Pink List India releases interactive digital map that links to a report card for each parliamentarian

An ‘archive’ released by Pink List India shows that less than a third of the 543 Lok Sabha MPs (27.8%) have addressed LGBTQAI+ issues in their political career.

The Communist Party of India, the Nationalist Congress Party, and the Congress have the highest percentage of elected MPs who have spoken up for queer rights. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has the highest number of MPs who have spoken up on queer issues, it also has the most number of members who have made explicitly homophobic comments.

Marking one year of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Pink List India has created an archive titled, State of the QUnion, documenting all statements on LGBTQIA+ issues made by each Lok Sabha MP. The archive, which was made public on Saturday, spotlights how many current MPs have spoken in support of queer issues during their political career and how many have made homophobic statements, especially in light of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, and issues faced by the queer, especially transgender, community during the ongoing lockdown. The findings are presented as an interactive digital map that links to a report card for each parliamentarian.

Some contradictions

The archive throws open some contradictions, while charting out the trajectory of parliamentarians about their stance on queer rights. For instance, S. Jothimani, Congress MP from Karur in Tamil Nadu, who has been a vocal queer ally before entering politics, continues to stand by the community. But Bengaluru South BJP MP Tejasvi Surya, who has called marriage a contract and supported same-sex marriage before joining politics, has gone silent after being elected.

“We’ve found some intriguing positions taken by MPs on LGBTQIA+ rights,” said Anish Gawande, curator and co-founder at Pink List India. He said, “There are several MPs who stood up for transgender rights but opposed the removal of Section 377, which targeted the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole but the transgender community disproportionately.”

According to the data, several MPs have been vocal on supporting LGBTQIA+ rights, but never participated in debates around the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019, in the Lok Sabha, which was widely criticised by the transgender community in India. “Words don’t necessarily translate into action, and we know that,” said Mr. Gawande. The archive, therefore, has been bifurcated into two sections: the stance taken by MPs and the legislative action they have taken in Parliament.

Of the 82 MPs, who have spoken up on transgender rights, 16 have made speeches in favour of the controversial Act, while only 10 MPs have made speeches to amend the Act. Of the 47 MPs, who have spoken up on LGBTQIA+ rights as a whole, including both transgender rights and the rights of other gender and sexual minorities, only six participated in the Transgender Rights Act debate. Among them, five opposed the Act, while only one supported it. “Goes to show that MPs who are sensitised on LGBTQIA+ issues beyond thinking of transgender persons as pity projects, are more likely to actually stand up for transgender rights in Parliament,” said Mr. Gawande.

The Pink List India was established in 2019, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, to highlight the various positions of the candidates across political parties. “A lot has changed this year for queer politics in India,” said Smriti Deora, creative director and co-founder at Pink List India.

Two-month project

“Last year, we started Pink List India as an experiment to see how many politicians support LGBTIQIA+ rights. Today, through our work, we want to hold them accountable and drive change,” she said.

The archive, compiled in the last two months by a 10-member team, only documents statements made in the public realm by parliamentarians, which include Lok Sabha debates, questions asked in Parliament, mainstream media reports and social media posts.

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