Tag Archives: India

Couple’s suicide notes reveal stigma they face in India’s queer community

Lesbian couple’s suicide notes reveal stigma they face in India

The suicide of a lesbian couple who jumped into a river and drowned highlights the hidden struggles of gay women in India, who are subjected to ‘corrective rape’ cures and family pressure to marry, activists said this week.

A police officer, who declined to give his name as he was not authorised to speak to the media, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the women left suicide notes before killing themselves in the western state of Gujarat on Monday.

He refused to confirm whether one woman also threw her toddler into the river, as reported by local media, which quoted the notes as saying,

“We are leaving this world to live with each other. The world did not allow us to stay together”.

It is more common to hear about lesbians committing suicide than other members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, said gay rights campaigner Anjali Gopalan.

“They live a far worse life than gay men, a much tougher life, because there is largely more acceptance of male homosexuality,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Women’s sexuality is not discussed at all in India, making it much more challenging for them to come out.”

There is no official data on India’s LGBT population, but the government estimates some 2.5 million gay people, reflecting those who have declared their sexuality to the health ministry.

Lesbians face a life of double discrimination – first because of their gender in a male-dominated society where sexual violence, child marriage and female infanticide are common – and then because of their sexuality, activists say.

In a surprise ruling in 2013, India’s top court reinstated a ban on gay sex after a four-year period of decriminalisation, but it is set to reconsider the 2013 decision in July after a slew of petitions opposing the ban as unconstitutional.

Although the law is rarely enforced, it is used to intimidate, harass and blackmail gay people, activists say.

Outside cities, lesbians often face violence, brutality and even death, rights groups say.

“In rural areas, corrective rape is very prevalent and it is one of the main reasons why women do not come out,” Maya Urmi Aher, a transgender rights activist, said, pointing to pressure on women to marry and bear children.

Such rapes are seldom reported as they are often carried out by husbands, brothers and fathers in a bid to ‘cure’ women, she said.

“Law and order consider crimes like this a joke,” she said.

Teen Beaten By Classmates Who Thought She Was A Lesbian

A 15-year-old in India has reportedly been beaten and abused in twisted ways because her attackers suspected she was a lesbian.

According to The News Minute, Reshma (not her real name) went to a covenant school in Karnataka, thousands of miles from her home in Manipur, and was staying in a hostel.

After a rumour spread around the hostel that she was gay, Reshma was allegedly subjected to horrific attacks – which, she said, were fully supported by the hostel authorities.

In one attack, the warden joined the girls in pinning Reshma down and pouring chili powder in her mouth, refusing to let her drink water.

“What if it was another girl and she was actually lesbian? They would have probably killed her.”

Eventually Reshma’s brother, Renjit (not his real name), came from Manipur to investigate.

He told News Minute.

“The warden told me that my sister had tried to sexually assault another girl, which is why the other students had thrashed her. She kept telling me how my sister’s mistake was a ’spiritual’ one. The warden told me that if my sister apologizes, then everything would settle down. But my sister said that she did not want to say sorry because she was the one who had suffered.”

The siblings eventually filed a complaint with India’s Child Rights Commission.

“She is hurt both physically and mentally. She is only a little girl. What did she do to deserve such treatment?”

Authorities are now investigating and believe the warden at Reshma’s hostel might have “intimidated other students.”

Homophobic and transphobic incidents are relatively common in India, where Section 377 still criminalises homosexuality.

The Supreme Court will revisit the law before October, it was announced this week.

Transgender Community Left Out Of India’s Election System

The upcoming election process taking place in India is leaving trans people out, due to lack of proper identification documents.

Statistics released by the Election Commission of India show that a percentage as low as 4% of trans people in India are enrolled in voter lists, while about 41,000 trans people were identified by the 2011 census, and it is believed there are much more. Only 1,654 people are those enrolled in the lists of Maharashtra. According to an election official who spoke at DNA India:

This is abysmally low considering the fact that a dozen hijras roam around Mumbai and Thane”.

