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Behind masks or out and loud June 30, 2008

Posted by qmediawatch in English, Pride 2008, Pride 2008 - New Delhi.
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From the Guardian

Behind masks or out and loud: gay marchers break new ground

Delhi holds first parade as campaigners seek to overturn 19th-century law

Yesterday was the biggest day in the life of one 26-year-old insurance agent in Delhi, yet he came to the city’s long-awaited first gay parade hiding behind a mask.

“I have to remain invisible,” he said. “If my parents see me on TV, I won’t be able to go home. And if my colleagues recognise me, there’ll be hell to pay in the office.”

The gay insurance agent is typical of millions of Indians condemned to lead a double life since, much like in Victorian Britain, they risk becoming social outcasts and even criminals if their sexual preferences are revealed.

Though the setting up of advocacy groups and helplines in recent years has given India’s homosexuals a voice and some solace, they are still largely a hidden and persecuted community. But in a sign of changing times, India’s gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the traditional hijra transsexual community came together for the first-ever Delhi Queer Pride Parade yesterday.

“We’re not protesting, we’re celebrating,” said Leslie Esteves, a member of the newly formed Delhi Queer Pride committee. “This year for the first time we felt confident about organising a parade in the capital.”

Many came in masks, but several who have partially “come out”, such as a 35-year-old lesbian chef, joined the parade without any disguise. The chef’s sexuality is known and accepted by her family and at work. Her “straight” family even marched in solidarity alongside her. Yet she remains cautious. “I’m not 100% out,” she said, not wanting to be named. “Let’s face it, India is still a very, very conservative society. Moreover, the law sees us as criminals.”

India does not explicitly outlaw homosexuality but under an 1861 penal code enacted by the British colonial government, “carnal intercourse against the order of nature between any man, woman or animal” is punishable by imprisonment up to life. The law is mainly used against paedophiles, but the high-profile arrest of four gay men in 2006 in Lucknow highlighted the fact that across India corrupt police sometimes utilise the law to blackmail and even rape homosexuals.

On Wednesday, a Delhi court will begin hearings on a petition by a gay advocacy group demanding that consensual adults be exempted from the 1861 law. Prominent Indians, including novelist Vikram Seth and economist Amartya Sen, have also demanded a change in the law.

“Anybody who leads a double life doesn’t feel good about it,” the insurance agent said. “I feel like screaming at the top of my voice that I’m gay, but I don’t have the courage. If I tell my parents, they’ll force me to go for therapy or get married. And if I tell my office colleagues, I’ll become a target of taunts and sexual harassment, and could even lose my job. A lesbian I know told her boss, and she was sacked. All my friends remain in the closet.”

Gays and lesbians feel trapped between the law and social prejudice. For some, suicide becomes the only way out. Two married women discovered in a lesbian relationship by their families burned themselves to death last month in southern Tamil Nadu state.

“Many Indians still believe that homosexuality is deviant behaviour which can be cured,” said clinical psychologist Radhika Chandiramani. “Several of my colleagues use aversion therapy to treat patients, sent by families, with electric shocks and drugs.”

But yesterday’s march gave many cause for hope. “I feel history is being created here,” said the chef, as she marched arm in arm with her parents through the streets of Delhi.

Gay Pride Delhi Style June 29, 2008

Posted by qmediawatch in English, Pride 2008, Pride 2008 - New Delhi.
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Coverage in Time-CNN

For a city of 14 million people, a gathering of a couple of hundred may seem miniscule. But for Delhi’s gay community, the turnout at their first-ever Queer Pride this Sunday was beyond belief. Over 500 marchers carrying rainbow-colored flags and ‘Queer Dilliwalla’ banners marched to bhangra beats, breaking into Bollywood-style pelvic thrusts and bust-heaving from time to time. Starting from Barakhamba Road in the heart of the city’s business district — at which point the media seemed to outnumber the marchers — they walked 2 km to Jantar Mantar, an 18th century astronomical observatory that has become the unlikely hub of sundry protests in India’s capital. Along the way, they were joined by NGO workers and advocates of all causes, droves of tourists and resident expatriates, and a handful of curious onlookers, all shouting “British Law Quit India!” They were evoking the famous slogan from India’s freedom struggle, but referring here to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which was introduced by the British to criminalize sexual acts “against the order of nature.” Perhaps even more unexpectedly, few marchers wore masks — which the organizers had provided for those who haven’t come out — and there were no protests from religious or socially conservative groups. “This is amazing,” said Ranjit Monga, a public relations executive, “No one would’ve believed 10 years ago a gay parade was possible in Delhi.”

