A crowd of around 3,000 people came together to mark the 20th anniversary of LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer) pride walk in Kolkata on Sunday.
The first pride walk taken out on July 2, 1999, with just 15 participants, was one of the first street rallies against Section 377 of IPC that criminalised same-sex relationship.
Participants said that the huge turnout on Sunday is a reflection of the Supreme Court judgment this September which decriminalised homosexuality by declaring parts of Section 377 of Indian Penal Code unconstitutional. Last year around 2,000 people joined the walk.
“After the victory in Supreme Court, the next movement is against the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018, which has overlooked the suggestions of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transgender Persons’ Bill, 2016, transgenders and different gender-variant groups,” said Navonil Das, a city-based fashion designer and one of the organisers.
“The decriminalizing of same-sex relationship came only after we made a lot of noise, which gathered momentum over years. Now time has come to make similar move against the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018,” Das added.
A fight for recognition
With the Supreme Court decriminalising homosexuality by declaring parts of section 377 of IPC unconstitutional, the LGBTQ activists feel that it is just the beginning of a fresh struggle for recognition in the society and more within families. Many of the community members who live in small towns or even villages do not know about the section or understand the recent SC verdict. The present challenge is on various fronts. Community members say that simply making welfare boards will not yield results unless proper education and empowerment of community members is done.
“The long battle was won not only because of the sustained movement of the people from the community but support from many outside it. But this victory is not the end of the war. We will have to create greater awareness in the society in general so that we are not discriminated,” said Aparna Banerjee, member of West Bengal Transgender Development Board.
Members of the LGBTQ community, activists, parents of community members gathered in South Kolkata this Sunday afternoon. The crowd waved rainbow flags and wore colourful clothes to celebrate not only their individuality but also the recent Supreme Court victory. The rally travelled across Kolkata streets covering over three kilometers. There was a cultural performance by ‘Group Of Odds’ a Kolkata-based dance group specializing in LGBTQ theme-based dance.