Hijra is a term used in South Asia – mostly in India and Pakistan – that refers to trans people who were assigned male at birth. Trans people in India have been legally recognized as a “third gender” outside the binary of male and female. Last year, a bill that protected trans people from violence and sexual assault was passed, with the purpose of increasing employment and education opportunities for trans people in India.

A 2014 supreme court ruling was supposed to establish transgender as a legal category of identity, adding a third gender option on official IDs, as has been done in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

Still, many trans people admit that they wouldn’t change their IDs in order not to lose basic rights like marriage, transferring property or adopting children (all of which are rights only applicable to people who belong to the male-female legal binary), or to be ostracized by their families.

In addition, trans people who wish to change their passports or licenses must go through a screening committee that decides whether they qualify as transgender, a process which often submits them to discrimination and violations from medical practitioners. Trans Indians are also often denied these services because they were obliged, at some point, to flee their family home quickly and without an ID, to join hijra communities in big cities.

Trans people face severe discrimination by medical practitioners and social services in India. According to Shashi Bharti, member of the Naz Foundation Trust, an NGO for sexual health in Delhi, trans clients are often refused anti-retroviral treatment when they can’t provide ID and proof of residence, because of the aforementioned reason.

Activists are speaking up for the need of inclusion of the transgender community in the enrolment process by the Election Commission. Campaigner Harish Iyer says:

Since most hijras don’t have a proper home and many of them lack Aadhaar and other ID cards, they would remain out of the EC’s campaign. Since the right wing government has not been supportive of this community, government agencies are unlikely to go the extra mile to cover the third gender”.

Suhana, a 40-year-old hijra, speaks about the reluctance of trans people to enroll, since they don’t believe that the situation is going to change, even if they actively participate in the elections.

Indian-Made Lesbian Web Series Gets Highest Nominations at NYC Web Fest

Filmmaker Roopa Rao’s debut web series The Other Love Story is an innocent love story between two girls set in the 90’s era in India.

After facing rejection from several producers, Roopa turned to crowdfunding to help bring this original and realistic story to the society, now the web series is leading nominations at the NYC Web Fest, with six nominations.


Roopa says,

When I made this series, I had no expectations about what I wanted from it or where it would go. I just wanted it to release and share the story, and hoped that people were engaged and entertained with each episode. I am thrilled that we have been noticed by a platform like this and that we are competing on a global level for some of the top awards at the festival.”


Roopa says that though her project deals with a sensitive topic and the medium she chose to narrate it on wasn’t conventional, she was glad she did it.

This project happened organically. I have been a writer and like to tell stories. I must have written this story when I was in college. But I was waiting for someone else to make it because I didn’t know how to. Since then, I kept thinking of a web series because video-sharing channels started monetizing it. This was a great platform for storytellers like us who want to tell something as it is and with freedom of expression. It took me some time to research the medium, and given that it doesn’t require big budgets and there is no distributor in between who you have to satisfy, I found the medium encouraging. Also, when I approached producers, they were apprehensive due to the subject and the medium. In that way, it has been a long journey and fight, but here we are today, with nominations at a festival like this and it has been worth it.”

A Lesbian Couple Attempt Suicide In Mumbai After They Are Forbidden To See Each Other

A few weeks ago it was reported that two women from Mumbai both attempted suicide after they were reported to one of the girls Father’s for both being in a relationship. The Father forbade his daughter to see her partner again and he also sought the help of a political adviser who scolded both the girls. Consequently, they both decided they couldn’t be apart. One of the girls drank disinfectant but survived. The other girl tried to hang herself from the ceiling but she sadly died.

This is not just an isolated event either. During 1995 – 2003 Sahayatrika (a support group for lesbian, bisexual and Transgender people in Kerala) reported that 22 women in the state of Kerala had committed suicide because of similar circumstances and this was only cases that had made the newspapers. The actual figures could be much more. The LGBT rights group, Humsafar trust, has dealt with 12 cases in Mumbai alone since 2014. Koninika Roy, the advocacy manager of the trust said:

The reaction of parents in such cases is shocking. It is harrowing to hear the women speak. They are full of guilt and they want understanding from their families, but they don’t get it.”

