2012: A Mixed Year For India

gay pride marchSukhdeep Singh reviews what the year 2012 meant for India

2012 has been a mixed year for India’s LGBTs. On a lighter note, we know that the world didn’t end as it was supposed to, but we also know that neither has the homophobia. The year began on a not so happy note when a fundraiser party for the Mumbai Queer Pride was targeted by the police on the behest of one Haji Ahmed Bawa. Later that month, Mumbai was also witness to Asia’s first gay flash mob. The month of January ended with the city holding the Queer Azadi March.

February was the month that gave a lot of butterflies in the stomach, when the Supreme Court finally began hearing the petitions filed against the decriminalization of homosexuality. The court began hearing the anti-gay petitioners first, and some of the arguments presented by the petitioners were hysterical. The Govt. of India kept flip-flopping its stand, with the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P P Malhotra, appearing on behalf of the Union Home Ministry, arguing in the court that homosexuality was immoral. This was followed by the Health Ministry telling the court that there was no error in decriminalising homosexuality. The continuous change in stance by the Govt. attracted the ire of Supreme Court. The 4th edition of Bangalore Queer Film Festival was also held successfully in February.

Hearing of arguments by the Supreme Court continued throughout March, and gay rights groups presented their arguments in favour of decriminalization of homosexuality. I AM, Onir’s crowd sourced movie which was a collection of four short stories, with one of them focusing on male child abuse and the other on homosexuality, bagged the National Award for the Best Hindi Film. Even when the court was hearing the petitions, in April the Punjab and Haryana High Court instructed the police to provide protection to a lesbian couple from Batinda who had run away from their homes.

May will be remembered as the month when Kashish- India’s Queer Film Festival- got bigger and bolder. With a number of foreign and Indian films and celebrities including Anupam Kher and Resul Pookutty, everything about the film festival from the opening to closing ceremony was star-studded. Homophobia raised its ugly head again when a transgender activist was murdered in Kerala.

June, being the month of gay pride march across the world, was eventful in India as well. Kolkata held its 1st sexuality focused art exhibition Broadening the Canvas, where the works of various renowned artists including Balbir Krishan, Anuradha Upadhaya and Deepak Tandon were exhibited. Chennai too held a film festival, Colours of Sexuality, which was later followed by the pride parade near the end of the month. Patna became the latest city to hold a gay pride march when a small group of 20 people marched in the city. The nation was also rocked by an unlikely controversy of a former national level female athlete being accused of raping another woman. Pinky Pramanik, a gold medalist in Asian Games 2006, had to undergo gender tests to prove herself as a girl. The case was handled in the most insensitive way by Kolkata police, and involved gross violations of her rights. It also brought into focus the issue of those who may be gender non-conforming, or inter-sexed.

Kolkata was in focus once again in July, this time for attracting around 1500 marchers to the pride parade, by far the largest that the city has seen. Temple city of Madurai too organized a pride walk, which was preceded by various activities to raise awareness among the population. In August, the Election Commission of India woke up to the hardships faced by many transgenders in getting a voter ID card with the addition of “guru” and “chela” in the voter registration forms.

In Hyderabad, police denied permission to hold a gay pride march in September. Later that month, for the first time in the history of independent India, two transgenders- Kalki Subramaniam and Akkai – were invited to Rashtrapati Bhavan for the swearing in ceremony of the new Chief Justice of India Justice Altamas Kabir. Denied permission to hold a march, Hyderabad instead hosted an art exhibition titled ‘Exclusively Inclusive’ on pluralities of gender and sexuality in October. The Mumbai Film Festival that was held in October had a number of films dealing with alternate sexuality.

November was again full of activities across India. If people in Delhi marched demanding gay rights, those in Kolkata enjoyed the three day film festival Dialogues, whereas Bangaloreans had a host of events to attend, including a pride mela, plays etc before the actual march on Dec 2. The 2nd LGBT Pride and HIV awareness walk was also held in Pune.

Although Supreme Court had heard petitions from both the sides, the year ended without any judgement on the issue of decriminalization of homosexuality; which means 2013 could be the year when a final verdict on the issue is passed. On a brighter note, Hyderabad received permission to have its first gay pride march in 2013. With so many positive developments in 2012, we hope the year 2013 ushers in more positive change in the Indian society.

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Sukhdeep Singh