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Friday, June 05, 2020

MPs get ‘pink-listed’ in new digital archive

The free archive will be launched on Saturday on Pink List India’s website, marking a year since the Modi government secured its second term.

Written by Benita Fernando | Mumbai | Published: May 23, 2020 12:39:46 pm
LGBT rights, LGBT lok sabha, pink list lok sabha, LGBT in india, LGBT political parties in india, LGBT lok sabha members Of the eight recognised national parties, the CPI, NCP, and the Congress have the highest percentage of MPs speaking up for LGBTQIA+ issues — with 50%, 40%, and 34.62% of all elected parliamentarians supporting equal rights.

Out of India’s 543 MPs, only 151 have made public statements on LGBTQIA+ issues, according to a digital project called the State of the QUnion (SOTQ), billed as India’s largest queer political archive. SOTQ, an initiative by volunteer-run group Pink List India, tracks statements on queerness and queer rights made by Lok Sabha members.

The free archive will be launched on Saturday on Pink List India’s website, marking a year since the Modi government secured its second term. “A lot has changed this year for queer politics in India,” said graphic designer Smriti Deora, who co-founded Pink List India in 2019 with Rhodes Scholar Anish Gawande.

The 17th Lok Sabha has had “a chequered history with respect to LGBTQIA+ rights”, said the co-founders, citing the passing of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019; the impact on queer persons of the communications blackout in Kashmir after Article 370 was removed; and concerns around the exclusion of transgender persons in the CAA and NRC.

Pink List India was intended as a digital experiment, compiling a list of Lok Sabha candidates who supported the queer rights movement. While SOTQ is like a follow-up, meant to hold MPs accountable and drive change, it also includes those who have made homophobic statements and those who have chosen to remain silent.

The archive is presented as an interactive, user-friendly map, with two shades of pink — dark pink for the vocal, light pink for the silent — on Pink List India’s website. Report cards for each MP and a list of statistics are also available.

“The report card can be accessed through the map and shows every single statement MPs have made on queer issues — the good, the bad, the ugly. With the State of the QUnion, we want to ensure that Pink List India is not a platform that endorses any of the MPs mentioned,” said Gawande, adding that citizens can contact Pink List India if they have more information on an MP’s public statements.

SOTQ comes from a 10-member team that has put in over 700 hours of digging through Lok Sabha debates and obscure Facebook posts. As the focus is on public statements, all material on MPs is direct from the source — questions they have asked in Parliament, interviews with media, or tweets they have put out. The archive shows that the BJP, with 89 outspoken members, has the highest number of MPs who have spoken up on LGBTQIA+ issues — but only 56 have made statements of support while 10 have made explicitly homophobic comments.

Of the eight recognised national parties, the CPI, NCP, and the Congress have the highest percentage of MPs speaking up for LGBTQIA+ issues — with 50%, 40%, and 34.62% of all elected parliamentarians supporting equal rights.

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