Monday, June 29, 2009

Indian gay rights march calls to legalize gay sex

Indian gay rights march calls to legalize gay sex


The Associated Press
Sunday, June 28, 2009; 9:57 AM

NEW DELHI -- Hundreds of gay rights supporters waved flags and danced past traffic during marches through three Indian cities Sunday to celebrate gay pride and call for the decriminalization of homosexuality in this deeply conservative country.

The New Delhi parade passed near the Delhi High Court, which is reviewing a law that prohibits gay sex - and can punish it with up to 10 years in prison.

Law Minister Veerappa Moily also said he would soon meet with two other important government ministers to discuss changing the country's anti-homosexuality laws, according to Sunday's Hindustan Times newspaper.

Gay rights activists said momentum was on their side.

"This piece of legislation makes no sense," said Ponni Arasu, 25, a law student and a march organizer. "You cannot deny people their basic civil rights.

Sex between people of the same gender has been illegal in India since a British colonial era law included it as a forbidden sexual act "against the order of nature."

Rights activists say the law sanctions discrimination and marginalizes the gay community. Health experts say the law discourages safe sex and has been a hurdle in fighting HIV and AIDS. Roughly 2.5 million Indians have HIV.

Supporters of the law, which include leaders of the Hindu right, argue that gay sex should remain illegal and that open homosexuality is out of step with the values of this deeply traditional country.

On Sunday, activists took to the streets of the southern cities of Chennai and Bangalore and the capital, New Delhi. Marching bands blared horns and pounded drums while men wearing saris and women waving rainbow flags chanted for their rights.

The parades came a year after India's first large gay pride march, a celebration that supporters say would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

"It was the first very overt, celebratory and positive images of the community," said Leslie Esteves, 33, an organizer in New Delhi. "This is a confident community that has survived and thrived despite the shadow of criminalization."

Homosexuality is slowly gaining acceptance in some parts of India, especially in its big cities. Many bars have gay nights and some high-profile Bollywood films have dealt with gay issues.

Still, being gay is deeply taboo and many marchers Sunday covered their faces because they hadn't told their friends and families about their sexuality.

"Give me support, I want to take off my mask," read a sign carried by a woman who gave her name only as Ganga.

Marchers said the parade was meant to send a message to authorities to repeal the law criminalizing gay sex, known as Section 377 of the Indian penal code. But it was also meant to reach Indians still in the closet.

"We're going to tell them that you're not alone," said Arasu, the law student. "We are all going to be around to support you so you can live with dignity."

Rajiv Dua, a community health expert handing out rainbow flags and buttons, said the motivation was simple.

"We don't want to be ignored anymore," he said.

Riot of colours at Delhi’s second gay pride march

New Delhi, June 28 (IANS) Some hid their faces behind rainbow coloured masks but others flaunted their sexuality unabashedly. The second edition of Delhi’s gay pride march was a riot of colours, and had the marchers dancing and shouting slogans in unison.

“Free hugs!” screamed the banner of one of the marchers, who smiled and opened his arms to anyone who came to him. The muggy day was no deterrent and he got hugs by a dozen.

Demanding repeal of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which makes homosexuality a crime, the marchers – dressed in a whole range of fancy attires – screamed: “We want justice.”

Holding a massive rainbow coloured flag – symbolising the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community – Ranjini, a transgender, said: “It feels so good to be able to walk the streets freely, without having people looking down upon me with a weird look. Yes, I am queer and I am proud of it.”

Holding aloft a rainbow flag, clicking photographs and sometimes breaking into a jig, Rebecca Loo, a tourist from Britain who participated in the march, said: “I am glad I could make it – never mind the heat! I came to know about the pride (march) from an acquaintance through Facebook and decided to come along. It’s really cool.”

Even as people, a number of them tourists from abroad and other foreigners, carried banners saying “Hetero-Homo bhai-bhai”, “Help me take my mask off” and “Yes, I am queer and am proud of it”, a wedding band played along the route of the march from the Tolstoy Marg in Connaught Place in the heart of the capital.

The march, which saw 600-700 people participate, culminated at Jantar Mantar.

Similar pride marches took place in other metros as well.

In what sounded like good news to the gay community, Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily had earlier said the government would discuss the controversial Section 377 of the IPC.

Moily told reporters: “The home minister (P. Chidambaram) is planning to convene a meeting of the health and law ministers over this issue.”

However, leaders of other political parties have sounded wary over changing the law.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo member M.K. Pandhe said: “Generally we don’t support homosexuality but I cannot say further on the issue because our party has not discussed the matter.”

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi went on to say that the government should not take hasty decisions.

