New Delhi, November 25: Dancing, smiling, holding hands, expressing love and demanding hate crime legislation against anti-minority violence, the 11th edition of the Delhi Queer Pride Parade on Sunday witnessed thousands of queers along with their families and friends celebrating the freedom, first time since the Supreme Court struck down a part of Section 377.
The Supreme Court, in September, decriminalised homosexuality between consenting adults by declaring Section 377, the penal provision which criminalised gay sex, as "manifestly arbitrary". "This was my third parade, but this time my mother is here with me (for the first time). I told her about my sexual orientation after the SC order and she decided to come here with me to support me," a 23-year-old bisexual Delhi University student told IANS. The parade was big and had not only those from the community but also others from different age groups.
"I am coming to the parade from past five years, but this time I can see more people, not only from the community but also the supports," said 29-year-old Varsha Arora. Ramya Anand, a trainer at an NGO, had also brought her kids and their friends. "I am here with my two teenaged kids and their friends. I decided to bring them here because I feel as growing individuals, they should know about things happening around them and in the society," Anand told IANS.
The annual Delhi Queer Pride Parade -- to honour and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community -- is organised by the members of the Delhi Queer Pride Committee every last Sunday of November since 2008 where people from all walks of life take part.
"This is the first time we are celebrating ourselves as the legal citizens of the country...I believe we are no more going to be referred to as a miniscule community. We do have a long way to acceptance, but we must celebrate this victory for now," Anwesh Sahoo, who won Mr Gay World India in 2016, said. Recalling early days, Sahoo said it is "horrible" to know that people do not respect or consider you to be a part of them.
"As an effeminate boy growing up, I never felt like I belonged. Knowing that I could be a part of the LGBTIQ+ community was a feeling like where I finally belonged. That is not to take away from the fact that each one of us are also so much more than just being LGBTIQ+. But knowing that I'm gay, and then coming out and speaking about it was so empowering!"
Speaking about the importance of parade, he said it is a space where "we come out in the open and celebrate ourselves for our original selves". "It's just so liberating in so many ways! That's exactly why Pride matters. And I hope that it leads us to a label-less world," he added.
Echoing the sentiments, Ishaan Sethi, Co-Founder of the Delta app, India's first LGBT community and networking space -- said the parades are incredibly important and relevant. "At first, of course, they (parades) are a celebration of our identities. However, at a critical time such as now, they are pushing for full equality. It is a time to pause, reflect on past movements and battles ahead for equality," he told IANS.
He said it is a time to celebrate the victories and honour icons that were lost in this fight for equality. Calling the parades integral for spreading awareness or showing solidarity with the queer community, Zubair Khalsia, a marketing professional, said the verdict "breathed a new life into the queer community".
"This year, Pride is a celebration of a very fundamental right being granted to the queer community and shall hopefully witness a larger number of people joining it, and of being a community that no longer fears Section 377 and the tortures attributed to it," Khalsia told IANS.
However, the current edition of the parade is a lot more than just celebrations. Through it, the community demanded a legislation against the hate crime that conceptualises all forms of anti-minority violence as a punishable offence. "There should be a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and social accountability for discrimination on the basis of gender, class, caste, religion, ability, race, tribe, sexual orientation and ethnicity," Mohnish Malhotra, one of the core organisers, said.
Demanding various changes in the current draconian form of the transgender rights bill according to inputs and suggestions by the community, the community also demanded a removal of the marital rape exception from the rape laws and sought redressal for all victims and survivors of sexual assault, irrespective of the gender, he said.