Walk with pride

Usually deserted on Sunday afternoons, College Square wore a different look on 29 June. Cameras, ob vans, media persons queued up outside munching seconds as ‘mysterious’ people from ‘mysterious’ places kept trickling in 4… 10… 25… to around 150 and more. Buses and trams slowed down with inquisitive faces popping out of the windows, pedestrians peeping in and a few waited outside. 3 p.m. and the rainbow unfurled. The 7th Rainbow Pride Walk 2008 from College Square to Esplanade had begun. Proud gazes flaunting colourful clothes and make up out on the streets that screamed vehemently: “We were and we will be proud of what we are!” Not only in Kolkata, the walk of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender was simultaneously being organised in New Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and Puducherry. The rainbow stands for diversity and sexual expressions, signified by the colours of the rainbow. Each of these is equally worthy of “pride”. The Rainbow Pride Week each year looks for inspiration to millennia of records of same sex love in Indian history; to pioneering activists who struggled hard to bring sexual orientation, gender identity and associated sexual health issues into the larger human rights movement in India; and to flash point events like the Stonewall Riots in New York, USA in June 1969. The riot occurred as a mark of protest by sexual minorities in the USA against police harassment. Subsequently, they became an inspiration for similar movement worldwide and in India. The Pride Week’s signature event, the Rainbow Pride Walk, was first organised in India in Kolkata in 1999. The walk came just ahead of a crucial 2 July hearing of a petition against Section 377 filed by Naz Foundation (India) Trust, New Delhi and other civil society agencies in 2001, and supported by National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and ministry of health and family welfare. The petition against section 377 seeks decriminalisation of adult consensual same sex relations. Legal experts say Section 377 very clearly violates Article 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life and personal liberty) and other provisions of the constitution. Sexual minorities across the country are also running an online campaign against the law at www.voicesagainst377.org. The Rainbow Pride Walk was led by several organisations from Kolkata and other parts of Bengal, like Astitva Dakshin, Bandhan, Jalpaiguri Uttarapan, Kolkata Rishtha, Koshish, Manas Bangla, Northern Black Rose, Plus Kolkata, Pratyay Gender trust, Sangram, Swapnil, Swikriti and Saathii.The walk was also the culmination of Rainbow Pride Week 2008 that comprised a poster making event, a candle light memorial, film screenings, photo presentation and panel discussion around the issue of gender and sexual diversity. Award winning films, 68 Pages directed by Sridhar Rangayan of Mumbai and Strangers in the rain by Dr Tirthankar Guha were screened on 28 June at Paribesh Bhawan in Salt Lake. The rainbow pride walk ended with a meet at Esplanade. Anis Roychoudhury, director, MANAS Bangla spoke of the aim they want to achieve followed by people’s own account of atrocities meted out to the LGBT population under the pretext of Section 377 of IPC. Teesta narrated how after eight years of struggle she was able to change her sex and become a woman. Talking of LGBT does not always mean sexuality. People confirming to the categories have a lot more in their life than sex. People often forget that they are human before they are lesbian or gay. Few photographers were heard asking the participants to hug and kiss each other so that they can be photographed in a better ‘pose’. While others watching the procession from rooftops were heard saying,”Ki jeebon eder.” Yes, indeed they lead a barbed life because people associate love with sex all the time. Love is more than just to procreate, said Anis Roy Choudhury. Members from Gujarat and Maharashtra had also come to participate in the walk. Teasing, giggling and cajoling each other, they walked in hope of love and recognition and freedom. They walked with pride.

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