‘Queer’ stands for all LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) as well as for Hijra, Kothi, Panthi individuals. This is a sexual minority group not accepted by Indian society that recognises only two genders and considers only heterosexual relationships valid. Queer Azaadi March is an expression, a voice, a celebration and a platform to ask for equal rights of these individuals conducted in form of an annual parade in Mumbai
A brief background
The first Queer Azaadi Mumbai march was initiated on August 16, 2008 with freedom from IPC section 377 as its main agenda. On July 2, 2009 the Delhi High Court passed a landmark judgment where Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was read down. Post this judgement, sexual acts in private between consenting adults of the same sex are no longer criminalised. This had been the foremost long standing demand of the Queer Movement in India.
From then till now we are constantly moving towards a society sans discrimination. In 2008, we had many masks and a few faces in the first pride march. Now we have people marching with no fear or shame about being queer. There have been a lot of positive developments in the academic field with students taking up queer issues as a part of their projects without fear of being ostracized. Popular media, cinema and television have also come out of the closet in projecting queer characters in leading roles and launching several chat shows focussing on queer issues. This proves that we are gaining slow, yet steady acceptance in Indian society. Why then are we still asking for Queer Azadi (freedom)?
Amidst all the positive developments, we ask for freedom because discrimination against us still exists. Just as the average Indian queer is gaining visibility, ‘hate’ is also sticking its neck out of the closet.
- The Delhi High Court’s progressive judgment is being stridently opposed by religious fundamentalists of every hue, who proclaim that our lives and desires go against “Indian culture”, that we are “diseased”, and so on.
- The cases of forced marriages continue leading to suicides and depression amongst many Queer Individuals.
- We had a professor who suffered humiliation and discrimination at the hands of University management leading to his eventual suicide.
- A news channel that projected homosexuality in bad taste and violated the private lives of an already marginalised community.
- We still have people being bullied and discriminated at workplace and at educational institutes. We carry the vibrant rainbow flag, yet we all are still stereotyped. A queer individual is not allowed to donate blood or adopt a child. And above it all, many people continue to hate and fear us ‘queers’.
Yet we have always been a part of Indian society, and we have the same rights to equality and dignity that belong to every individual in this democracy.
This year, we march again, for not just freedom, but also for our constitutional rights. On January 26, 2012 we celebrate the 63rd Republic Day of India, the anniversary of the day when the Constitution of India came into force. We seek inclusion in the constitutional frameworks and seek recognition of our existence .
On July 2nd 2009, the Delhi High Court read down section 377 which criminalised same sex relationships. To quote from the judgment: “If there is one constitutional tenet that can be said to be underlying theme of the Indian Constitution, it is that of ‘inclusiveness’. This Court believes that Indian Constitution reflects this value deeply ingrained in Indian society, nurtured over several generations.”
At this juncture of history we march in solidarity with justice, freedom, peace and love. We march to claim our space within this diverse society and our rights within this democracy.
The main demands that we place before our state and society are:
- The case against IPC Section 377 will now be heard in the Supreme Court, hence our demand for this law to be read down continues.
- The Constitution must include provisions to deal with all discrimination on the grounds of sexuality or gender.
- Those amongst us who are transgender and intersex are not recognized by society. Equal citizenship rights and opportunities should be extended to all who do not fit into either of the two categories of male and female.
- The medical establishment must be made aware of the reality of our lives and our needs, and cease all insensitive and cruel attempts to ‘cure’ us.
- Every individual is under tremendous pressure to marry a person of the opposite sex, as marriage is seen as a must in our society. This is a major cause of many hate crimes and violence against consenting adults who want to live their life with the same gender partners they love. We must join forces in a campaign against all such forced marriages.
- We call for an end to homophobia and transphobia in thoughts, words and action
- We want freedom from violence and hate within families, in educational institutions, at places of work and in public spaces.
- We especially demand that fundamentalist forces stop abusing us and poisoning people’s minds against us.
It is a challenging journey ahead and if there is someone who can help us in being a part of a truly inclusive society that looks at each individual as equal, it is YOU!
Come! Join Us! March with us as we celebrate all sexualities and continue our fight for a discrimination-free India. No hate, no stigma, no biases, no fear of differences – just an equal India for all.
Queer Azaadi Mumbai
Saturday, January 28, 2012,
August Kranti Maidan, 3 pm onwards