India’s LGBTQ+ members face setback but feel liberated in Toronto

Jan 31, 2024 | Canadian News, International News, News

Jasneet Singh, a 25-year-old artist, hopes for a world where there are no judgments about anyone’s sexual orientation.

As an Indian national who left the country four years ago, Singh said she truly felt liberated when she arrived in Canada and eventually started living with her same-sex partner.

“I feel privileged that even back there, I started opening up gradually. But real change happened when I came here,” Singh said. “It’s a very liberating feeling because it’s not like I was hiding in a shelter previously, but there are no judgments here.”

Supreme Court

Jasneet Singh, 26, poses after finishing her artwork. She said she felt free when she arrived in Canada. Photo credit: Aanchal Nigam

India scrapped the colonial-era ban on gay sex in 2018, and just when the community felt it was on its path to get recognition, there was a setback.

India’s Supreme Court declined to legalize same-sex marriage and left the decision up to Parliament in December 2023.

The ruling regarding same-sex marriage in India follows dozens of petitions filed the previous year.

But some people do not “wait that long,” Singh said.

“If most people in that nation can make somebody feel uncomfortable without them doing anything, then a change needs to be there,” Singh said. “I know every country takes time to legalize same-sex marriage, but they were willing to accept the change.

“It will definitely happen in India as well,” Singh said.

Kalean Hoe, a 26-year-old Chinese national who was born and raised in Canada, said more countries would be motivated to legalize same-sex marriage if children were made familiar with the concept at a young age.

“Educating children that male-female relationships aren’t the only existing kind of marriage is also a way to acceptance,” they said. “But that said, it would be difficult to motivate more countries, especially those that are Islamic.”

Toronto Pride Parade

Toronto Pride Parade 2023. Photo credit: Aanchal Nigam

Provinces in Canada began legalizing same-sex marriage in 2003. It was legally recognized nationwide in 2005 with the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act.

However, in 2023 the LGBTQ+ community in Canada called out the government and asked it to take responsibility for the rise in hate crimes.

Egale Canada, the country’s leading organization for the LGBTQ+ community, issued a series of recommendations for the government to eradicate anti-LGBTQ+ hate.

The organization feels every level of government is responsible for protecting people and communities within its jurisdiction.

Statistics Canada data showed that police-reported hate crimes regarding sexual orientation shot up to 491 cases in 2022 from 258 in 2020.

LGBTQ+ organizations in Canada continue to raise their voice against these crimes but the fight has been long.

Pew Research stated as of 2023, just 35 countries legalized same-sex marriage and that in 2024, six more are expected to initiate changes in their laws.

Singh said she has often come across people complaining about Canada not accepting certain ways of life. However, she said she is happy on a personal level.

She said India has a long way to go until it accepts people with all sexual orientations, but Singh remains optimistic change would truly be there one day.