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Walk with pride

Friday, January 28, 2011

The LGBT community bring out their rainbow colours on Saturday and march with pride.Henna Achhpal speaks to one of the organisers, Harish Iyer and finds out more...

Since the Delhi High Court scrapped Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in July 2009, legalising homosexuality as a result, the LGBT community have had much reason to rejoice. However, there are still many battles left to be fought by the community that continues to face prejudice from society.

Celebrating their freedom and demanding basic rights, the community has been organising a Pride March in the city since August 2008, also called ‘Queer Azadi’. We talk to Harish Iyer, activist and one of the organisers of Queer Azadi, to find out more about the celebrations...

What’s special about Queer Azadi this year?

Unlike the past, this year we have made Queer Azadi a week long celebration, calling it the ‘Pride Week’.The festivities started on January 22 and will end tomorrow with the march. We held book readings,screenings of documentaries, there was an open mic night, a few bands played and many other fun
events. Thus the celebrations were spread all over the city. The entire week has been organised by all of us and has been a collective effort by various sections of the community. Many people think that there is prejudice within our community and this is the perfect example to show that there is absolutely
nothing of the sort. The Pride Week has been a step in the right direction as it encouraged dialogue amongst various groups. We set up podiums and stalls making opportunities for interaction possible. As we know, dialogue is the way to understanding.

What are some of things you aim to achieve through the march?

We have been putting in continued efforts as a community to be treated as normal people. Just because our sexuality is different, it does not set us apart from the rest or call for differential treatment. We want to get rid of the term ‘queer’ as we don’t want to be recognised by a label but as normal human
beings. A shift in attitude is what we expect through our efforts. Homosexuals have a few basic rights but the transgender community are fighting a tougher battle as they are denied basic rights such as identification as a gender. In Tamil Nadu, under the section of gender they include male, female and
transgender options. They are recognised as a third gender and we hope to achieve the same here. Also, we aim to achieve awareness within the community through these events regarding issues such as AIDS,protected sex, etc.

Has the support from the public at large increased over the years?
Yes, definitely. I have seen a change in people’s attitudes. In fact, the support we get on the day of the march is tremendous. A lot of straight people come for the march to support their homosexual friends.We never ask anyone their sexuality but I know a few people whose straight friends attend the march
to show support, which is great. It’s for anyone who supports basic human rights and not LGBT rights in particular. Permissions and paper work are always a pain for anyone. We don’t face unnecessary problems due to our sexuality or because of the purpose of our events. The police and authorities are
supportive and we are not given lectures on morality or any such thing.

Have you encountered any opposition?
Not really. It’s almost like a battle half won. Of course we don’t deny the possibility of facing opposition,but we are positive about our cause, and any opposition will only make us stronger. Sex and sexuality are complete non-issues and I refuse to lie about my sexuality in order to get things done.

The Pride March takes place on January 29 starting at 3pm and stretching from August Kranti Maidan to Girgaum Chowpatty. You can also visit Azaad Bazaar in Bandra to know more and grab some rainbow coloured goodies.

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