‘No one was wearing masks this time,’ why this Mumbai Pride was important

Two men attending Mumbai Pride

This year’s Queer Azaadi Mumbai Pride saw 15,000 taking the streets of the capital of Maharashtra, India.

The annual celebration was the first parade ever since the subcontinent decriminalized gay sex in September 2018.

‘Pride was very nice, it was fabulous,’ co-organizer Ankit Bhuptani told GSN.

Bhuptani explained why Pride this year held a special significance for the LGBTI community.

‘I was considered as a criminal ever since I was born,’ he said.

‘For the first time, I could say I was no longer a criminal in my own country.’

He also said this year’s march in Mumbai registered the biggest turnout to date.

‘No one was wearing masks’

The Mumbai activist pointed out no one was wearing masks for the very first time at a Pride march in India.

Indian LGBTI people, in fact, used to conceal their identity at Prides out of fear of being arrested.

‘What was surprising is that of all the people attending the event, not a single one was wearing a mask,’ he said.

‘Not only activists, but everyone at the parade, they could say they were LGBTI without any fear.’

Bhuptani further explained it was the first time the local community and many straight allies supported a Pride event.

‘Doctors associations, teachers, colleges and education associations, Indian and multinational companies were there marching for Pride,’ he said.

This is a massive victory for the country, where Pride events used to be targeted by anti-LGBTI groups.

‘Three or four years ago, during Mumbai Pride, there were people shouting at us that homosexuals are going to hell,’ Bhuptani recalled.

This year, however, there was no such thing as hate crime.

Moving forward

‘But the path to equality doesn’t stop here,’ also said Bhuptani.

He said the community has two more battles to fight moving forward.

Having anti-discrimination laws specifically protecting LGBTI people is the first.

‘The law protects minority religious groups, for instance, but there is no specific law saying you cannot discriminate against someone on the grounds of sexual and gender orientation,’ the activist pointed out.

Moreover, they are fighting to have the rights of transgender and intersex people recognized.

‘There’s a transgender bill presented at the Parliament of India which is very bad. If passed, it will endanger the identity of trans people,’ explained Bhuptani.

In South Asia, people regard a number of gender identities as a third gender. For example, Hijra may have been assigned male at birth and live as women. Some also identify as trans or intersex or just as Hijra.

All pictures by QGraphy.

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Author: Stefania Sarrubba

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Exclusive horse racing club opens its doors to LGBTI festival in India

Horses racing past a finish post

The prestigious Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) is opening its doors to the LGBTI community for the first time.

The horse racing track in Mumbai will host to ‘Gulabi Mela’ (Pink Fete) as part of the month long the Queer Azaadi Mumbai Pride festival.

Youth group Yaariyan is organizing the huge fete on 27 January.

Gulabi Mela will feature stallholders from businesses, food trucks, fashion and local organizations. The fete will also have multiple live performances, book readings, dancing and workshops throughout the day.

The RWITC was eager to host Gulabi Mela because it’s trying to shake off its reputation as a ‘stodgy’ old-fashioned establishment, according to a report in Mid-day.

‘We have to be inclusive and keep pace with the times,’ said RWITC chairperson, marketing and media manager, Zinia Lawyer.

‘The image of the turf club as a stodgy, old establishment is just a stereotype. Regulars and even visitors have seen how this space has evolved over the years.’

Gulabi Mela will take place at the Turf Club Banquet and Lawns which Lawyer said ‘exudes old-world charm’.

Having a horse racing club host a LGBTI event is a sign of changing times. Especially since the law – Section 377 – that criminalized same-sex relations was struck down last year.

‘The racecourse venue is one manifestation of how society is changing,’ said Parmesh Shahani of the Godrej India Culture Labs

‘The Supreme Court’s 2018 verdict on Section 377 brought down so many walls that we are sure to see more places, [previously] fearful of hosting LGBT events welcoming a brave, new and more equal world.’

Koninika Roy the advocacy manager for Yaariyan welcomed the new venue.

‘It is always encouraging when a new space opens up for LGBT events as it is yet another step towards making the community mainstream,’ Roy said.

Author: Shannon Power

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