In July 2009, India’s LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender) community woke up to a new beginning; the first of many steps towards being perceived no different than others in the eyes of the law and by society. The 150-year old law relating to Section 377 that criminalised intimacy in same-sex relationships was annulled and the first of many battles was won for the gay and lesbian community. Rainbow hues, ecstatic cries and celebratory fervour took to the streets, replacing a once taboo and closeted view of this section of society.
Mumbai-based Fay Barretto, an indie musician and founder of It Started Like This ecstatically says, “The queer parties at Banana Bar as well as the recent gig at Blue Frog programmed by Ma Faiza were great! Every August, we also have the march in South Bombay followed by a party to celebrate. The unity that we see is great.”
WE’RE HERE AND WE’RE QUEER
Gay pride parades, once a thing of the Western world, are now commonplace in metros like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. In fact, queer rights movements are no longer restricted to one-day parades or marches, but extend into daily life with parties at nightclubs and pubs, film festivals, book exhibitions, poetry readings and open-mic nights for indie artists in the LGBT community. “It’s really nice to know that people have come out and taken this initiative,” says Barretto. Very iconic is the two-year-old Mumbai-based Azaad Bazaar that sells t-shirts, mugs, key chains and other knick-knacks that proudly scream ‘Rainbow Pride’. But to the LGBT community, Azaad Bazaar is more than just a store that offers one a method of expression; it is a community and a platform that supports all things queer from pride marches to community events and is synonymous with the Queer Azaadi March as well as the famous 33-footlong rainbow flag!
Awareness may have increased in recent times, what with the many websites and blogs popping up by the day along with the above-mentioned activities. However, acceptance of the LGBT community in India has yet to become a part of Indian culture, especially at the workplace and in orthodox sections of society. India’s Union Health Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, recently came under fire from the LGBT community for his homophobic and illogical remarks on homosexuality being a disease. “There is no doubt that society has opened up to looking at the LGBT community differently. But it still remains a world that some people can’t even imagine, and so, there yet exist sections of society that won’t accept us. It’s a very slow process since we live in a country that still practices Sati and won’t even allow interracial and inter-caste marriages,” says Barretto.
ON THE PATH TO FREEDOM
New York has been touted as the birthplace of the gay liberation movement. It was only in July this year that same-sex marriages became legal much to the delight of straight supporters as well as the state’s queer folk. Clearly, the next step for India’s queer community is to push for this historic vote to be passed. “What India needs to do now is to legalise marriages because everyone has the right to get married. While we are at it, we also need to encourage more LGBT musicians, singers, songwriters and drag queens to come and do their thing,” explains Barretto.
In a turn of events earlier this year, two Gurgaon-based women became India’s first same-sex couple to legally get married. Interestingly, one of the women who happened to be recently divorced was permitted to marry her female childhood friend since they met the legal marriage requirements by a court near New Delhi. Looks like there is hope for India on this front!
THE NEXT STEP?
Once the same-sex marrriage vote has been won, only then can India’s LGBT couples win the legal status of joint adoption of children. Brazil, Canada, Spain, England and South Africa are just some of the many countries that offer legal adoption for same-sex couples.
Navonil Das, one half of the designer duo Dev R Nil, concludes, “The laws relating to same-sex relationships are very stringent. If you look around, while places like New York have just passed the same-sex marriage vote, in India the scene has come to a standstill. However, the demand for adoption by samesex couples is only going to rise in India. We hope that joint adoption becomes legal in the years to come, if not immediately. By using the right platforms, we can only hope to make a change. The movement as a whole needs to be addressed so that further action can be mobilised. We await the day when same-sex couples will be able to legally adopt without a worry.”
FAMOUS LGBT ICONS
We a w a i t t h e d a y w h e n s a m e – s e x c o u p l e s w i l l b e a b l e t o l e g a l l y a d o p t c h i l d r e n w i t h o u t a w o r r y .
Volume 1 Issue 4