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LGBTQIA+ issues in the Online World: An Analysis

 The Author, Anish Bachchan is a law student at Amity Law School, Noida.


Everything in this world is dynamic in nature. Time after time, everything changes from societies, countries, technologies and even the human nature. However there are some things that have never changed in the world.


For example, when the barbarity of World War II ended, there were lots of people saying that something like this should never be hated again however, the nature has a problem in changing and people just go guns and blazing all over again either in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Congo. These were the wars that should’ve been avoided in the first place but it pretty much shrugged at by the superpowers, NATO, Warsaw Pact and even the UN. According to Neil Halloran, although there are no wars which could even match the magnitude of World War and this kind of world will be called as the New Peace it does not mean that it is a lesson learnt from World War II for the reasons stated above.[1]


Another part of human nature is hatred towards anything and everything. It could be towards people of the opposite gender, people with different sexual preferences, different religions, nationality and even their choices. Hatred is primarily the reason why wars are even fought. Mein Kampf is the biggest example which depicts Hitler’s hatred towards Jewish people, communists and Slavs. That hatred also became a reality when 11 million people were called in the Shoah (The Holocaust), about which 6 million of them are Jewish people.


This article however will touch on the hatred towards the LGBTQIA+ community and how they face harassment online.  For example the use of homophobic slurs likes ‘Gay’, ‘Faggot’, ‘Queer’, ‘Chakka’, ‘Hijra’ etc. towards the people of the LGBTQA+, celebrities, people who use TikTok, Kpop celebrities and how the internet has allowed and worse justified the use of those slurs which results in further discrimination.


What is Homophobia?


The hatred towards people of the LGBTQIA+ is called homophobia. Because of this kind of hatred it leads to the discrimination against the said community.[2] Although homophobia has no clear history but it did have its roots when King Henry VIII passed a law which states that two males having a sexual intercourse will be sentenced to death by hanging. Another big example of homophobia’s history is when English Mathematician Alan Turning who was one of the significant reasons for the victory of the Allied powers by cracking the German Enigma Code was arrested and forced to have a conversion therapy, all because he was a homosexual.[3]  Harvey Milk who was one of the pioneers in the gay rights in the United States was assassinated in 1978 by Dan White who was a former police officer and whom he had a battle with Harvey regarding the LGBTQIA+ issues in California.[4]  In the 1980s British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher passed Section 28 of The Local Government Act 1988 which prevents the promotion of homosexuality in schools[5]. It was later repealed in 2003[6].


Juxtapose to the 21st century and there has been a major shift towards the rights and acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ around the world. As previously said that the world is dynamic in nature. New cultures and practices which was once rejected on the grounds of religion, morality, restrictive family. In the case of Obergefell vs. Hodges[7](2015), the United States Supreme Court held that the same sex marriages should be a legal right all over the country with Justice A. M. Kennedy writing in the decision “No longer may this liberty be denied”[8]. In India, the case of Navtej Singh Johar vs. Union of India(2018), Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 which criminalizes the practice of homosexuality has now been considered constitutional violation of the people in India.[9] In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 protects people from the LGBTQIA+ community from discrimination in the workplace.[10]


Despite of the paradigm shift towards the LGBTQIA+, there are countries that still criminalizes the same sex activity and the rights are being suppressed on religious and moral reasons. In Saudi Arabia, the Sharia Law which is a religious criminal code forbids people with homosexual relationship and the punishment for this can even lead to death penalties.[11] In Russia, people in the LGBTQIA+ were treated like garbage because of the anti-gay laws.[12] It is also the same story in Uganda under that Anti-Homosexuality Act which imprisons a person for 7 years for having a same sex relationship.[13] One of the worst violent act against the LGBTQIA+ is the Orlando Nightclub Shooting in 2016 where Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured 53 people due to his hatred towards the LGBTQIA+.[14] Westboro Baptist Church, the Klu Klux Klan, the Neo Nazis are the hate groups that have shown hostility towards the members of the LGBTQIA+[15].


The reasons for such homophobia are mostly for three reasons:-[16][17]


The spread of HIV and AIDs which the people of the LGBTQIA+ community are often blamed.

Religious attitudes towards the LGBTQIA+ especially in both Eastern Europe and Middle Eastern countries like Poland, Iran, Qatar, Russia and so on. (Middle Eastern countries follow the rule of Zina which prohibits unlawful sexual activities which also includes homosexuality[18])

Prejudices and Stereotypes towards the members of the LGBTQIA+

How were the people of the LGBTQ+ harassed online?


The internet is like a ruthless mob led by a ruthless dictator. The place where it brings people together ironically also divides people thanks to the divide rule mentality brought by the British. It also brings people together for the wrong reasons. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat , TikTok are used as a tool to destroy someone’s life. One such tragic example is the suicide of Amanda Todd who made a video on YouTube about how she was harassed online before committing suicide[19]. Online witch hunt is another problem where people who have different opinion or have different sexuality are hunted down and harassed which is a reminiscent of the McCarthyism in the 1950s America.


