It is a hard task to belong to the LGBTQ community in India.
In a country where even heterosexual relationships have tragic ends because of social and irrational interferences, it is no surprise that a special kind of hell is preserved for the same-sex ones.
And if you are a transgender or someone questioning your birth-assigned sex, you might as well keep a sword and shield handy, because this battle will be getting no easier.
In short, coming out of the closet takes a lot of guts in our country.
Even though the Supreme Court passed a judgement declaring transgender as a third-gender, deserving of equal rights as males and females, a year later they denied the inclusion of lesbians and gays in it; because obviously – Section 377 and obsession with procreation.
The LGBTQ community also took a big blow when last year, the Indian government chose to completely abstain from even calling for a vote on the matter of creating a post for an independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity in government, a resolution put forward by the UN Council.
This action led to angry protests and outcries from the community as well as their supporters. But as medieval as the laws of our country are, many of its people are surely not, as we can see the huge numbers in which they turn out at the Pride Parades in different cities across the country.
A legacy borrowed from the United States, a large number of countries organise pride parades and India is not lagging behind, at least in this concern. Most of the major cities like Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Guwahati and many more have hosted pride parades for some time now, along with film festivals in some of them. Lucknow and Bhopal were the latest additions in 2017 who participated in this vibrant event.
Here are some of the biggest pride parades that India has witnessed in all these years.
- MUMBAI QUEER AZADI MARCH
Though Mumbai had pride parades since 2005, it got its official name – Queer Azadi March in 2008. It was one of the first pride parades of India to be hosted with an array of festivals and film screenings, along with Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata. It begins from August Kranti Maidan and ends in Girgaom Chowpatty. In 2017, Mumbai held the ninth edition of its pride parade on January 28, which became the largest march India has yet seen with around 10000 people turning up. It was accompanied by a month long celebration and new initiatives like focusing on minorities within the LGBTQ community.
- DELHI QUEER PRIDE PARADE
Delhi’s first Queer Pride March took place on June 30, 2008.In the beginning, only a small group of people were there, but by evening, there were about 500 people singing, dancing, shouting slogans, holding placards and screaming “377, quit India”.
In 2017, a host of Delhites came together to celebrate the date of July 2nd, the day Delhi High Court decriminalized homosexuality (even though it was reversed in 2013 by the Supreme Court). This year, various NGOs joined hands to organise a bike parade to express their love and support, the first of its kind. Despite heavy rains, people came out in large numbers on their two-wheelers with banner, posters and balloons to make this a reality.
- KOLKATA RAINBOW PRIDE WALK AND FESTIVAL
The oldest of its kind, not only in India but in all of South Asia, is the Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk. The first walk for equality in Kolkata was held in July 2, 1999 where only 15 people had participated. It was called Friendship Walk back then and it got a lot of support from other South Asian countries. After 1999, the walk was not organised till 2003. From 2011, Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival, a non-profit collective of individuals and organisations started to organise the walk. The most recent one was held in December, 2016, with a week of screenings and interactive sessions leading up to a Walk on the 11th with people and their posters as vibrant as it gets.
This year the marchers had some specific demands in mind like introduction of a new bill for the transgenders, nullifying Section 377 and a thorough judicial enquiry into Tara’s murder, a trans woman whose body was found burnt outside a Chennai police station in November, 2016.
- BENGALURU NAMMA PRIDE MARCH
Bengaluru Namma Pride March (previously called the Bengaluru Pride and Karnataka Queer Habba) is held annually in Bengaluru since 2008. In 2016, IT was held on November 20.This was also India’s first disability-friendly pride parade, and organisers had a sign interpreter as well. The pride celebrations began from October 1st and involved various events like art festival, love stories, rainbow run, potluck, photo exhibitions, diversity fair, drag performances etc. Over 3000 participants took part in the pride march and walked from K.G. Road to Town Hall.
Apart from these cities which are the flag-bearers in pride parades in India, a number of other metro cities host the same throughout the year. Chennai (from 2013), Bhubaneswar (from 2009), Pune (from 2011), Jaipur (from 2015), Ahmedabad (from 2009), Guwahati (from 2014), Surat (from 2013), Nagpur (from 2016) and so on. Madurai, in 2012 organised its GenderQueer Pride Parade and Alan Turing Film Festival, named on the enigmatic homosexual mathematician.
In 2017, two new cities – Lucknow and Bhopal hosted their first pride parades as well as the first in their state.
So among all the restrictions set down by the rigid rules of the law, the pride parades and its ever increasing number of participants are a proof of India’s growing courage and maturity. People are not only less scared to come out of their closets, but also getting a lot of support from their community as well as from outside.
We can probably take that as a bright silver lining.