Monday, June 22, 2009

Queer and happily so: Bangalore readies for special fest Text

Queer and happily so: Bangalore readies for special fest
By Maitreyee Boruah

Bangalore, June 20 (IANS) In a country where same sex activities are considered a crime comes a colourful, weeklong event to assert the rights of sexual minorities - the Karnataka Queer Habba beginning Sunday.

The festival, which will include a parade, will not only try to create awareness about sexual minorities in society but also up the visibility of various groups that lead their lives under the shadow of fear and discrimination, be they lesbians, gays, transgenders or bisexuals.

In its second year, the Habba has got bigger and better. Similar events will be held in Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bhubaneswar.

"Last year, we saw the participation of 600 people in the parade. This year we are hoping for around 1,500 people for the ultimate event of Pride March," Siddharth Narain, a member of Coalition for Sex workers and Sexual Minorities Rights (CSMR), told IANS. The event is the brainchild of the CSMR.

Narain said this year's event was especially important in the context of an ongoing case in Delhi High Court on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises same sex activities.

The festival was launched by various social movements and human rights organisations to resist police abuse and defend the human rights of sexual minorities and sex workers in the city.

Right from a cricket match to public debates, the Habba will see it all. Pride March, the last event of the festival, is likely to see lesbians, gays, transgenders and bisexuals coming together to assert their rights on Bangalore's streets.

The march will begin from National College Basavanagudi in south Bangalore to the Puttanachetty Town Hall in central Bangalore via Sajjan Rao Circle, Minerva Circle and J.C. Road - which are among the busiest roads lined with commercial establishments.

"After the success of last year's Pride March, we have decided to host an even bigger event this year. As a run-up to this year's Pride March, we will be hosting a week of events across the city," said Nithin, a member of CSMR.

Along with discussing and debating issues related to discrimination against sexual minorities and Dalits, the weeklong event will also see film screening, theatre and dance performances, story reading sessions and a public discourse on religion and sexuality.

"The Karnataka Queer Habba will address issues of discrimination faced by the Dalits and sexual minority communities, the legal aspects and history of the anti-sodomy law in India," said Nithin.

"Society has always been discriminatory towards sexual minorities. We want to say that they too are human beings and have all the rights to lead a normal life," said Sumati.

Anupama Gowda, a Bangalore-based advocate, said: "Because of biases in society, many of them don't come out in the open about their sexual orientation. With changing time, people need to change their attitude towards the less visible citizens of society. Law also needs to be changed for better living conditions of sexual minorities."

(Maitreyee Boruah can be contacted at

-Indo-Asian News Service




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