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Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Video: In India, decriminalisation fails to smudge gay stigma


Delhi Gay Pride 2011

Source: India Today

By Suhas Munshi and Hakeem Irfan

Hundreds from the Capital's vibrant lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community gathered in all their colourful glory at Jantar Mantar on Saturday 2 July to celebrate two years of the Delhi High Court's historic decision to decriminalise homosexuality. But behind the multi-hued masks lay the regret that even after the repeal of the Indian Penal Code's Section 377, society still won't let them be.

For most homosexuals and transgenders, issues such as forced marriages, discrimination at workplace, social stigma and ostracisation are still very much a reality. Participants at the parade, titled 'Jashn-e-Azadi' (a celebration of freedom), said they had gathered at Jantar Mantar not only to celebrate the second anniversary of the high court judgment but also to spread awareness about the problems faced by the community. Organisers of the parade issued a statement, titled 'Celebrating freedom', which detailed the demands of the community.

It urged the government to pass an anti-discrimination law to address sexual orientation and gender identity issues. "The authorities should end discrimination against members of the LGBT community at work places, schools, hospitals and other institutions," the statement read. They also demanded that the Supreme Court uphold the 2009 high court decision, besides the setting up of transgender boards across the country.

Another demand was to increase sex education and counselling in schools. It is the absence of these that was one of the causes making it difficult for the "general Indian public" to accept the existence of gays and lesbians, they said.

The participants also demanded the provision of better health care facilities and a ban on the surgical and psychiatric medical intervention to alter gender or sex without proper legal consent.

On July 2, 2009, the high court had struck down the provisions of Section 377 that criminalised consensual sex between two adults of the same gender, saying it violated the fundamental rights as guaranteed in the Constitution.

On Saturday 2 July, Jashn-e-Azadi saw a band, Delhi Circle, performing on catchy lyrics. Many participants read out interesting poems narrating their own experience.

"I am gay and I am proud," Adrien Field, a New Yorker, said. Field is a fashion consultant with Vibe magazine. He said the HC decision was a "proud moment for the Indian society as people of various sexual orientations could finally come out in the open".

"Back in New York, we're quite cool about being gays or cross-dressers. But talking to my friends here, I find the acceptance of society still missing. It seems to be difficult to be a gay and an Indian at the same time," Field said. Many at the parade echoed Field's views, saying even after the repeal of Section 377, the largely spiteful perceptions in the Indian society towards homosexuals and transgenders had remained unchanged. Most of those at the gathering preferred to be concealed behind costumes and masks, saying they feared being photographed or video-taped and then being subjected to humiliation at home or workplace if someone saw the footage.

On the question of the feasibility of LGBT people getting to know each other openly in a city like Delhi, participants said joints meant exclusively for gays did exist, but the details of most of them are kept hidden. "I think it's wrong to say that gays can easily come out of the closet. Gays are still persecuted largely everywhere in the India. Most of us only come out in certain pubs and bars, about which we cannot advertise openly for the fear of being hurt," Rajeev, who works as a business analyst in an MNC, said.

Earlier in June, the United Nations Human Rights Council upheld the universal declaration of human rights. It passed a resolution on human rights violation based on sexual orientation and gender identity. "We have to reform social and institutional practices. We are celebrating tolerance and diversity. "The big struggle is on," Atul of Queer Campus, an independent group of LGBT students that organises regular discussions and programmes on the issue, said.

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