Sunday, November 28, 2010

Brody's Notes... First Gay Pride Parade In India Since Landmark Court Ruling Held

New Delhi Gay Pride Parade  Photo By Henry Foy  Reuters
By Brody Levesque (Bethesda, Maryland) NOV 28 | People from different walks of life gathered in New Delhi, India for a common cause Sunday. They rallied for acceptance, respect, to break the ice, and to make Indian society and culture aware of their presence. The occasion was the first of its kind legalised Gay-Pride Parade, since a landmark case in the Delhi High Court in July of 2009 finally overturned the colonial-era Section 377 of India's penal code after nine years of legal maneuvering and wrangling- decriminalising homosexuality.
Dancing under a huge rainbow Pride flag accompanied by the sounds of drums, whistles and horns, a crowd of an estimated 2,000 gay activists and supporters clad in feather face masks shouted slogans and waved signs marching through the streets of the capital city of this still predominately sexually conservative country. This is a radical change for Indian Society which has traditionally been conservative and especially private regarding issues concerning human sexuality.
Reuters News Delhi correspondent Henry Foy reports that the parade brought traffic to a halt in the commercial heart of the city, leaving bemused drivers watching in astonishment as kissing male couples, dancing transsexuals in bright pink skirts and thousands of rainbow flags went past.
"Today is about saying that we are gay and we are proud. We are not going anywhere, we are a part of society, and today we can celebrate being different," said Amit Agrawal, one of the parade organizers.
Hillol Dutta, a Gay activist referring to previous marches in the Indian capital which were billed as protests against legislation that criminalized homosexual sex in the world's largest democracy, said;
"Last year it was about protest, but this year it is all about celebration. It has only been a year, but it has been a huge year." 
Reuters' Foy noted that despite the High Court's ruling, Lesbians & Gays still face social stigma where hugging and kissing in public even among heterosexual couples is strongly frowned upon. In a society where parents decide the partner for most people in arranged marriages, getting married for love has a hard time getting accepted, a person talking about being homosexual is an ‘unacceptable’ departure from so-called values of the Indian social system. Strong religious and family values mean many homosexuals choose to hide their sexuality for fear of discrimination, while attacks by police, especially in rural areas, are common.
"It is still socially unacceptable. Many gays have to keep their sexuality concealed, many are married," said Ashok Das. 
Indian society's attitudes are slowly evolving, especially in the country's three largest cities of New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. For example, in New Delhi two years ago, there was only one bar catering to that city's Lesbian and Gay community, but today a host of nightclubs host regular Gay nights as owners and promoters look to cash in on the 'pink rupee.'
"Change is good, but you have to take small steps. The youth have accepted it, but I think it will take at least 10 years before society in general accepts homosexuals," said Saurabh Gaur, a heterosexual man who had come to support a gay friend.