In April of this year two women who fell in love at college were harassed by their families to such an extent they decided to run away from home so they could be together. One of the women wrote a letter to Koninika and in it she stated:

I was scared of society, my family, the issue of caste and the issue of gender. We became sure our families would not accept us.”

Not long after they had left home they were found and brought back to their home town by the police. The police refused to listen when they tried to explain their love for each other and they were told they should:

go and marry a boy and live happily.”

The girls were then forced to return back to their family homes, their mobiles were taken from them and their parents placed them under house arrest.  After hearing about the two women from the letter, Humsafar helped them leave home and they are now living elsewhere together. Humsafar is also counselling both sets of parents in order to educate them and help them to accept and understand their daughters.

Homosexuality is considered an illegal act according to 377 of The Indian Penal Code and is a punishable offence. There have been many attempts to overturn the act but so far it has not happened. There are support groups available but many Indian women are even too scared to approach them for fear of repercussions if they are found out. The 24 hour suicide prevention helpline in Mumbai, Aasra, says that at least 10 -12% of the calls they receive are from queer people who are suffering because of family and friends attitudes toward their sexuality.

Many of the help groups are calling that support and counselling needs to be given to the families of members in the LGBTQ community as they are also scared of what their own friends and neighbours will say and do to them for having a queer child.

The founder of another support group for Lesbian, bisexual and transgendered women, Umang, said:

They are frightened of the social situation they will have to face… Since the situation is more restrictive for women and family policing is higher, women often end up taking drastic steps.”

More needs to be done to educate people in India and to get the law changed. Only then will cases like this stop happening.

India Finally Portrays A Lesbian Relationship In New Web Series ‘The Other Love Story’

Members of the LGBT community have a very hard time in India because under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, homosexuality is punishable by law and the subject is pretty much taboo.

In that respect alone The Other Love Story is a ground-breaking move. The series is set in Bangalore in the 1990’s and portrays the love story between two young women, Aachal and Aadya.


During this era lesbian relationships were very much in the closet (even more so than they are now) and the first episode shows them both meeting each other for the first time.

The audience very quickly gets a sense of the ordinariness of the girls lives and they start to grow closer as they interact in person and over the phone. There is an innocence about them both as they explore their feelings for each other.


Heterosexual relationships are hard enough in India as family, politics and attitudes play a strict part in whether they are deemed suitable by others, which means LGBT relationships are pretty much impossible to carry out. This is why this web series is so desperately needed, not just for lesbian women in India, but to women anywhere that are still in the closet or are dealing with prejudice from others regarding their sexuality.

A few weeks ago a lesbian couple from Mumbai both tried to commit suicide as they had been forbidden to see each other after someone reported them for cuddling. One succeeded and died while the other survived.

This is a tragic example of what can happen to members of the LGBT community in India when others find out about their relationship. Falling in love is not a crime and more recognition is needed in the media.

The Other Love Story is a step in the right direction as it normalizes same sex relationships. Falling in love is not a crime. Prejudice and homophobia is.

India’s LGBTQ Community Share Their Coming Out Stories In New Insightful Web Series

The new seven-part web series, Coming Out, features inspiring tales of members of the India’s LGBTQ community, who are coming out to their families, across India and across sections of economic classes.

One frank and honest story features Justine Mellocastro, a hairstylist and fashion entrepreneur in Mumbai, who is bisexual.

In the episode, her mother is shown saying,

First, I went into turmoil, frankly. There were so many things flying through my head. You worry about society, that’s the only thing that comes to mind. And then I said, finally, “I love my kid”.”

Another story features, Chanchal Jain who transitioning from a woman to a man. When Jain works up the courage to broach the subject with his small-town parents, he was in for a larger surprise than they were: his father, quickly recovering, only said, “Well, do you want to get the surgery done?”


Produced by youth content company 101India, these stories are told in a matter-of-fact, conversational style, and are not overly emotional or depressing.

Discussing the documentaries, Justine says

Usually, all you hear are negative stories. My story is only positive — my family was ultra-supportive, and I’ve been in long-term relationships with women too — including a live-in relationship. We’ve got so many nice comments on the video, most of them congratulating my mum for her attitude. I think it’s mainly the government that has a problem with homosexuality.”

