New Delhi: On Sunday, hundreds defied the smog to gather in Delhi with colourful costumes, balloons, flags, posters and placards for the tenth annual Delhi queer pride parade.
The crowd sang, danced and celebrated as people from all walks of life, identifying with different sexual orientations and genders got together at Delhi’s Barakhamba metro station to march till Jantar Mantar.
“For me this is a celebration. It means being able to hold my girlfriend’s hand and not feel weird,” said Tanya, as participants shouted slogans – “I am gay, It’s OK”, “Hey hey ho ho homophobia has to go”, “Hum honge kamiyaab“.
“I don’t understand why they criminalised love. Duh. They are jerks,” said Tish Anand, who wore a wig inspired by the Disney Channel character Hannah Montana and vowed to sing and dance as long as he didn’t trip over his heels.
Meanwhile, 79-year-old V.K. Baranwal and 22-year-old Kinnar Bharati member, Ritika, said they had come to protest against Section 377. “High time homosexuality was legalised in India. 377 needs to go.”
This historic protest-cum-celebration represents a milestone ten years of collective struggle to battle all forms of shame, stigma, transphobia, homophobia, and socio-economic hierarchy, at a time when such an assertion of dignity and self-respect grows in need and vitality, said the community’s manifesto.
Their list of demands include:
- Hate crime legislation that conceptualises all forms of anti-minority violence as specifically punishable offences.
- Comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and social accountability for discrimination on the basis of gender, class, caste, religion, ability, race, tribe, sexual orientation, and ethnicity.
- Effective implementation of the provisions of the Supreme Court judgment in NALSA vs Union of India and serious revisions to the currently draconian form of the trans rights bill according to inputs and suggestions by the community.
- Read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, repeal Karnataka Police Act 36 A and Hyderabad Eunuch Act, anti-beggary, anti-Hijra laws, sedition laws, UAPA and AFSPA, and remove the marital rape exception from rape laws which should offer redressal to all victims/survivors of sexual assault irrespective of gender.
— Karnika Kohli (@KarnikaKohli) November 12, 2017
Economist and rights activist Pulapre Balakrishnan said, “The Supreme Court has made favourable noises (right to privacy judgment). We have every reason to be optimistic.” However, he feels that the attitude of the middle class towards the community hasn’t changed much since he came out of the closet 35 years ago.
Johnson, a Chennai-based activist, who was in Delhi to attend his first pride parade said, “This is like coming out for us. We are expressing our right to live with dignity. The attitude of the society towards us has to change.”
Manak Matiyani, one of the organisers, said his wealth and education allowed him to live openly as a gay person but it was much harder for those with less privilege.
“We’re fighting for the right of everybody in this country to live as an equal citizen, which means that everybody should be able to live their life the way they want to,” he told news agency Associated Press.
A nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court in August ruled that the right to privacy is a fundamental right, that it is intrinsic to life and liberty and comes under Article 21 of the constitution. While the judgment will have far reaching implications on a range of government policies and actions, it will also impact the status of existing laws to the extent to which they violate a citizen’s right to privacy – a fundamental right as per the court’s landmark ruling. Chief among these laws is Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises ‘unnatural’ sexual acts such as anal sex.