Sunday’s march was a landmark, especially for a city long accustomed to sexual repression, and now grappling with a newfound permissiveness brought about by economic liberalization, and aided in no small measure by satellite TV and the Internet. Other metro cities like Kolkata and Bangalore have been holding Queer Pride marches for a couple of years now but this was the first in Delhi, considered more conservative than some of its metro sisters. Unlike the mostly university-educated, urban crowd that marched in Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore’s marches attract people from all classes as well as rural areas.

It took years of activism and advocacy — particularly fervent over the last few years — to make Delhi’s Queer Pride possible. In 2004, Voices Against 377, an umbrella group of 12 NGOs working on a range of issues from women’s rights to HIV/AIDS, was formed to file a case in the Delhi High Court against Section 377. (The case will have its final hearing on July 2 this year.) In 2006, celebrated author Vikram Seth wrote an open letter against Section 377, which was signed by the likes of Nobel-laureate Amartya Sen. “We just felt the time was right and Delhi was ready,” says Gautam Bhan, a city planner and gay activist, “We have come a long way from the ridiculous attitude that there are no gays in India. With this march, we hope to move from saying ‘Hey, we exist!’ to issues like respect and dignity.” A steady gay scene has slowly evolved in most metro cities including Delhi, and mainstream magazines like Time Out list gay socials. “Even smaller cities have a thriving gay scene today,” says Monga, “It happens on the quiet, but it’s there. Attitudes have definitely changed. If you don’t wave your sexuality in people’s faces, they let you be. There are jokes sometimes, but no organized anti-queer violence as in the West.” But, as Bhan admits, there may be greater resistance in future as the movement becomes more widespread and successful.

On Sunday, though, the mood was euphoric. “It’s been great fun,” said Mather George, an anthropologist from San Francisco, “I missed the dykes on bikes, the naked people and the music, but I guess they’ll get there!” There was much back-slapping and an ecstatic sense of accomplishment. “Delhi has come out and spoken about the kind of people we want to be,” said Bhan, “This is not just about queer rights, it’s about women’s rights, about Dalits, about justice for everyone.” But the enthusiasm wasn’t shared by the passersby, many of whom looked on perplexed or peeved. Passengers in a bus that stopped near the marchers said they had no clue what the rainbow flags stood for or what the marchers were doing. Even the three men beating the bhangra drums for the marchers — Monu, Mahesh and Inder Bhat — said they had no clue what the march was about. “We came to play so everyone could dance and have a nice time. That’s all we know.” The march was clearly only a beginning.

Sexuality Minorities march with pride June 29, 2008

Posted by qmediawatch in English, Pride 2008, Pride 2008 - Bengaluru, The Hindu.
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Coverage in The Hindu

Bangalore: In the first-ever event of its kind in Bangalore, the sexuality-minority community of the city came together for a “pride march” to celebrate their sexuality and demand repeal of laws that discriminate against them.

The march — which was at once a protest and a festival — started from National College grounds in Basavanagudi and culminated at the Town Hall.

The marchers shouted slogans against the system that criminalises them as they sang and danced all the way. Sporting T-shirts with messages like “I am the pink sheep of my family,” and multi-coloured headgear and masks, they turned the occasion into a festival. Messages on placards read “Repeal IPC Section 377”; “Give us access to public distribution system”; “Love knows no gender” and “Nodi swami navirode heege” (Look sir, this is the way we are).

Speaking at the meeting in front of Town Hall, Arvind Narrain of Alternative Law Forum said that the archaic Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalised all sexuality minorities, and the fight would continue until the law was revoked. Manohar of the NGO Suraksha said that sexuality minorities were harassed by the police in the name of preventing trafficking. He demanded that they get all their entitlements as citizens without discrimination.

The response of the onlookers along the march was varied, ranging from interest and curiosity to looks of disapproval. In fact, while some read the pamphlets distributed along the way, there were others who refused to even take the leaflet. But none of this diminished the spirit of the marchers.

The “pride march” has its origin in New York and it marks the day (June 29, 1969) police raided a bar frequented by sexuality minorities, which led to a protests. The first “pride march” in India was held in Kolkata in 1999, and the city has hosted this march every year since 2003.

