Laws or no laws, people from the LGBTQIA+ community find it difficult to rent a space to live in India as landlords continue to give them a hard time.
Bangalore: People from the LGBTQIA+ community are struggling to rent or buy a space to live in as they are perceived to be ‘different’ by the society.
People like Priyadarshini Chitrangada, a Kolkata-based person who identifies themself as queer, refrain from disclosing their identity while looking for a house or to rent a place as previously, some landlords refused a house to them and their then partner. “I always fear rejection,” they said.
A report by International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), published in 2019, found that LGBTQIA+ persons in India, typically face serious difficulties in seeking access to rental accommodation, and are vulnerable to homelessness. This includes discrimination and sometimes, violence committed against LGBTQIA+ persons by landlords and property owners, as well as by family members in their own homes – violence that often forces them to leave the house.
The report derives its findings from a series of qualitative interviews conducted across six states in India – Delhi, Gujarat, Manipur, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.
The report showed discrimination based on a person’s gender identity and sexual orientation. It quoted an activist from Bangalore who explained that transgender persons are congregated in the least resourced areas. He said, “If you do a mapping of where transgender people are, I think, all these areas… would fall under the poorest areas. We will not get a house in Basavangudi or any of these spaces. If we did, [the landlord would] charge Rs. 5000 from a corporate worker but will charge transgender persons Rs. 8000-9000.”
Alex Mathew, a communications officer by day and a feminist drag queen by night said, “They shouldn’t discriminate one on the basis of their gender identity or their sexual orientation. It shouldn’t matter as long as the owner gets the rent on time.”
Even after decriminalisation of Article 377 , people find it hard to be open about their sexuality and face difficulties in finding homes with their partners.
Anirban Dey Gau, an LGBTQ rights activist, said, “I have been looking for a house with my partner. Renting was very difficult because when we tell brokers about our situation they say that the landlords are not okay with it or they ask us not to mention it to the landlord and tell them that we are friends or brothers.” He added that when they planned on buying a house, they weren’t able to get a loan together as they weren’t considered partners by the law. “We cannot get married as the laws in India don’t recognise same sex marriage yet.”
Anirban added, “There should be more sensitivity towards the community. The existing laws should be amended to make it more inclusive. If the matrimonial laws are amended it will be easy for people to get a loan for a house with their partners as well.” .
Rajvi Dedhia, Junior Associate Lawyer, said that as far as the renting of property is concerned, as it is a private property, no law can force an owner to rent their property against their wish. Buying from builders and promoters can be governed by anti-discriminatory laws.
She added that there should be new laws that should be introduced with penal statutes for anti-discrimination and equal opportunity for people identifying with different genders and sexualities. “The current laws should also be amended for better enforcement against such hate and discrimination. The police should be taught to deal with such matters and to ensure that the victim is not made to feel uncomfortable. Also, matrimony laws should be amended so that the validity of partnership in LGBTQ community cannot be devalued,” she added.
Brokers and Landlords didn’t give their comments on the issue.