Cyrus Oshidhar, founder of 101India added.

This series isn’t about the Bollywood-isation of the issue. We don’t want to overlay the videos with any message, but show snapshots of real stories. The clear subtext is about parents and acceptance, and that it is possible to have a normal, loving family unit.”

Four episodes are out online.

India’s Politicians Vote Against Bill That Would Decriminalize Homosexuality

LGBT activists in India have failed once again to make gay sex legal in the country.

National Congress MP Shashi Tharoor fought hard for a bill that would remove the colonial era law, but politicians voted again the bill that would decriminalize homosexuality.

This is the second time politicians have voted to keep Section 377, which was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 2013.

The private members bill was defeated by a vote of 58 to 14, with one abstaining.

Writing on Twitter, Shashi said:

Bitter disappointment as my attempt to introduce my bill to amend Section 377 defeated again. Several MPs who’s promised to vote in favour absent.

So bigotry and homophobia on the BJP side met indifference and prejudice on the opposition’s. Will have to leave it to the Supreme Court to revolve.

Since I had no opportunity to speak on 377, I took the opportunity of a speech on the Transgender Rights Bill to make the broader argument.

Indian culture and history reveal no intolerance of sexual difference or orientation and embrace the ardhanarishvara. BJP prefers British colonial law.”

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India’s Broadcasting Council Is Not A Fan of Grey’s Anatomy Or Its ‘Homosexual Encounters’ Between Women

India’s Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) has issued a notice to a channel fir airing an episode of US drama Grey’s Anatomy.

Grey’s Anatomy 01

The scene that caused complaints from viewers involved a female doctor telling her male colleague about failing to please her (female) partner, and asked him to teach her via a physical demonstration.

Grey’s Anatomy 02

The industry-lead Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) issued the notice and labelled the medical drama “obscene and vulgar”, and accused of “denigrating women” by screening a “homosexual encounter.”

A senior member of the council said:

Keeping Indian audiences in mind, we felt that the scenes were not tasteful. So we have asked them to respond”.

This is the latest in a string of instances of TV channels being held accountable for broadcasting LGBT content.

Two years ago India made the shock move to recriminalize gay sex in a shock ruling.

Despite the government’s ruling, there is still support for gay people in the country with India’s  biggest political party supporting decriminalising homosexuality once again.

Lesbian Coming Out Story Illustrated By Stunning New Photo Series

The series – by photographer Arjun Kamath – captures the struggle that LGBTs go through when coming out, as well as the rejection and ridicule they may still face.

The images show the journey of Alpana and Maitreyi, who are shown climbing out of a closet, before finding peace and acceptance together.

The powerful imagery aims to show the fear and confusion many people feel when realising their sexuality, and the strength it takes to be honest with oneself, as well as society.

couple-1 couple-2

couple-7 couple-3

Speaking about his inspiration for the photographs, Kamath said:

Being straight, I think I can look at the whole situation more objectively. I don’t think discrimination against gay people is any different from other types of discrimination, such as discrimination against overweight people or discrimination against dark skinned people. People should be allowed to lead their lives without judgement. It’s cowardly to make fun of people who are different from you. That said, I don’t consider myself to be a gay activist. I’m an artist and I work on subjects that move me.”

couple-4 couple-5 couple-6

Asked about the reaction to the series, the photographer said its reception had been nothing but positive.

The most heartening aspect has been receiving messages of support from strangers. Just today, a bisexual woman messaged me that saying how the photo shoot had moved her to tears. She says she’d been ostracised throughout her life for being bisexual and being dark skinned. She said she was really happy I’d brought this issue out into the open.”

Amazing | Delhi’s First Ever LGBT Flash Mob Put on A Show Like No Other (Video)

India may not be the most progressive of countries when it comes to LGBT rights, but if the recent flash mob in the capital is anything to go by, more and more people are coming out in support of decriminalising homosexuality.


This weekend, Delhi saw it’s first LGBT flash mob at Connaught Place – one of the popular places in the city – presented by an organisation called Harmless Hugs.

