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Indian activists plan gay pride parades to protest anti-gay laws, social taboos June 25, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, LGBT, Pride 2008.
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AP story from The International Herald Tribune, 23 June 2008:

Indian activists plan gay pride parades to protest anti-gay laws, social taboos

NEW DELHI: Several hundred gay activists plan to march in three Indian cities this weekend in the largest ever display of gay pride in a country where homosexuality is illegal, an activist said Monday.

The marchers plan to sing, give speeches and hold candlelit vigils in simultaneous parades in New Delhi, Calcutta and Bangalore on Sunday, said Gautam Bhan, a writer and gay rights activist involved with organizing the marches.

While several dozen activists have marched in the eastern city of Calcutta in recent years, these would be the first gay pride parades in New Delhi and Bangalore.

Bhan said the activists want to raise awareness of the issues facing the gay community in India.

Homosexuality is illegal in India, classified as “against the order of nature” and punishable by up to 10 years in prison. And in India’s deeply conservative society, where any public discussion or display of sexuality is shunned, it has long been treated as taboo.

But as India’s economy has boomed in recent years and the country has opened up to the West, there has been a small increase in gay activism, at least in urban India.

“The conversation has been growing. Over the last few years there has been a steady rise in organizing around gay issues,” Bhan said.

But he said there was still much work to be done.

“Pride in India is at a stage where it’s not just pure celebration, it’s always part protest. A reminder of how difficult things are,” he said.

Bhan said the activists have received permission from police to stage the marches. However, he said the activists still feared conservative and religious groups could attack them.

“We don’t expect any problems from the police,” Bhan said. “The police will be there ostensibly for our protection, but there’s always an element of fear.”

New Delhi Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said he had no details about the planned march and would not comment on any likely police response.

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