeconomic experiences of gender and sexuality minority peoples in India, especially in respect of ways in which sexual and gender ‘difference’ may be correlated to economic hardship and restricted opportunities for livelihood in the context of Indian socioeconomic ‘modernity’.  The report considered these issues in the context of livelihood, poverty, economic opportunity and restraint in the lives of gender and sexuality non-conforming people in India, with a specific focus on the eastern Indian states of Odisha and Manipur. The study aimed at gaining a qualitative understanding of inclusion, the barriers and facilitators to such inclusion, and strategies to improve it.

The policy audit undertaken by Nirantar reported the findings of a sexuality and gender audit of a national government programme to strengthen secondary school education in India (ie the last four years of schooling), entitled the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), a scheme for universalisation of access to and improvement of quality at the secondary stage. The objective of the report was to highlight gaps and opportunities presented by the RMSA programme and also highlight critical linkages between education and sexuality that had not thus far been made in debates about either education or sexuality in India.

Methodology:

The case study:

  • Examined government poverty alleviation programmes, their capacity to include people with nonnormative genders and sexualities, and the responses of the people affected. 
  • The authors adopted a mix of primary and secondary research methods to find answers to a set of broad and specific research questions, starting with a preliminary literature review, which informed subsequent semi-structured interviews with people with non-normative genders and sexualities, government officials, NGO representatives and donor officials involved in social security provision
  • Parallel to the interviews, focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted with people with non-normative genders and sexualities. The data from all three methods were triangulated for the purpose of assessment.
The policy audit sought to:
  • Undertake a content analysis of the RMSA programme.
  • Conducted a focus group discussion (FGD) with members of Nirantar who were involved with the audit and also a FGD with Dalit and tribal rural young women, studying in a bridging course to join or re-enter the school system.
  • Conducted a rapid survey with parents of 20 rural girls who were pulled out of school.
  • Scheduled in-depth interviews with three transgender people about their experiences when they were in school.

Case Study: Livelihood, Exclusion and Opportunity: Socioeconomic Welfare among Gender and Sexuality Non-normative People in India

  • Facilitate awareness-generation sessions on psycho-social, medical and legal processes involved in feminisation/masculinisation (gender identity change, sexual reassignment surgery, hormonal therapy) for transgender people
  • Facilitate continuing initiatives that train and handhold people in negotiating the rules and regulations (paperwork) in applying for and accessing social security schemes, including timely follow-up
  • Support community discourse42 on issues of gender, sexuality and human rights to generate awareness and address self-stigma among people with non-normative genders and sexualities through community meetings/events/other forums

Policy Audit: A heteronormativity audit of RMSA - a higher education programme in Indian schools

  • Fears about sexuality are a key reason for parents withdrawing girls from secondary education. This includes fears about girls' expressing their desires as well as fears about sexual violence.
  • The only place where sexuality is addressed in the examinable curriculum is through human reproduction in science textbooks. Evidence suggests that this is often taught inadequately as teachers feel inhibited and lack the skills to deliver the content appropriately.