The almost 10-minute performance was not only about dance, but also subtext, as it showed same-sex couples come together and be separated. This open portrayal of these homosexual couples sent a strong message across.

Wow, India Gets its First TV Ad Featuring A Lesbian Couple (Video)

While the Indian courts take their time deciding the fate of Indian’s LGBT community, with the verdict on legalising Section 377 still pending, clothing company Anouk  have gone ahead in taking the issue to every household.

The delightful ad features two women preparing to meet one of the parents and talking about their relationship.

India Lesbian Couple advert 01

The video ends with the women preparing to not “hide it anymore.”

India Lesbian Couple advert 02

Here’s India’s first lesbian ad and it is nothing short of amazing.

Indian Film Tackles the Subject ‘Corrective Rape’ and the Families who Condone These Attacks on their own Children

Sadly, ‘Corrective Rape’ is word we’re hearing way to often, and case studies across the globe have chronicled cases of ‘Corrective Rape’ on women who’ve been discovered to be gay.

Shockingly, it is the woman’s own family facilitate the rape – permitting strangers to rape them, as they foolishly assuming that that is the only corrective measure for their girl to be cured from Lesbianism and she will start thinking “Normally”

According to statistics with the Crisis intervention team of LGBT Collective in Telangana, India, there have been several of ‘corrective rapes’ that have been reported to the group in recent years.

A member of the team, Vyjayanti Mogli, said they are sure there are many more cases, but they go unreported, says

We came across such cases not because they reported the rape, but because they sought help to flee their homes.”

In most cases of corrective rape, the perpetrators are family members because of which the victims refrain from seeking legal recourse.

Victims find it traumatising to speak of their brothers/ cousins turning rapists and prefer to delete the incident from their memories and cut off ties with their families. Which is why such cases almost never get reported.”

Shockingly, it’s all in the family — the parents are in the know, the rapist is usually a relative that is handpicked by them, and it’s like a ‘disciplining project’ designed to ‘cure’ and ‘correct’ the homosexual.

It’s usually a cousin who’s roped in for this ‘project’. In some communities in South India, marriages amongst cousins are common. Many times, a girl’s parents may decide that she would be married off to a cousin (i.e. her father’s sister’s son or mother’s brother’s son) soon after her birth. Now, if this girl happens to be queer and if it is found out that she is in a relationship with another girl, elders in the family believe having sex with the ‘would-be’, even if it’s forcibly, will cure her.”

Hyderabadi girl’s film on corrective rape

Hyderabadi filmmaker Deepthi Tadanki’s upcoming film, Satyavati deals with the subject of corrective rape. The film is based on some “shocking real life instances” that took place in Bangalore.


When I was researching on this subject for my film, I came across two gut wrenching stories of corrective rape — one, where a gay girl was raped by her cousin so that she could be “cured” of homosexuality; and another, where family members forced a gay boy to have sex with his mother, in a bid to turn him ‘straight’. I tried reaching out to these victims, but they refused to talk.”

Explaining how difficult it is to find statistics for a topic so taboo, Deepthi says,

I wrote to NGOs who work with victims of such hate crimes seeking help with statistics. but to my surprise, not one organisation got back. Many rapes go unreported in India, and it will take years before something like corrective rape even gets talked about. That’s why I wanted to tell this story. I knew it is a sensitive subject, something that has never been dealt with before. I didn’t even have any statistics, but I had the conviction.”

Satyavati talks about a lesbian couple and their straight friend.

When the family members of the ‘straight’ girl visits her, they doubt that she is in an ‘unnatural’ relationship with one of the lesbian girls. And so, they plot a ‘corrective rape’ on their daughter as well as the gay girl,” reveals the 27-year-old Guntur native, who has turned to crowdsourcing to raise funds for the film. “Forty per cent of the film is now complete, but I am facing a financial crunch. I have been trying to crowd source money to complete the rest of the film. While lot of people said ‘kudos’ and ‘hats off’, very few are willing to make monetary contribution. But I won’t give up because a discussion on corrective rape needs to be initiated.”

