Thursday, August 13, 2009

After Decriminalization, a Gay Pride March in Mumbai

August 12, 2009, 3:27 pm

After Decriminalization, a Gay Pride March in Mumbai

By Lindsay Clinton

Gay Pride marchAdnan Abidi/Reuters Gay rights activists celebrated during a rally in New Delhi in July after the city’s highest court decriminalized homosexuality.

MUMBAI | While much of the world celebrated Gay Pride in June, Mumbai waited. The Queer Azaadi March (”azaadi” means freedom), in fact, is this Sunday, a day after the 62nd anniversary of India’s independence. The implicit association: the freedom of sexual orientation and the country’s freedom from the clutch of colonialism.

Nearly 2,000 lesbian, gay, bi- and transsexual citizens and human rights advocates are expected to gather on the August Kranti Maidan in South Mumbai. There is much to celebrate: last month the New Delhi High Court repealed Section 377 of India’s penal code, which criminalized homosexuality. However, the decision is currently being challenged, which makes the March even more important to the LGBT community.

DESCRIPTIONLindsay Clinton Pallav Patankar (foreground) and Srinivas Satya prepare signs for the march.

Only the second “pride” march in Mumbai, the act of being “out” is still a statement here.

“This is like the early pride parades in New York, when people were fighting for the right just to be present and be on the streets,” said Kabi Sherman, an organizer of this year’s march.

The gay community in Mumbai has fielded criticism here that the movement is merely a Western construct. “There is a need for the gay community to find an identity that is connected to Indian culture, said Pallav Patankar, a trustee with the Humsafar Trust, a community-based organization. “Our homosexuality is not about being Western. We’re trying to find our own path.”

The march is indeed likely to juxtapose Western symbols of homosexuality with traditional Indian motifs. Srinivas Satya, a 26-year-old gay IT-professional, originally from Chennai, will march alongside several friends. Each will don a traditional dhoti, a white cloth worn by South Indian men around the waist, paired with tight colorful tees in a spectrum of colors.

Community organizations like Gay Bombay, Salvation Star, and other LGBT-social welfare organizations will carry banners and host face-painting booths.

The program kicks off at 3 p.m. on Sunday with speeches by representatives of the LGBT community. The march will continue to Chowpatty Beach, then to Wilson College Lane, with a left onto Hughes Road. The procession will end where it began, on the Maidan, with singing and dancing.

Associated events will be held on Friday and Saturday, including ones organized by Humsafar Trust and one by LABIA (Lesbians and Bisexuals in Action) at Awaaz-e-Niswaan in Kurla West. Stop by the Azaad Bazaar exhibition in Bandra West this weekend to buy rainbow turbans, pride belts and other accessories.




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