Delhi hosts its fifth queer pride parade today

“Laws bring in tolerance. But as far as acceptance goes, the Indian society has not yet warmed up to the idea of embracing those in same-sex relationship or are different from the socially accepted gender norms,” says Delhi Queer Pride Committee member Mohnish Malhotra about the impact of the Delhi High Court’s 2009 order decriminalising same-sex relations between consenting adults.

As Delhi gets ready to play host to the fifth queer pride parade this Sunday — starting at noon from Barakhamba Road and ending with a get-together and picnic in one of the city parks — Mr. Malhotra adds: “The High Court order is one of the most important decisions and a very welcome move, but that is only one side of the story. The Court had noted that it is legally acceptable to have sex with a consenting same sex partner, but then social acceptance for the same is still a far way off. Families in India still find it shameful to have a ‘queer’ relative. The society still has some learning to do in terms of accepting people who are different.”

Noting that while the Delhi High Court order brought in grudging tolerance, Akhil Katyal, who teaches literature at Delhi University, says: “The decision was iconic, but there is a totally new dimension to social acceptance. The way athlete Pinki Pramanik’s case was handled is a reflection of society’s attitude and perception of people who are not in the strict socially acceptable gender spectrum. Even today, a gay man who is masculine is more socially acceptable than a gay man who is more effeminate. Clearly, the community has many more battles to be fought.”

The parade then, according to Delhi Queer Pride Committee member Shalini Krishan, is a way to bring the issue of “acceptance right into the society.”

“The Delhi High Court order only addresses people in same sex relation but does not address what is queerness in the larger sense. And so the parade is inclusive of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and those who have different gender expressions. This year’s theme is ‘Gender’, which means more than just male or female but everything in spectrum, in between and neither. The parade will bring together members and supporters of the queer community to celebrate their diversity and stand in solidarity with those who face persecution and violence because of their gender or sexual identity,” she says.

“The parade has always been about our lives and struggles and we turn the society’s attention to one aspect that oppresses us all — the straitjacket of gender. The laws are welcome, but the acceptance on the ground is a totally different story. India this year has seen two [reported] suicides and in general gender variant people face more harassment, discrimination and abuse leading to physical and mental health issues. We still have a long way to go in terms of being comfortable with people having different gender expressions,” she adds.

Queer feminist activist Rituparna Borah says that while the High Court order hasn’t resulted in much change on the ground for people from the queer community, “it however has brought the issue out in the open and there is more tolerance and maybe even a bit more acceptance”.

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