India readies for largest gay parade Sunday

June 27th, 2008 - 9:24 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 27 (IANS) In a country where homosexuality is illegal, activists and supporters of gay rights will take to the streets in three Indian cities of Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata Sunday in possibly their largest march to demand they be treated as normal human beings. An annual global event, the “Queer Pride” march would simultaneously be conducted in 20 cities across the world, writer and activist Gautam Bhan said.

Transsexuals, gays, lesbians and some straights who support the movement of the “need to treat gays like any other human being” will take part in the march, which will be the first of its kind in the national capital.

While he said that “Queer Pride” is a celebration, Bhan added that it is always partly a protest.

“‘Queer Pride’ is a celebration. It is about loving who we are, whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, ‘hijra’ or straight, and affirming everyone’s right to be respected for his or her own sexual choices,” Bhan said.

“However, considering how difficult things are here, it is always partly a protest and an awareness campaign,” he said.

Classified as “against the order of nature”, homosexuality is illegal in India and is punishable with 10 years in prison. Although there has been a spate of debates and campaigns on the issue through blogs and the Internet recently, it is for the first time that a march of this nature and on such a scale will take place.

In the capital, the parade will begin 5.30 p.m. Sunday at the Regal Building in the heart of the city, in Connaught Place, and will end at Jantar Mantar where the activists and supporters, an estimated 300-400 of them, will give speeches and hold a candlelight vigil.

Talking about their right not to be discriminated against, Bhan said: “It is all about human rights. We call India greatest democracy in the world and keep our head high in Southeast Asia. But we are far less progressive than our neighbours such as Nepal and Sri Lanka.”

“We should learn from Nepal, which in its new constitution has declared that no one would be discriminated against on basis of sexuality.”

“The march would help in instilling a feeling of protection among those who do not want to come out in the open,” he added.

Although there is a lurking fear of attack by conservative groups, police officials have said that they will ensure all security measures.

“We have taken the necessary security measures and will ensure that the parade goes off smoothly. Legal action will be taken against any perpetrator,” an official said.

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