Online Harassment against the LGBTQIA+ members is a rising problem as well. With the current pandemic going there has been a rising cases of harassment against the members of the people of the said community. According to Out Online, 42% of the LGBTQIA+ youth is more likely to be cyber bullied and 27% of the youth of the said community do not feel safe to be online.[20] People in countries like Morocco have been receiving death threats because of their support the rights of the people in the LGBTQA+ community. The use of homophobic slurs is also prevalent online. Celebrities line Justin Bieber, One Direction and various Kpop stars have been subjected to the victims of homophobic slurs.


In India’s context Article 19(1)(a)[21] gives the right to freedom of speech, but that does not mean anyone should say whatever they want. This isn’t the First Amendment[22] where freedom of speech is absolute. Article 19(2) gives the reasonable restriction to Article 19(1)(a) because it wants to protects the morality, relations with other countries, decency integrity and public order of the sovereign. It also protects people from defamation.[23] In recent times due to the harassment of Rhea Chakrobarty, Tiktokers, Bollywood Starkids, Kpop Idols etc. Article 19(2) is thrown out the window like it was nothing.


This year saw one of the biggest controversies on the internet i.e. YouTube vs TikTok. Prior to the ban of TikTok in India, there was a feud between the YouTubers and TikTokers with some of the biggest creators of both sides getting involved in this feud. Needless to say, the feud has brought the worst in people on the internet and people have been using homophobic slurs against the TikTok creators under the tagline of being cool and under the guise of “it’s a joke”.[24]


It is one thing to joke about homophobic slurs; it is a different matter when people are using it for derogatory means. Popular Indian YouTuber Dhruv Rathee has shown concerns regarding the use of homophobic word which could have a negative impact towards the people of the LGBTQA+ community.[25] Another YouTuber Shwetabh Gangwar says that the overuse of the word “chakka” against the TikTokers have become dangerous because of the changing of times.[26] The use of the word “chakka” in this day and age only promotes bigotry and hatred towards the members of the LGBTQA+ community and does not promote inclusion in the society.[27] Youtuber Yogi Baba further adds that use of homophobic slurs is not normal and people should stop using it normally due to the fact that the attitude towards the people of the LGBTQIA+ are still negative in the Indian Society despite of major changes in 2018.[28]


The psychological effects of online harassment against the people of the LGBTQIA+ are as follows:[29]


Read also : Rights groups condemn Hungarian Ban on Same-Sex Adoptions

Suicidal thoughts, suicidal attempts and depression

Clinical Depression

Anxiety and stress

Fear and helplessness. Many people are forced to change their jobs with the fear if being cyber stalked.

Isolation and dissociation

Effect on self esteem.

Fear of their lives.

What are the rights of the people of the LGBTTQIA+ community against such discrimination?


Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 15 (Protection of discrimination on any grounds), Article 17 (Abolition of Untouchability), Article 19 (Right to Freedom), Article 21(Right to Life and Personal Liberty), Article 32 (Right to Constitutional Remedies), Article 45 & 51 (A)(k) (Right to Education) and Article 300A (Right to Property) are the basics fundamental rights and basic rights that the people of the LGBTQIA+ should enjoy.[30][31]

With Section 377 of IPC decriminalised, Sections 499 and 500 of the IPC protects the person from defamation.[32] The aggrieved person can seek monetary claim and the person who was accused for defamation can be jailed for 2 years.[33]

Section 506 of the IPC says that if a person criminally intimidates, he can be imprisoned for 2 years or has to pay the fine or even both. If the threat is serious which could cause grievous hurt, he can be for 7 years or fine or both.[34]

Section 66(A) of the IT Act punishes the person for 3 years imprisonment and fine as if he sends information which could deem offensive and derogatory.[35]

Alternative ways to prevent online harassment against the LGBTQIA+:[36]


Identification of abuse.

Documentation of abuse like taking screenshots and keeping the data of emails, texts and voicemails.

Assessment of the safety of the person.

Using the technique of blocking, muting and reporting.

Enlistment of Allies like friends and family members.

Speaking out against the downside of cyberbulling which could affects individuals.

Importance of Self-Care should be given.

Bolstering of cyber-security like VPNs.

Conclusion


Read also : HC directs DGP, Haryana to proceed against Police officials u/s 166-A IPC in case they fail to obtain CCTV footage of a crime scene [Read Judgment] 

In conclusion, people of the LGBTQIA+ are human beings too. They also need help, support, inclusion and acceptance in the society. It is understandable that neither people nor system and laws could change overnight. It will lead to even more hostilities if it is forced upon them. However that doesn’t mean that people should have free reign to say whatever they want to them. It could offend them could create more insecurities towards themselves. People need to be aware about the rights of the people of the LGBTQIA+ and how they should be respected and accepted in the society. People should learn to have filter because in this era, decency has become the most important thing and like diamonds decency is rare because of the mob mentality which exists today.


The Holocaust was the darkest period of history where 10000-15000 people LGBTQIA+ were murdered by the Nazis[37]. And the era of 21st century where character assassination, cancel culture and witch hunt reigns supreme, this form of hatred is rising again. So it is important for the people to have filter and for the law to punish the perpetrators who are responsible for infringing the rights of the people of the LBGTQIA+. In time, the people online might begin to respect anyone and everyone and the countries that once persecutes the people of the said community might also begin to accept them in the future. In the end it is hoped that the world which the US General Douglas MacArthur envision of i.e. freedom, tolerance and justice might be achieved in the near future.


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