Last year, on the 16th of August 2008, a day after Independence Day commemorations, Mumbai’s queer (or LGBT: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community marched to demand freedom from Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which treated homosexuality as criminal.
The landmark judgment of the Delhi High Court on Section 377 on 2nd July this year has gone a long way to giving us this freedom, but we as the LGBT community are facing opposition from people who feel threatened by the decriminalisation of homosexuality. As a result, they have petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse the Delhi High Court’s verdict. Hatred of homosexuals is openly preached on TV and falsehoods are being spread.
It is to counter these that the queer community is marching on Sunday, 16th August, from 3 pm to 6 pm, with slogans like ‘Hetero Homo Bhai Bhai’, ‘Queer hua to darna kya?’, etc. The march will kick off at the historic August Kranti Maidan where Mahatma Gandhi gave his call for the British to Quit India in 1942. From there we will march to Girgaum Chowpatty through the streets of old Bombay and back.
This march will be partly a celebration of the Delhi High Court’s pathbreaking verdict, which we will acknowledge with all the colour and style that the queer community can command. But it will also be a call on the Indian government to uphold the verdict and respect for the basic human rights that all Indian citizens are entitled to by the Constitution of India. Specifically we call on the government to:
* Uphold the Delhi High Court’s verdict in the S.377 case in the Supreme Court.
* Include provisions in the Constitution to deal with all discrimination on the grounds of sexuality or gender
* Recognize that those amongst us who are transgendered are not recognised by society, so to extend equal citizenship rights and opportunities to all who do not fit into either of the two categories of male and female.
* Make the medical establishment be made aware of the reality of our lives and our needs, and cease all insensitive and cruel attempts to ‘cure’ us.
* Prevent forced marriages of queer people to people of the opposite sex
* Strive to end homophobia and transphobia. We want freedom from violence and hate within families, in educational institutions, at places of work and in public spaces. We especially demand that obscurantist and fundamentalist forces desist from heaping abuse on us and poisoning people’s minds against us
The Queer Azadi March is not just for queer people. Many others will be there to encourage and support us — family members, friends, colleagues; NGOs, women’s groups, human rights organizations, trade unionists; educational institutions and their students. We invite you too as responsible and progressive members of the media to join us on our march and to raise your voice along with ours!
Like all responsible organisations we have followed the development of the swine flu epidemic and were ready to cancel the march if needed. But it has become clear that the hysteria surrounding swine flu is overtaking the medical risks and we refuse to be party to this. We will take precautions of making masks available to marchers and discourage those with medical conditions from attending, but the march is ON.