A Historic Moment For Odisha  As Bhubaneswar Gathers Round To Celebrate Pride

A Historic Moment For Odisha As Bhubaneswar Gathers Round To Celebrate Pride

Sayed Munib Ahamad | Sep 03, 2018

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Odisha witnessed a historic moment for the progression of LGBTQ+ rights as the first pride parade of Odisha happened on 1st September. The event which is for the celebration of the rights of LGBTQ+ people marked a significant milestone in their fight for equality.

The venue for the parade was Rajmahal square where participants from all strata of society came together at around 2:30 PM to fight against prejudices and stereotypes that have unjustly plagued the image of the LGBTQ community. The march proceeded from the venue to Ram Mandir along a 2.5 KM stretch. Over 400 participants joined the parade which was inter-alia, a rebellion against Identity politics, a celebration of people who are branded deviants from the accepted hetero-normative expression prevalent in our society, a celebration of the beautiful sexual diversity that exists in our world.

Photographs by Ranvir Deb

One of the organizers of the parade Ms Bijaya Biswal said

“The world today thinks in binaries; Immigrants or citizens, nationals or anti-nationals, men or women; and it was important to intervene this thinking process to introduce the concept of non-binaries and start talking about sexuality and gender as a spectrum instead of the confinements of male and female. Intersex children being forced to undergo operations so that they identify with at least one sex, transgender individuals being harassed for using the bathrooms of the gender they identify with, the case of the gender test of Dutee Chand and many more immediate examples make it the need of the hour to have a Pride in Bhubaneswar and start opening up about this”

India has a dismal record when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. Section 377 of the IPC is contentious because of the controversy surrounding the clause 'order of nature' this has been interpreted to mean prohibiting all forms of unnatural sex, i.e. other than for procreation. This has not just criminalised normal sexual behaviour between same-sex couples but heterosexual couples as well. There have been numerous instances of transgenders and people with non-binary, non-cis-heterosexual identities being unfairly targeted. The list of crimes against them is a long one. A story of horrors and injustice which is still ongoing in significant parts of India 

Pride parades have an exciting history. It all started with the Stonewall riots. On June 28, 1969, a riot broke out at the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in downtown Manhattan. Police had been known to raid the club from time to time, but on that night, the patrons fought back. A protest broke out, with police and community members clashing through the night, and for the rest of the week. It’s been 45 years since that clash sparked an entire movement for the whole LGBT community. A year later the first gay pride event, called the Christopher Street Liberation Day (CSLD) March, was organised to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Fred Sargeant, a man who attended the actual event, wrote a first-person account of the march for the Village Voice in 2010, stating that there were "no floats, no music, no boys in briefs." Instead, they held signs and banners and chanted:“Say it clear, say it loud. Gay is good, gay is proud.” Since then the gay pride movement has come a long way in the world and India too. This article does a good job of expounding the timeline of LGBTQ+  movements in India

Photograph by Ranvir Deb

 Bijaya  Biswal, the organizer, went on to say-

Intersectionality often remains unaddressed when a social group is fighting for its rights independently. I would like the LGBTQIA groups all over the world to start talking about this. Bhubaneswar Pride 2018 is not just about LGBTQIA+ rights, but also, intersectionality and inclusion. Odisha is not a state where the majority is upper class. We are made up of the tribals, the construction workers who keep migrating, the displaced villages where industrialists have to build their enterprises and the street vendors. For a state like this, LGBTQIA movements cannot exist in isolation, without being intersectional. I am addressing not only LGBTQIA specific problems in the Pride, but the general social constructs of “Shame”, “untouchability”, the majority deciding what is best for the minorities, class bias and sex discrimination within and outside the community, and the general idea about the freedom of love. Our trans community is constituted by a range of people in different disciplines- hard-working sex workers and individuals who have made it to official positions in academic institutes and administrative services of the State. We will be talking about inclusion in general, from every perspective. Pride is just a stepping stone for our far-fetched dream.

The history of the LGBTQ+ rights in India is a long and complex one. In 1977 Shakuntala Devi published the first study on homosexuality in India. Section 377 of the Indian Penal code promulgated in 1862 It was 1862 when Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code came into force. Drafted by Thomas Babington Macaulay, then head of the Law Commission, it is based on Britain’s own former anti-sodomy laws, and archaic 19th-century Victorian morality. This section criminalises any form of sexual activity “against the order of nature”, and can be used at any time to harass and incarcerate same-sex couples. The decades-long struggle for respect and dignity got a boost when the Supreme Court Bench led by Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan delivered the progressive NALSA judgment. Recognising transgender people as ‘third gender,’ the landmark verdict gave them possessing rights, including marriage, adoption, divorce, succession, and inheritance.

Furthermore, it condemned discrimination on the grounds of sex as a violation of the fundamental right to equality under Articles 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 of the constitution. August 2017 marked a significant event when a nine-judge Bench of the court, led by the then Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, upheld the right to privacy as a fundamental right intrinsic to life and liberty while ripping apart the December 2013 judgment. In its principle opinion authored by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, underlined the impact of Section 377, saying it “poses a grave danger to the unhindered fulfilment of one’s sexual orientation, as an element of privacy and dignity.” The two judgments signalled that the court was ready to change its opinion on Section 377.       

Photograph by Ranvir Deb

India has been largely conservative overall, especially about alternative sexualities. Given that India is a collectivist culture with little regard for the individual especially against society, cultural expectations have caused significant anxiety and have been enough to suppress questions on equality of any kind. Gender roles and stereotypes are dime a dozen, instances of implicit social restrictions are numerous and, sex negativity is widely prevalent. Consequently accepting people whose sexual identity deviates from the cis-hetero norm is a hard thing to digest. Even though India has come a long way since it remains to be seen when the social stigma surrounding so-called 'deviant' behaviour is booted out of the society.

Photograph Credits: Mr Ranvir Deb

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