Gay Activists march in India’s gay pride parade June 29, 2008

Posted by qmediawatch in English, Pride 2008.
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From Associated Press

Pride pictures

NEW DELHI (AP) — Men wore sparkling saris, women wore rainbow boas and hundreds of people chanted for gay rights in three Indian cities Sunday in the largest display of gay pride in the deeply conservative country where homosexual acts are illegal.

Gay rights supporters took to the streets of Calcutta, Bangalore and New Delhi to call for an end to discrimination and push for acceptance in a society where intolerance is widespread.

“This is a national coming-out party,” said Alok Gupta, a lawyer from Mumbai, as he stood among several hundred activists in New Delhi. “This is a simple thing: We are seeking the right to love.”

While small groups have marched in the eastern city of Calcutta in recent years, Sunday’s events were the first gay pride parades in Bangalore and New Delhi. Several hundred people turned out at each of the three events.

The marches came days before the Delhi High Court is expected to hear arguments on overturning a law against homosexual sex that dates to the British colonial era. The law, which forbids sexual acts “against the order of nature,” carries punishment of up to 10 years in prison.

The law is rarely enforced, but activists say it sanctions discrimination.

“Discrimination is widespread because there is no protection or law or societal understanding,” said Lesley Esteves, 32, a gay rights activist who helped organize the New Delhi parade. “There’s discrimination in the workplace; there’s discrimination in the family — it’s on every level.”

Despite the festive mood Sunday, fear of discrimination was evident among the crowds in New Delhi. Many of the marchers wore rainbow-colored masks so their friends and families wouldn’t know they were gay. Many others declined to speak to journalists.

Some, however, were happy to announce themselves to the public.

“I want people to see us, to talk to us, to become acquainted with who we are and how we feel,” said Kangan Ratra, a lesbian in New Delhi. “The first step is to see us. The next step is to understand us.”

The protests in all three cities were peaceful, though the number of police and journalists likely matched that of the marchers.

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, a senior leader of India’s main Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, said he opposed the gay activists’ march and called homosexuality “unnatural.”

“I don’t think it will be accepted in our country. Most of the people are traditional people, religious people, and it will not be accepted in Indian culture,” Naqvi said.

Naqvi said BJP supporters did not protest the march because “we are not going to give importance to such behavior.”

Still, there are signs that homosexuality is becoming more accepted in India, at least in big cities. In New Delhi, gay and lesbian groups hold biweekly movie screenings and parties, and organizers say attendance is rising. Newspaper editorials have called for revisions to the law, and prominent writers and activists have signed petitions expressing their support.

Gays, Lesbians take to the streets June 29, 2008

Posted by qmediawatch in English, Hindustan Times.
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Picture from Pride 2008

 

In a rare display of unity, hundreds of gays and lesbians on Sunday paraded the streets of Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore, pressing for changes in the law to end their stigma and discrimination.

Dressed in colourful clothes and adorned with tattooes and body piercings, the marchers shouted slogans against Section 377 of the IPC which defines un-natural sexual practices and annnounced their sexual preferences in the forms of gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals and transgenders.

The marchers participating in the “Delhi Queer Pride 2008” rally, the first of its kind here, walked for an hour from Barakhamba Road to Jantar Mantar in the heart of Delhi.

In Kolkata, lesbians, gays and transexuals marched through the streets from College Square to Esplanade East on a ‘Rainbow Pride Walk’ watched by milling Sunday crowds.

Sunday’s marches were the first display of gay pride in Delhi and Bangalore.

“This pride march has got a historical connection. Same day in year 1969, police in New York raided a gay bar called Stonewll Inn, as they humiliated and even arrested the people present in the bar. But the people, showing rare courage for the first time, protested”, Shayani Mullick, a gay rights activist, said.

Dancing to drum beats, drag queens (men dressed in womens clothes) and others wearing “masks” carried a large “rainbow” flag while they held placards reading — Hindu Muslim Sikh Isai Hetero Homo Bhai Bhai, Proud to be queer, be thyself love thyself and 377 leave India.

(vijay varma, PTI)

 

India’s gays set for first nationwide pride marches June 27, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, LGBT, Online/New Media.
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Another AFP story, on Google News: India’s gays set for first nationwide pride marches

NEW DELHI (AFP) — Homosexuality is officially illegal in India but the country’s lesbians and gays say that will not stop them coming out for the first nationwide pride marches this weekend.

