Updated: July 1, 2021 12:35:33 pm
A group of young peacebuilders from India and Pakistan Sunday organised the first-ever virtual ‘India-Pak Pride Meet’ to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community. The meet — ‘Rainbow over Wagah’ — saw participation of several members from LGBTQIA+ community from both India and Pakistan, who shared their experiences and poured their hearts out through song, dance and poetry.
The meet was a joint initiative of the India-Pak Pride Collective, an organisation of Indian and Pakistani Peacebuilders for LGBTQIA+ Equality and ‘Queergarh’ — a Chhattisgarh based LGBTQIA+ initiative.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Devika Mittal, one of the organisers from the India-Pak Pride Collective, said June is celebrated as Pride Month across the globe so the initiative was taken to create a platform for the amalgamation of India-Pak peace efforts and equality for LGBTQIA+ community members, who are facing multiple issues in both countries.
“The fluidity of gender and this rainbow of sexuality have been part of our rich history and culture. It found acceptance and inclusion and was just one among the many diversities of our region. It was, in fact, the colonial rulers with their Victorian morality who institutionalised a set of laws and social norms reeking of homophobia and transphobia. However, we seldom deliberate on the roots of discrimination against queer people in India and Pakistan. We currently live in a society which normalises heteronormative love and identity, and demonises the existence of diverse sexualities. Not only this, the queer community in both countries continue to be oppressed under laws which make it difficult for them to live equal, safe, dignified lives like their heteronormative counterparts. Socially they face discrimination in livelihoods, education, as well as residence, amongst others,” said Mittal.
She added: “This virtual meet was an effort to remind both nations and their people of their duty to reject black obsolete laws (which have been shunned by our past colonial rulers in their society) and embrace a culture that celebrates diversity, a culture that has both historical roots and is progressive and humane.”
AS LGBTQIA+ community members from both India and Pakistan participated, the panel discussion participants included Deepak Kashyap (Indo-Canadian counsellor, LGBTQIA+ activist), Muhammad Moiz (a comedian from Pakistan), Dr Sakshi Mamgain (an Indian doctor and LGBTQIA+ health activist) and Aradhiya Khan (Pakistani trans right activist).
The list of performers included Toshi Shankar (a poetess from India), Dipanjali Chhetri (semi-classical dancer from India), Faeez Ahmed (poet from Pakistan), Ketan Singh (a classical dancer from Chhattisgarh, India) and Shubhangi (an Indian singer).
“Whenever we talk about Indo-Pak peace, we mainly discuss political and military issues, but we never think about marginalised communities of both countries. LGBTQIA+ is one of those communities which still lack platforms to discuss, come together and learn. This online session is an initiative to bring people of that community from both the countries together because I felt that they can understand the issues of each other more efficiently because they can relate to each other culturally…,” said Jan Sher Khan (22), a student from Gujranwala of Punjab in Pakistan.
“Solidarity between queer people and allies of the LGBTQIA+ movement in South Asia — especially in India and Pakistan — is very important. When I moved to Europe, I had hoped to fit right in because of the more liberal and accepting attitudes towards queer folks. However, I felt very isolated in the first few years because nobody fully understood the challenges I faced as a queer person from India. The family structures, the casual homophobia, the constant need to worry about outing myself to a homophobic person, were all intricately related to the patriarchal structures I grew up with in India. So when I found solace, it was from some other queer people who could relate a lot more to my story and I felt this was important for my coming to terms of my sexuality. With this event, we hope queer folks in India and Pakistan realise that they are not alone,” said Nickhil Sharma, 28, a PhD researcher, from Netherlands.
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