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Queer Movement in India: Shaping Lives!

Queer Movement in India: Shaping Lives!

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Indian mythology, literature, and society are characterized by gender and sexual fluidity, according to authors like Devdutt Pattanaik, Ruth Vanita, and Saleem Kidwai. It is only recently that the queer movement – as we know it now – has started. More and more Indians began to recognize their queerness due to liberalization and transnational cultural exchanges. 

Let us see how the queer movement took place by looking at nine fundamental steps!

1) Expressing Sexuality!

India’s homosexuality had officially emerged as an identity back in 1986, while the West was gripped by the AIDS scare and homophobia was erupting. An iconic coming-out story of modern India was written by veteran journalist Ashok Kavi Row. This narrative was published in the magazine Savvy, in which he explained for the first time what the word “gay” means.

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2) First Publication- A magazine!

Row created the AIDS Support Network in 1990 to address HIV/AIDS, STIs, discrimination, and other issues. His newsletter ultimately evolved into Bombay Dost, which is today India’s foremost gay magazine. The magazine has been tremendously successful since its inception, and it has a large readership. Bombay Dost still delivers every issue in non-transparent envelopes to maintain confidentiality for gay men in India.

3) Healthcare Demands!

A walk-out by 200 delegates at a 1992 international AIDS conference in New Delhi protested the government’s attitude toward gays. There have been many subsequent demands for healthcare options for gay men and the specific healthcare needs of individuals who identify as queer.

4) Hinduism And Homophobia

Deepa Mehta released her 1996 film Fire, which revolves around Radha and Sita (named after women central to Hindu mythology). The violent aftermath of the lesbian love story was the first in India’s recent history. The people were stopped from watching this movie. 

5) Gay Night

As tensions increased in the country, gay Indians increased their social interactions. Thus, in 1999, Soul Kitchen held Delhi’s first “gay night.” Events became the preferred social setting where people interacted. The future tone of gay culture and subjecthood was set during this time. Queer people still benefit from community-organized parties, no matter how private they may be.

6) Lesbian Letters

Lesbian Indian women were restricted from having their own “gay night” due to patriarchal norms and the demands of their families. Other ways had to be explored. The ’90s saw a significant increase in lesbian women’s written correspondence. Gita Thadani, an academic and activist, founded the helpline and resource centre Sakhi to act as a focal point for the letters. 

7) First Pride

The first LGBT Pride March in Calcutta took place in 1999, even if the Indian queer community followed the same standard as a Western counterpart. Although only a few people were present, it played an integral role in establishing queer politics nationwide. People pay attention to queer folks just by walking in the streets and claiming their identity. It grew to 1,500 participants by 2012, and it will only continue to grow!

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8) Section 377

Back in 2001, we took on an outdated, vaguely-worded anti-sodomy law that criminalized sexual acts against the laws of nature. A Delhi High Court decision in 2009 invalidated this law. It was hoped that the Supreme Court would overturn the law nationwide by taking up the petition. Even so, the Delhi verdict was reversed by the Supreme Court in 2013. In its unanimous decision, the Court ruled Section 377 unconstitutional on September 6, 2018.

9) After the abolishment of article 377

Despite societies that promote and protect LGBTQ+ rights, coming out as LGBTQ+ is never easy. First, one must accept themselves, then assert that identity to the world. Social realities don’t necessarily change in step with judicial reform, even though it may provide an enabling environment. Hence, every day of our lives, we will have to fight this battle in the courtroom but also the drawing-room, classroom and meeting room.

We have come a long way from our starting point, but we still have a long way to go!

Blog Edited By Ritika Gupta

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