For the first time gay men, lesbians, transgendered individuals and their friends and family in several major Indian cities will join global gay pride events.

“That the march is happening now and not before is an indication that people are finally feeling brave enough to come out for that kind of celebration,” said Lesley Esteves, 32, a gay rights activist who is one of the organisers of the parade in the capital New Delhi.

“It’s only now we feel we have the numbers to do this.”

A British colonial-era provision in Indian law prohibits “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” and activists say this allows authorities to treat gay people like criminals.

Under the statute, known as Section 377, unlawful sex is punishable by a fine and a 10-year prison term.

Activists say that while few people are arrested or convicted under the law, many gays and lesbians prefer not to come out.

“On the one hand there is criminalisation. And there is no non-discrimination legislation, no protection, no recognition of same-sex partnerships,” said rights activist Gautam Bhan, 28, who plans to march in Delhi on Sunday.

“While the law exists all our hands our tied. Everything you do can become suspect.”

“There’s not that much to be happy about,” said Bhan. “Everyday life is still very hard. That’s one of the reasons why the march ends in a vigil.”

Small gay pride marches of several hundred people have been held in the eastern city of Kolkata before, but this year is the first time events will also be held in New Delhi and in the southern city of Bangalore.

Gay rights activists say this shows India has come a long way since 1999, when the first attempt at a pride march was made in Kolkata.

“Just 15 people came out. It wasn’t even a march really,” said Pawan Dhall, who works for HIV and gender rights organisation SAATHII and has been a key organiser of the march in that city.

There have been other steps forward.

Films have touched upon gay stories and the English-language media increasingly covers gay issues “positively,” activists say.

Cracks have even appeared in the government’s stance to homosexuality during a long-running court battle to overturn Section 377.

While the home ministry holds society is not ready to drop the law, India’s state-run AIDS organisation went on record to say the move was necessary to help in its efforts to fight the disease.

The parade in the capital, which is expected to draw a few hundred people, comes just days ahead of the next hearing of final arguments in the case before the Delhi High Court on July 2.

Gay pride events are traditionally held around June 27 to commemorate the riots that broke out in 1969 in New York City’s Greenwich Village after police raided a gay bar, the Stonewall Inn.

Activists in Bangalore say they expect at least 600 people to turn out Sunday.

“Delhi decided to do it and we decided it’s high time we also got in on the act,” said Bangalore-based human rights lawyer Siddharth Narrain, 29.

“People feel the need to actually come out in the street and publicly affirm their identities.”

The marchers, who have already obtained police permission, plan to wave rainbow flags, play drums and maybe even dance in the streets. Some, however, are also expected to wear masks to avoid being outed by television coverage.

Indian gays set for first nationwide pride marches June 27, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, LGBT, Pride 2008, The Asian Age.
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AFP report in The Asian Age

Indian gays set for first nationwide pride marches
By Tripti Lahiri

New Delhi

June 26: Homosexuality is officially illegal in India but the country’s lesbians and gays say that will not stop them coming out for the first nationwide pride marches this weekend.

For the first time gay men, lesbians, transgendered individuals and their friends and family in several major Indian cities will join global gay pride events.

“That the march is happening now and not before is an indication that people are finally feeling brave enough to come out for that kind of celebration,” said Lesley Esteves (32), a gay rights activist who is one of the organisers of the parade in New Delhi.

“It is only now we feel we have the numbers to do this.”

A British colonial-era provision in Indian law prohibits “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” and activists say this allows authorities to treat gay people like criminals.

Under the statute, known as Section 377, unlawful sex is punishable by a fine and a 10-year prison term. Activists say that while few people are arrested or convicted under the law, many gays and lesbians prefer not to come out.

“On the one hand there is criminalisation. And there is no non-discrimination legislation, no protection, no recognition of same-sex partnerships,” said rights activist Gautam Bhan (28), who plans to march in Delhi on Sunday.

