In Pics: Kolkata’s LGBTQ+ Community Marches With Pride
As Kolkata witnessed its coldest day last Sunday of 2018, members of the LGBTIQKHA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, kothi, hijra, asexual) community organised the Rainbow Pride Walk on Sunday, 30 December 2018, first time since the Supreme Court read down a part of Section 377 in September this year.
The participants made the event a memorable one, with rainbow flags, balloons, placards and celebratory music. The streets of Kolkata were decked up in a happy and gay look for the day.
Starting from Jatin Das Park, the march culminated at Vivekananda Park in South Kolkata. The three-kilometer stretch saw the participation of members of the LGBTIQKHA+ community from different parts of the country.
“The pride walk, like every year, is being organised to celebrate every individual who does not belong to the normative hetero-patriarchal society or has been ostracised on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Apart from different identities under the Gender and Sexual Minorities umbrella, Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk 2018 has also involved persons with disability and sex workers,” Aparna, one of the organisers, said.
More than a thousand participants gathered at Rashbehari Avenue, the busiest crossing in South Kolkata. At each traffic signal on the route to the final destination, they sang, danced and chanted slogans. Kolkata Police had to put in extra effort to streamline traffic without affecting the passage of the march on Sunday afternoon.
“For us, it is a formal celebration of winning the battle over Section 377,” said Reshmi, a volunteer of Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival. Kolkata observed its 13th Pride Walk, one of the oldest in South Asia. The first march in Kolkata hardly had fifteen participants in 1999.
A lesbian woman from Mumbai, who wished to remain anonymous, had come to Kolkata only for the march.
“There are many misconceptions about homosexual people, and we are often looked down upon. Our fundamental rights of freedom of expression and occupation are under threat. Decriminalising homosexuality is the first step, but homosexual marriage and child adoption should be the logical next step,” she said.
The Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India has recently introduced the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, which was subsequently passed by the Lok Sabha on 17 December this year.
Queer activist Panchali Kar labelled the bill as "derogatory" and claimed that the Ministry has reportedly rejected most of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Transgender Persons’ Bill 2016, as well as recommendations by LGBT organisations across India.
Panchali further said, “In the current context, while we welcome and celebrate the reading down of Section 377 by the Supreme Court, we seek support to build consensus on the need to revise the Transgender Persons Bill and we request all thoughtful citizens, political parties, and member of parliaments to join hands and stop this draconian bill from getting passed in the Rajya Sabha.”
"The transgender bill is against human rights. Why should a screening committee determine someone's gender? It seems that government has not understood the concept of gender itself. Gender is the innate experience of an individual, it can’t be approved by an extraneous members. Everyone should have the right to determine their gender," Mr Gay World 2018 Runner-up and Model Samarpan Maity said
Explaining further Samarpan said, "the amended bill also says, that trans persons should be sent to a rehabilitation centre when their family is unable to take care of them. In a country, where the cisgender people have the freedom to live where they please, this amendment is a violation of their fundamental rights."
It wasn't just the LGBTIQKHA+ people who made it to the march. Many straight people also came to support the cause.
"I am here for my friend, who is gay. We study in the same college and are really good friends," said Satyik, a student from Siliguri, West Bengal. Participants in bright, colourful sarees and accessories posed with onlookers for selfies and videos, as they marched for more than four hours. They promised to meet again for the Kolkata Rainbow Carnival 2019.
(Tanmoy Bhaduri, an award winning photojournalist and writer based in Kolkata, India. He covers breaking news stories and under-reported issues on development, women and child rights, human trafficking, insurgencies, natural disaster, tribal affairs, climate change, land rights, strikes and conflicts.)