A New Dawn

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Poster Mumbai QAM

We declare that Section 377 IPC, insofar it criminalises consensual sexual acts of adults in private, is violative of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution. The provisions of Section 377 IPC will continue to govern non-consensual penile non-vaginal sex and penile non-vaginal sex involving minors…

These are the very words which broke the shackles of LGBTs in India and would go down the annals of the LGBT history of this country as the most historic event. 2nd July 2009 would be remembered as a day when a marginalised community in an independent India was officially set free, bestowing true equality.

Fear has been replaced by pride and euphoria. Not that things have changed all of a sudden. Change always takes it sweet time to get rooted. For the first time, we enter a year as a de-criminalised citizen.  In this first issue of Gaylaxy, we analyse the slow, but steady and significant changes that this historic judgement has brought about.

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The Queer Azadi March that was to be held in Mumbai on 16th August 2009 now had an altogether different mood. Marchers were celebrating their new found freedom. It saw the participation of over 1500 LGBT people and friends/family, making it one of the largest pride marches in India. All this, when Mumbai was already reeling under the fear of Swine Flu! The verdict surely helped many people open up and express their support.

In what would be a first of its kind old age home in Asia, India’s gay prince Manavendra Singh Gohil set up an old age home in Gujarat for gay men. The Rs 25 crore project, being developed in association with Lakshya- an NGO working for gay rights- would be housing 50 elderly gay men.

A Gay Bombay Parents’ and Relatives’ meet was held in Mumbai, where over 130 participants took part. The meet organised at Liquid Lounge, Charni Road, was one of the largest gatherings of parents and relatives of homosexuals in the city. Parents expressed their solidarity for the cause and shared their stories and experiences of dealing with the issue. Such gradual acceptance in family would surely give courage to many more to come out.

In a major victory in their fight for equal rights and integration with mainstream society, India’s Transgender community was finally accorded the recognition that it had been denied for so long. The Election Commission agreed to add the category “other” to forms and web pages asking for gender identity, moving away from stereotypical definition of sexual identity. The Commission instructed electoral registration officers through Chief Electoral Officers of all states and union territories to implement the decision immediately.

India also received its first travel agency catering to gays. IndjaPink, a gay travel lounge with its office in Delhi, organises customised tours in India for gay couples. The agency promises to offer a gay-friendly atmosphere and personalised services. Though the website was set up a year ago, its founder Sanjay Malhotra registered it only after the Delhi HC verdict decriminalising gay sex. Since then, there has been no looking back, and it has been constantly receiving requests from both Indian and foreign gay travellers.

Though in existence since 2006; when they would sell devil horns, feather fans and handmade jewellery and accessories at gay parties in Mumbai; Azaad Bazaar launched their website in July 2009. Proudly calling themselves as India’s first LGBT pride store which is “straight friendly”, they expanded to selling a wide variety of products from T- shirts, key chains, mugs, handcuffs etc. Their price range varies from Rs 30- Rs 2000.  After remaining an ‘online store’ for about 6 months, on 12th December they finally opened their first store in Bandra, Mumbai.

With the fear of raids gone, clubs/groups that organised gay parties could now advertise themselves too. So we have a plethora of events being advertised in the various gay networking sites. There’s Boyzone, BoyzRus from Delhi; Pink-Nation, Party Square from Bangalore; Chennai Dost, The Brotherhood from Chennai and many more.

Corporate India was also quick to show its acceptance and gay – friendly ads of Hindustan Times and Amul were being beamed across the nation. There were also reports of the Government planning to allocate Rs 55 crore for raising awareness among the masses on LGBT issues, though a final word on this is still awaited.

A decade of struggle finally paved some way! People are surely becoming more accepting, and business houses are also recognizing the power of pink rupee. To sum it up, 2009 saw many a barriers being broken and marked the beginning of a new era.  As we step into 2010, we hope that the process of change that gained pace in 2009 continues in this year too.