“While the law exists our hands are tied. Everything you do can become suspect. There is not that much to be happy about,” Mr Bhan said. —AFP

Youth and student immolate themselves June 27, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in Gay, Malayalam, Suicides.
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A translation of a report in Mathrubhumi (Malayalam weekly), dated 27 June 2008: 

Youth and Student immolate themselves

A youth, running a barber shop and his friend, a student, have been discovered dead due to burns in a rented house.
Sivanarayanan (32), from Perumbilavu in Trichur, presently residing near Ajantha Theatre in Pandikkudi, Mattanchery (Kochi) and Deepak (17), son of Srikesh, R.G. Pai Road, are the deceased and their badly charred bodies were spotted in a room of the rented house  Sivanarayanan had been occupying. The incident seems to have taken place at around 3 am on Thursday (26th).  Both the bodies have been completely burnt.  Police recovered a petrol can from the precincts.  Police assumes that the two, who were intimate friends, had committed suicide together.
Deepak’s family had been objecting to his relationship with Sivanarayanan.  As a result,  Deepak had even attempted to run away from his house a few days back, says the police.
On Wendesday, Deepak had been watching TV till 12 at night and must have sneaked out after that to go to Sivanarayanan’s house. Police added that he had even created a human shape on his bed with a pillow and covered it with a blanket to avert the suspicion of his family, before leaving the house.
The police come to the conclusion that the trauma caused by his family’s discovery of his unnatural relationship with Sivanarayanan must be the reason for his suicide.  Sivanarayanan, who came from Perumbilavu to Kochi a few years back, had been running thee Barber shops in the city.

(Sourced from a comment by a reader on Queer Media Collective)

After sex change, man ditched in love June 27, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in Crime, Deccan Herald, English, Gay, Online/New Media, The Asian Age, Times of India, Transgender.
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PTI report From The Times of India, 27 June 2008 [Also published by DNA, Outlook, The Asian Age, Yahoo! News and Deccan Herald]:

After sex change, man ditched in love

26 Jun 2008, 1442 hrs IST,PTI

SILIGURI (WB): Egged on by his gay partner to go for a sex change so that they could marry, a man undergoing the process found to his dismay that his partner showed no interest in him any more nor could he return to his original self now.

Feeling betrayed, Dipu Ghosh lodged a complaint to the police who are now looking for Ajit Mondal, Dipu’s estranged partner, officer-in-charge of New Jalpaiguri Police outpost, Pankaj Thapa said on Thursday.

Dipu, a resident of Rangapani near Siliguri, alleged in the complaint that Ajit had convinced him to go for a gender change and get married. He has been in the process for the past three months but his counterpart was now avoiding him.

It was not clinically possible for Dipu now to get back his original male form, albeit effeminate.

Ajit was absconding and his parents claimed to have no knowledge of their son’s homosexuality, Thapa said. They say, it is a plot against their innocent 23-year-old son.

Dipu came in contact with Ajit two years ago and they developed a homosexual relation. Later, with the help of local eunuch community, Dipu went to Mumbai and started working as a bar-girl. He now earns a modest amount.

“Money is not a problem for me. I am ready to give Ajit everything, a beautiful life…. (I’ll) fulfill all his dreams. But he has no right to insult my love,” he told a local television channel.

BSF denies sexual harassment by instructor at J&K centre June 25, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Gay, Homophobia, Times of India.
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From The Times of India, 23 June 2008, a follow-up story to a report on the previous day about alleged same-sex abuse:

BSF denies sexual harassment by instructor at J&K centre

23 Jun 2008, 1640 hrs IST,PTI

NEW DELHI: BSF on Monday rejected allegations of alleged “sexual harassment” by one of its instructor in Jammu and Kashmir as claimed by 136 recruits of Bihar Military Police (BMP), who deserted the centre.

“Prima facie, it does not look like as the case is made out to be. There is more than what meets the eye,” BSF Director General A K Mitra told reporters on being asked about the incident.

Stating that the force has already initiated a probe into the incident, Mitra said there can be other angles to the incident.

The force, which filed a missing report with the police in this regard, had earlier denied the allegation and maintained that the recruits, part of a 370-strong group, had left as they were unable to sustain the tough training course at Udhampur.

The BMP trainees had alleged that one of the recruits was called by an instructor to his room on June 20 and an attempt to sexually harass him was made.

When the recruit raised an alarm, his colleagues rushed there and rescued him, police said, quoting the trainees.

Acting on the complaint by the trainee police personnel, the Bihar government has ordered a probe.

About 370 recruits of the Bihar Military Police had joined two training centres at Udhampur and Jagnoo on June 1 for a 40-week-long training course.