India Censors Approve First LGBT Music Video

India’s Censor Board of Film Certification has approved an LGBTI music video for the first time — and without seeking any edits.

The song Head Held High is performed by Friends of Linger – a band of professional musicians with amateur singers, all friends freed by the equations of gender, sexuality and the emotions of music.’

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 16.24.27

The video, can now be aired on Indian TV, though it was given a parental guidance rating for children under the age of 12.

This song covers the journey of any individual’s struggle to understand his or her sexuality conditioned by society’s norms, the realization and the joy that comes with that, as one seeks nothing but love from the world around them”

The video features nine people from different walks of life, two of whom are from the LGBT community.

Director Payal Shah said in a statement,

The very idea to work around this concept was a big thrill as it reflected my inner self — free-spirited and comfortable in my own skin. Acceptance, judgment, norms, society etc are constricting formats and this video aims to break through these very layers and emerge liberated. I feel even more empowered today! Empowered and liberated.”


India Censors Ban Lesbian Film, Saying it Will ‘Ignite Unnatural Passions’

India’s Central Board of Film Certification has banned a lesbian film – claiming would ‘ignite unnatural passions’ in viewers who watched it.

Unfreedom is the story of a young woman who resists an arranged marriage to be with her girlfriend. The film contains nudity and lesbian sex scenes, which promoted the CBFC, to render much of its content too controversial for general audiences and therefore banned it from major release in India.

The movies Director, Raj Amit Kuma, recently spoke to Bangalore Mirror about the film

“The two stories are juxtaposed and the film challenges the idea of religious fundamentalism and questions its connection with homosexuality, which is a biting reality of India. They plainly told me that after watching the film, Hindu and Muslims will start fighting and will ignite unnatural passions. I was aghast as my film is not provocative.”

The film shifts between New York and New Delhi, one tale follows the Muslim terrorist who kidnaps the Muslim scholar in order to silence him, while the other charts the travails of a young woman whose devout father tries to force her into an arranged marriage, which she resists because she is secretly in love with another woman. The four characters come face to face with gruesome acts of violence in battles of identity, sexuality, religion, love, and family.


Kumar, who is based in Florida, told the Mumbai Mirror that the film was rejected by all three committees of the board — the Examining Committee, the Revising Committee, and even the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal. When a film fails to clear these three hurdles, it is considered banned, unless the filmmaker moves court.

He appealed to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal, but was denied a certificate, so is trying to launch a crowd-funding campaign to finance a release in India via alternative methods.

The filmmaker appealed to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal, but was denied a certificate.

“I’m making an appeal in the High Court now as the censor board cannot tell a filmmaker what to make and what not to.”

Raj Amit Kuma, Director

Earlier this month, Indian censors muted the word ‘lesbian’ in the film Dum Laga Ke Haisha, sparking cries of homophobia.

Homosexuality was criminalized in India in 2013 and incidents of rape have been escalating. In addition, for more than a decade, India has been mired in the politics of religious violence between Hindus and Muslims.

Unfreedom is a hard-hitting attempt to show the intertwined relationships of religion, violence, sexuality, and intolerance. The film will be released in around the world in May.

Indian Censors Mute The Word ‘Lesbian’ From Film ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’

Last month, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) cause controversy when it a issued a list of English and Hindi swear words that were to be banned.

Now the CBFC has asked the filmmakers of Dum Laga Ke Haisha to mute the word ‘lesbian’ from their new movie.

The word was supposed to be said in a court scene where a young boy asks, ‘Mummy, is older sister turning into a lesbian?’

More: Bollywood embraces gay couples in new video

However, the CBFC ruled that it was ‘not appropriate’ for a child to say lesbian and muted the word, as well as deleting four Hindi words.

Director Sharat Katariya said he was amused when censors first objected to the word lesbian and asked,

“[they] said you are removing gaalis (swear words) but lesbian is not a gaali, why are you removing it? So they said the fact that a little kid mouths it, it is not appropriate. And they didn’t find it (the context the word was being used) humorous. But otherwise “lesbian” word can be used. I didn’t argue too much as there wasn’t much scope anyways.”

