Safety at a price for Delhi’s queer community

Students participating in a ‘Pride Parade’ at the Shaheed Bhagat Singh college as part of the month-long queer collective events across Delhi University colleges.

Students participating in a ‘Pride Parade’ at the Shaheed Bhagat Singh college as part of the month-long queer collective events across Delhi University colleges. | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

SV Vaishnavi and Victoria Lavelle 

Despite pride month celebrations and the many LGBTQ+ friendly parties happening in Delhi, queer safe spaces remain rare. Even the spaces that exist are not completely inclusionary. Most charge exorbitantly and others are not safe for queer women.

“This is the first time we have gone out as a couple in Delhi,” said Abhinav*, a 32-year-old from Ghaziabad who has been with his partner Saransh* for three years now. The couple was at a pride party at Kitty Su, a popular club amongst the LBGTQ+ community in Delhi. 

Ira* is a 27-year-old assistant manager at a digital marketing firm and identifies as a bisexual woman. “Once, at a nightclub I was attending a party in, a lesbian couple was asked to leave as they were supposedly making people uncomfortable,” she said, highlighting the need for more spaces like Kitty Su, where queer couples can feel safe and “accepted without having to face consequences for simply holding hands or being affectionate with each other”. 

Speaking about how more clubs in the city are trying to make queer people feel safe, Parth, a 25-year-old education counsellor, shared an incident where he was being harassed by a man in a club, seeing which, the club’s staff stepped in and asked the latter to leave. “The staff here is queer aware and trained,” Mr. Parth said, while speaking of Summer House in Green Park, another high-class LGBTQ+ friendly bar in Delhi. 

‘Only for the rich’

Many queer folks pointed out that clubs like Kitty Su and Summer House are rare and restricted to those who can afford to spend between ₹1,000 to ₹4,000 on a night out. Aman, a student at Dr. B.R. Ambedkar University, said, “These spaces are dominated by the upper class and if you don’t speak fluent English, it is difficult socialising there.”  

Anvi*, a 24-year-old queer woman, said, “Although there is no entry fee at Summer House, the bouncers look at you from head to toes before you get in and make a value judgment about your attire.”

Kabir, a 30-year-old trans man from Old Delhi said, “Gender studies, LGBTQ+ bars and nightclubs: they all belong to the rich people.” 

Since Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was decriminalised in 2018, Delhi has transitioned into a city where gay bashes in nightclubs, pride meets at cafes and gay-themed film festivals and book readings are routinely held.

However, discrimination against the community is still prevalent in every stratum of society and many queer folks told The Hindu that they felt unsafe attending queer events because they feared getting “outed”. The atrocities committed against the LGBTQ+ community, such as the Pushkin Chandra murder case in 2004, have highlighted time and again the hardships of the community.

Unsafe for queer women

Irrespective of whether they are for the rich or the middle-class, safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people in the city are rarely frequented by women. Deepak Kashyap, a sex and relationship therapist cited “intersectionality” as the reason. 

Speaking on the same lines, Anjali Gopalan, founder and executive director of the Naz Foundation said, “Female homosexuality is not easily accepted as they challenge patriarchy — they are essentially saying that they don’t need a man.”

Ms. Gopalan added that there is a need for more spaces in Delhi where lesbian and bisexual women feel welcome and safe.

(*Names changed to protect identity)

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Printable version | Jun 25, 2022 1:25:05 am |