“We are living in India, not in a European country. These issues are very important and sensitive. A thorough discussion is needed on this issue,” Naqvi told IANS.


March for legal acceptance amid gaiety

28 Jun 2009, 2337 hrs IST, TNN,prtpage-1.cms

NEW DELHI: Last year, they came out to protest. This year, they were out on the streets celebrating their sexuality. Thousands of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals partied by dancing, singing, hugging and kissing each other in the heart of the capital on Sunday, with the hope that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises the community, may soon become a thing of the past. Unlike last year, there was no tension in the air and even the Delhi policemen on duty looked relaxed, enjoying the colourful show.

Delhi's second gay pride parade, which started from Barakhamba Road at 6.00pm and turned into a public meeting-cum-vigil at Jantar Mantar after an-hour-and-a-half, looked like a giant rainbow floating on throbbing drumbeats as more than 2,000 people walked the streets with hundreds of onlookers on both sides of the road watching the procession quietly. "Our moment has arrived. Last year, there was a lot of uncertainty and anxiety, but this year things have been much easier. Even the support from the police has been excellent,'' said Gautam Bhan, one of the organizers of the parade. In one year, a lot has changed. People have been asking about this year's parade for weeks. And, now it seems the government is going to make amends in Section 377.

Most of the participants in the parade, both gay and straight, felt the attitude towards the gay community is changing very fast. "We woke up this morning to a pleasant surprise, with newspapers saying that two important ministers home minister P Chidambaram and law minister Veerappa Moily are in favour of repealing the section of the IPC that makes homosexual relation a criminal offence. Our hard work and campaign seems to be paying off and it's time the government recognized that we are also citizens of this country,'' said Bhan, adding that it was important for the community to keep its campaign on till the government accepts their demand.

Though the LGBTI community has done two successful pride parades in the capital, the activists know they have a long way to go before they win complete acceptance. "Last year as well as this year, some right-wing groups threatened us against organizing this march. They said it was against the Indian culture. Also, we don't know what the Delhi High Court is going to say in the case against Section 377. But we are hopeful of a positive result,'' said Lesley Esteves, one of the main organizers of the march.

There are challenges on other fronts as well. Though many people sang and danced freely, there were many faces hidden behind masks, scarves, kafiyes, caps and shades. "I don't think my family is ready to accept the fact that I am lesbian. That's why I can't show my face to the camera. But, I am sure once Section 377 is dumped into the dustbin, attitudes will change towards people like me and I would be able to live freely like other normal people,'' said a 25-year-old student of Delhi University. "I didn't have the courage to come out last year. But, now, with even the government talking against Section 377, I think, we are close to victory.

Activists like Bhan and Esteves agree that the community has come a long way since it marched in the capital for the first time last year. "Today, we had at least three thousand people here,'' said Esteves, and most of them came on their own. "We hardly did any campaign this year. I think the news about Section 377 has given a boost to our campaign. I hope Mr Chidambaram and Mr Moily are watching our parade today.''

Chidambaram and Moily, who are reportedly in favour of repealing Section 377, are close to becoming heroes of India's gay community. If the law is dumped, the ministers may become heroes abroad as well. "It's shocking that a liberal democracy like India still has such archaic laws. I came here to support the Indian gays because I can't do that in my own country,'' says Hannah, a tourist from Belgrade, recalling an incident when a similar parade in her city was stoned by right-wing groups. "It's good to see India giving its gay community space to celebrate their sexuality. I wish they scrap 377,'' she added.

India's LGBTI community hopes the government is listening.

Gay parade in Delhi for decriminalisation of homosexuality;g=0;c=758000991;x=3840;n=758;i=0;e=i;s=162;z=%5Btimestamp%5D

Agencies Posted: Sunday , Jun 28, 2009 at 2112 hrs IST

Gay Rally


Hundreds of homosexuals marched on the streets of Delhi demanding decriminalisation of homosexuality.

New Delhi:

Joining voice with their community across the globe, hundreds of homosexuals and transgenders marched on the streets of the national capital demanding decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Shouting slogans like 'Down with 377' and 'Proud to be homos,' and dancing to the tunes of drummers, the marchers demanded scrapping of the controversial Section 377 of Indian Penal Code that declares as a criminal offence ‘sex against the order of nature’.

Dressed in colourful attires, the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders, many of them donning masks, started from the Barakhamba road and culminated their march at the Jantar Mantar.

The activists for gay rights also welcomed the "positive signals" coming from the government over their demand for the repealing of the law.

"That the government is positively thinking to repeal the outdated law is definitely a positive sign, at a time when we are also waiting for a judgement in a related case at the High Court," said Ponni, a gay rights activist working for a Bangalore-based organisation, and one of the organisers of the event.






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