Sharat Katariya

Director and censorship board member Ashoke Pandit condemned the decision as ‘shameful’ on Twitter with the hashtag ‘freedom of expression.’


“This entire thing makes no sense. To mute the word ‘lesbian’ as though it is a swear word is to disrespect the feelings of the entire LGBT community and this decision doesn’t seem to be in accordance with any rules of the Cinematograph Act, 1952, which is followed by the examining committees who rate the film.”

Ashoke Pandit

The romantic comedy stars Ayushmann Khurana and Bhumi Pednekar in lead roles, featuring Kumar Sanu in a cameo.

Dum Laga Ke Haisha 02

5,000 People March In Mumbai’s Pride Parade

Mumbai Pride Parade is now in its 8th year, but this year saw an exceptional turnout, with a 5000-strong march on Saturday. However what made it an even more special occasion was the hundreds of parents of LGBTQ children, making up a substantial chunk of the marchers.

Vikram Doctor, co-organizer of the first pride parade in the city, was quoted as saying that in earlier years, it would be…

“… only the occasional mother or sister or aunt who’d come join the gay person in the march. It’s great to see fathers and brothers step forward too.” Vikram Doctor

The parade, which started from August Kranti Maidan covering Grant Road and Nana Chowk, was one of the biggest Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender pride parades the city has seen.

Parents of LGBTI children have continuously voiced their support and lobbied for the decriminalization of gay sex under section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

India’s Mid-Day news quoted a mother who says she wants a traditional wedding for her gay son.

“It took me a few years to accept the reality that my son is gay. Initially, I used to curse him, but gradually learnt to accept him. It’s every parents’ dream to have a grand wedding for their child and I want the same. I have been to Europe and seen a gay marriage and that’s how I came to know that in some countries, gay marriages are allowed.”

Following an 8-year legal battle, the Delhi Hight Court decriminalized gay sex in 2009. But on 11 December 2013, the Supreme Court of India overturned the decision of the lower court and recriminalized gay sex.

Madhu Kinnar Becomes India’s First Transgender Mayor

When it comes to LGB rights, India has a notably poor track record. Not only is being gay illegal (and can result in a lifetime imprisonment) but homosexual intercourse has also been a criminal offense in the Indian Penal Code since 1860. The Delhi High Court once deemed these laws to be a direct violation of the rights provided by the Indian Constitution but this ruling was overturned in 2013.

Where the Asian country does a lot deal better is with trans folk. In the state of Tamil Nadu, there is a transgender welfare policy whereby those looking to undergo Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) can do so for free in a Government Hospital (though sadly, this applies to MTF only). This policy also allows for free housing program; various citizenship documents; admission in government colleges with full scholarship for higher studies.

In India, trans people were also granted voting rights (albeit as a ‘third’ sex) in 1994. Consider it a reflection of their (somewhat) progressive attitude then that trans politician Madhu Kinnar has been elected as India’s first transgender mayor.

Kinnar’s win took place in Chhattisgarh, a state in Central India. The area is home to 25.5 million people making it the 10th largest state in the country – it also makes her win all the more significant.

An independent candidate, she beat her opponent (Bharatiya Janata Party’s Mahaveer Guruji) by 4,537 votes, which is a relatively slim margin. However, her win is monumental and Kinnar took it in her stride,

“People have shown faith in me. I consider this win as love and blessings of people for me. I’ll put in my best efforts to accomplish their dreams. I only spent Rs. 60,000-70,000 from my earnings during my campaign. It was the public support that encouraged me to enter the poll fray for the first time and because of their support only, I emerged as the winner.”

Not that there haven’t been naysayers, though. The Congress Party have dismissed Kinnar’s win as the result of a protest vote, with Raigarh district Congress President Narendra Negi saying that “There was no Modi wave in Raigarh this time. People of Raigarh were fed up with the corruption of BJP, hence they voted for Madhu. It is not Madhu Kinnar’s victory, but it’s a loss of BJP.”

Doubters aside, Kinnar has made history and we look forward to hearing about her policies in the coming months.

