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Livelihood Options

Livelihood issues are a serious concern for many LGBTIQA+ people in India. Socio-legal stigma, discrimination and various forms of violence contribute to denial of equal opportunities in the spheres of education, skills building and work for LGBTIQA+ people. Transgender people in particular are often unable to access these opportunities in their desired gender identities. On the positive side, some of India’s policies, laws and social security schemes are gradually becoming inclusive. Here is how LGBTIQA+ people can make the most of these opportunities.

If you were unable to complete school or college, depending on the stage at which your formal education stopped, your age and literacy skills, you may have a number of possibilities. These include the National Literacy Mission (NLM) programmes for people in the age group 15-35 years who are not literate or semi-literate. The NLM also implements programmes that involve market-research based vocational training courses for non-literate, semi-literate as well as newly literate people. Among NGOs, Pratham runs a programme that can help school drop-outs, especially women, to complete their secondary education.

If you have studied only till intermediate college, you could join an open university, where a variety of traditional and newer courses are offered, including certificate, diploma, Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and PhD courses. Apart from the Indira Gandhi National Open University, there are 13 other state level open universities. The mode of learning is flexible with regard to timing of teaching and learning, admission criteria and evaluation. This can be helpful for working individuals, people looking to go back to formal education, and those looking for upgrades of skills and knowledge.

If formal education is not your cup of tea, you can go for skills building or vocational training opportunities offered by the NLM (for illiterate, semi-literate, neo-literate individuals), National Rural Livelihoods Mission (for the rural poor) and National Urban Livelihoods Mission (for the urban poor). Technical education is provided through more than 2,000 Industrial Training Institutes and 500 polytechnics. Government polytechnics offer diplomas in civil engineering, computer applications, fashion designing, interior decoration and mass communication.

Among NGOs, Pratham’s Second Chance Program is noteworthy, particularly for women. Another pan-Indian NGO Pradan focusses on building the skills sets of rural communities, provides them livelihood opportunities, and connects them to markets and sources of funds for their own enterprises. In the private sector, several companies implement corporate social responsibility projects that focus on education and skills building provision.

Discrimination in the workplace: The fear of discrimination against LGBTIQA people in the workplace or while trying to get a job is real and justified. Instances of sexual harassment faced by LGBTIQA people also happen, but are often not reported officially for fear of stigma and ridicule. But fortunately there are a few positives to look out for.

The Honourable Supreme Court of India gave a verdict recognizing transgender identities and rights in April 2014. This verdict also directed the government to ensure that transgender people have equal opportunities in education and livelihood. Transgender people can leverage this judgment to fight discrimination against them in the workplace. Similarly, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code can be no basis for any employer to deny any LGBTIQA+ person equal opportunities. This law criminalizes specific sexual acts but not your gender or sexuality.

The United Nations too has come out with a set of standards that corporate bodies can utilize to prevent discrimination against LGBTIQA+ people in the workplace (Tackling Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, & Intersex People: Standards of Conduct for Business). There are a small but growing number of multinationals, big Indian businesses and smaller enterprises moving towards ensuring non-discrimination for all their employees.

Many of the non-formal, adult education and vocational training programmes mentioned earlier also provide entrepreneurial learning. The National Institute for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development is engaged in training, consultancy and research to promote entrepreneurship in a variety of areas. Many colleges and universities have entrepreneurship cells, while other institutions that offer entrepreneurial learning include the Indian Institutes of Management and similar other institutes. Social enterprise is another exciting avenue, which uses commercial strategies to maximize improvements in financial, social and environmental well-being of disadvantaged communities. The Tata Institute of Social Sciences is one of the best options for learning on social enterprise.

The Government of India is planning a scheme on entrepreneurship development for early stage entrepreneurs from disadvantaged social groups. Many LGBTIQA people are engaged in running businesses and small trades of their own. Enrolling for some of the government, private sector or NGO programmes may help them upgrade and make their businesses more profitable.

A mention of educational schemes specific to transgender people: In 2015, the central government proposed a number of schemes to facilitate greater educational opportunities for transgender people in collaboration with state governments. These included financial support of Rs.1,000/- for parents of transgender children as an incentive to retain them within their biological families, monthly scholarship for students in classes 7-10, monthly scholarship to pursue higher studies in India, and a vocational training scheme. Please also note that after the Supreme Court’s verdict on transgender rights, all universities / colleges are supposed to have added a transgender option in their admission application forms for students.

An issue closely related to livelihood is social security. This includes: (a) Citizenship and identity proof documentation; (b) Social welfare schemes to facilitate education, skills building, livelihood opportunities, housing and pension access; (c) Subsidized or free legal aid services; and (d) Subsidized public health and health insurance programmes. NGOs like SAATHII run programmes to help socially disadvantaged communities like LGBTIQA+ people access these facilities. Many of the social welfare schemes can also be applied for online or with the help of government accredited agencies for a small fee.

Last Modified: 15 October 2020

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