Thousands of people attended this year's Pride Parade in Mumbai, India. In the autumn, it became legal to have same-sex sex - a great victory for the LGBTQI movement. But there is still a lot to do to achieve a tolerant India, the pride participants say.
The rainbow flag flutters proudly in the air and adorns make-up faces and placards. Around the parade are police officers who help keep Mumbai's bustling traffic chaos away. Participants and observers shout "Happy Pride!" to each other and the mood is generally happy. For eleven years, the Pride Parade - or Queer Azaadi March as it is also called - has been held in Mumbai. Pride parades are held in several places around India and on February 2, one of them took place in Mumbai.
- Pride means freedom for me, I am here because I feel independence. I feel that those who are not in the parade are also okay with us arranging this and being seen, says Vatan, one of the parade participants we talk to.
September 6 last year marks a new era for LGBTQI issues in India. The Supreme Court then overturned a 156-year-old law, § 377 of the Criminal Code, which prohibited sexual acts between adults "which are contrary to the order of nature". The abolition of the law, which was a legacy of British colonial rule, has been one of the goals behind Pride. When § 377 was finally removed, it was stated that different sexual orientations are natural and that integrity, dignity and equality must be maintained.
Although the parade is an open forum for those present, laws such as § 377 have institutionalized a structural form of violence and forced members of the LGBTQI movement for fear of consequences and persecution. In practice, this has meant that the state has set fire to homophobia. Many we talk to have not come out in front of their families or in front of their colleagues and do not want to be photographed.
- This is my first Pride. I'm here to celebrate my best friend who's gay. He has not come out for his family, but I was the first one he told. I think most of the participants in the parade identify themselves as part of the community, but there are more than me who are here to support, says Juhu, one of the participants we talk to.
Hamsafar Trust is one of the organizers behind Mumbai's Pride Parade. The organization was formed 25 years ago to work with health and rights issues for LGBTQI people. According to the Hamsafar Trust, the abolition of § 377 means a great victory. In addition, a door is closed to a dark chapter of India's history. The organization's focus now is that people who identify as LGBTQI should also be covered by the constitution's civil and equal rights.
59 percent of transgender people have experienced violence in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore according to a study by the Hamsafar Trust from 2017. The organization handled, in 2016 to 2018, 83 cases where gay men were blackmailed for money or threatened by the police in Mumbai. In India, same-sex couples also lack the opportunity to adopt. And it is difficult to get a housing contract without being married. But same-sex couples are not allowed to marry.
Queer Azaadi Collective is also one of the organizers behind Mumbai's Pride Parade. Queer Azaadi Collective believes that the repeal of § 377 marks a shift. The parade's focus can now be shifted to problems other than § 377 and to expanding the LGBTQI movement.
- I'm here because I identify as a lesbian. It is not a problem to be a lesbian in itself, but it is difficult to be a lesbian when people do not fully accept it, says a woman who wishes to remain anonymous.
According to Praful, which has been involved in organizing the Pride Parade in Mumbai since 2008, the next step is to include parents, heterosexuals, people with disabilities and allies in working life.
- We must start celebrating the diversity that exists in India. We live in a new India where a LGBTQI lifestyle is legal. We must stop being ashamed because we are tolerant and progressive. LGBTQI needs to become more mainstream. Tomorrow is inclusive, says Praful.