It was not a regular Sunday evening for the patrons of Maheshwari garden in Matunga, Central Mumbai as it was thronged by unlikely visitors. The rainbow flag, a flurry of celebrities and people dressed in black crowding the garden located on the cross road, an uncanny metaphor symbolising the current state of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Community (LGBT) of India.
Over 100 members with placards and banners came to lend support raising the clamour against the recent Supreme Court judgment upholding Section 377 as constitutionally valid.
Participating in the protest was 27-year-old Kalpesh Sharma, a jewellery designer by profession; he told us that the apex court judgment was regressive pushing him to go back into the closet. “Three years ago I told my parents about my sexual preferences and the fact that I am gay. My parents didn’t take it well. They subjected me to some homeopathy treatment and also took me to some godman to ‘cure’ me.
“But slowly they came to term with what I am and accepted me the way I am. But the day when the judgment was pronounced my father told me to marry a girl. They are worried that I might get arrested,” Kalpesh told The Hindu.
“I lied to them and came here to participate in the protest. Now I am exploring the option of moving to Scandinavian countries but getting there is very difficult,” added Kalpesh.
Echoing a similar sentiment was a 24-year-old IIT student who spoke to us on the condition of anonymity. “In 2009 when the Delhi High court passed the landmark judgment I told my parents that I am gay. They reacted very calmly and have been supportive since then. But when the SC judgment came my father has been keeping a very close eye on me. He doesn’t allow me to meet or go anywhere. I too had to lie to be here,” he said, while holding a placard that read -‘Say No to 377’.
Supporting the cause were many celebrities from Bollywood and music industry. Actors Nandita Das, Celina Jaitley, Aditi Rao Hydari, Purab Kohli, Pratik Babar, singer Anushka Manchanda participated in the protest. “The decision is very regressive and disappointing and we cannot move forward. We need to make our voices heared and it’s only through protests like these that we can make ourselves heard,” said actor Nandita Das.
“I have many friends who are from the LGBT community and many have much stronger relationships than heterosexual couples. What the SC has done has pushed them back in their closets. We need to move with time. They are a sizeable population and their voices should also be heard,” said singer Anushka Manchanda.