The Humsafar Trust, an NGO that works for LGBTQHI rights recently collaborated with the Canadian Consulate in Mumbai to host the Emerging Queer Leaders (EQueL) Summit. The two-day event from August 30 to 31 was organised to empower young emerging queer leaders from all over the country.
Fifteen members of the community were selected (through The Humsafar Trust’s network) from Goa, Ahmedabad, Coimbatore, Bhopal, Bengaluru, Chandrapur, Nagpur, Dehradun and Mumbai. “Canada works for human rights, equal rights and inclusion across the board,” said Etienne Lambert, Consul-Political/Economic and Public Affairs. “In India Section 377 is focused on sexual intercourse and what we are doing here is sharing information and supporting the wellness of a community.”
Regional and English journalists were also invited to be part of a session focussing on sensitising the media towards LGBTQHI representation. Founder of The Humsafar Trust, Ashok Row Kavi and journalist Shibu Thomas led the module. “We wanted to make sure that the young leaders got a chance to talk to [journalists] who have some level of sensitivity,” said Koninika Roy, advocacy manager at The Humsafar Trust. “It’s good sensitisation for both parties to meet and discuss stories positively.”
Both Mr. Kavi and Mr. Thomas recalled instances of newspaper reports where specific terminology was used to “demonise” the queer community. “Any criminal things that we do, please don’t associate it with our sexuality,” said Mr. Kavi. “When violence occurs we are afraid of going to the press or the police because we are afraid of being made out to be bad people.” Mr. Thomas too echoed the sentiment by saying, “When talking about communities, there’s a certain kind of responsibility to not propagate stereotypes that will impact young people.”
The summit included sessions and modules on various aspects affecting queer lives including: advocacy and crisis management; being queer and being political, LGBT inclusion in corporate settings, the history of LGBT; building a mobilising a campaign; legalities of being LGBT; etc. Some of the speakers that were invited included queer rights activists Harish Iyer and Sonal Giani, actor and singer Sushant Divgikar, Parmesh Shahani head of Godrej India Culture Lab, Pooja Nair from the online publication Gaysi, among others.
Prior to the Emerging Queer Leaders (EQueL) Summit, the Canadian Consulate in Mumbai has also collaborated with the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival and will continue to expand its association with queer institutions in the country.