Delhi University Holds its First Ever Lesbian Film Festival

Delhi University will hosted its first-ever lesbian film festival with around 100 people in attendance. The two-day event has been organised by the Universities Gender Studies Group.

The group is currently working hard to raise awareness regarding women’s sexuality and marginalisation of lesbians.

“We are holding a film festival and calling it a lesbian film festival because of the marginalisation of lesbians in our culture. Women who love women are erased. Same sex culture is dominated by gay men. Women are not given space to be on their own. So, we want to create that space and focus on how to create that space.”

The film festival will showcased, Deepa Mehta’s ‘Fire’ starring Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das.

“We have focused on Indian films because lesbian space is particularly neglected here. We have a range of films from an earlier representation of lesbians in art film Umbartha in 1983 to Fire in 1998, which created a great controversy and inaugurated a lesbian movement in Delhi in the form of CALERI (campaign for lesbian rights).”

Other films shown will be Debalina Majumder’s Ebang Bewarish (…And the Unclaimed) and And You Thought You Knew Me by activist Pramada Menon, Jabbar Patel’s ‘Subah’, and ‘Umbartha’ starring Smita Patil and Girish Karnad.

There was also three works by Kolkata-based filmmaker, Debalina Majumder, were also be featured in the festival.

Another film, ‘Taar Cheye Shey Anek Aaro’ (More than a friend), which looks into the life of four individuals in the background of rising awareness on same-sex relationships. The film also has real-life interviews of people from various sections of society.

India’s LGBT Community Rejoices at Health Minister’s Comments

Homophobia is not an inherently held opinion; it’s learnt, bred and taught to people before they’ve wised up enough to know better or because there simply aren’t any forces to tell them otherwise.

Often, homophobia – or a general dismay for anything queer – is institutionalised and sanctioned, particularly by stifling, human rights defying laws. That’s especially the case in countries subject to colonialism in the past centuries as although the many European colonies upped and left long ago and gave (most) countries their independence back, they left behind homophobia and anti-gay laws. India is one such country but after recent comments by the country’s health minister their may just be hope for India’s LGBT community yet.

Speaking recently, India’s Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told reporters that “everybody has human rights. It is the job of the government to protect them,” when asked about his personal views on gay rights and whether or not gay sex should continue to be criminalised.

In India, Section 377 of IPC (which criminalises homosexuality) was almost repealed in 2009 but this has since been upheld and will be subject to petition, so understand, Vardhan’s comment have made serious waves. He joins fellow BJP party member Ram Madhav (the general secretary for the party) who recently stated that although he didn’t advocated for consensual gay sex, it’s up for debate about whether it should be criminalised.

This is particularly hopeful for those hoping that Section 377 will be overturned once and for all but LGBT activists in the country will have somewhat of an uphill battle on their hands as BJP’s official stance is that they support Section 377 and think that it should remain in place. BJP’s party opinion is divided though, despite their official word so with the anti-gay epithet clearly losing some of its bite, this is a human rights campaign to watch.

‘Purple Skies’ Sridhar Rangayan’s Film About Lesbian Women in India

Sridhar Rangayan’s documentary Purple Skies, which chronicles the voices of Indian lesbians, bisexuals and transmen, is currently making the rounds of film festivals worldwide.

The documentary, produced by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) and Solaris Films, focuses on the lives of lesbians, bisexuals and transmen in India.

“Purple Skies weaves together stories of pain, trauma, hope and happiness of lesbian, bisexual and trans (LBT) persons to offer an evocative, endearing tapestry of contemporary Indian LBT lives – sometime sad, sometime anguished, sometime dreamy and sometime hopeful.”

An LGBT activist himself, Rangayan talks to other activists as well as lesbians, bisexuals and transmen on what it is like to live in India while being open about their sexuality. The film also looks at the direct impact of the Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code on their lives.

Watch the trailer of the documentary:

One of the activists terms living as a lesbian as a ‘double disempowerment’, calling the discussion of sexuality an added burden on the second class status of women in India.

The film premiered earlier this year at the KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. It has also been screened at the GAZE International LGBT Film Festival Dublin, Ireland, Frameline and the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival.