Hundreds took to the streets of Delhi yesterday (25 November) to celebrate the Indian capital’s fifth annual gay pride.
The city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community dressed in colorful costumes and unfurled a giant rainbow flag as they made their way from Barakhamba Road to Jantar Mantar.
Despite the carnival atmosphere, the Delhi Queer Pride parade carried a serious message, with marchers carrying pacards reading, ‘My mother thinks my girlfriend is a lesbian’, ‘Fifty shades of gay’ and ‘Keep your laws off my body’.
Homosexuality is still very much a taboo subject in conservative India and was only decriminalized three years ago.
‘Homosexuality is not just about sex. For instance, we feel the same love for our partners as a married couple would feel for each other,’ marcher Rajesh, who wore a mask to avoid being recognized, told The Times of India.
‘Even if we don’t marry, we lead our lives like a couple. But our lives are so much more insecure.’
However, the parade did not receive a warm welcome from many onlookers, with anti-gay protesters from the Rashtriyawadi Janata Party and Akhil Bharatiya Kshatriya Maha Sabha greeting the parade at its end in Jantar Mantar.
In 2009, Delhi High Court revoked Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which was established by the British colonial government in 1862.
Section 377 criminalized ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’ and was interpreted to mean all forms of sex apart from heterosexual penile-vaginal.
Although nobody had been prosecuted under section 377 for twenty years, NGOs such as Human Rights Watch testified in court that the law was used to harass and arrest gay people, sex workers and HIV prevention workers.
Early this year the High Court’s decision was challenged in Delhi Supreme Court. Government lawyer PP Malhotra testified that gay sex is ‘highly immoral and against societal order’ – but the government later retracted the statement.
After a month and a half of hearing from witnesses supporting and opposing the decriminalization of gay sex, the Supreme Court judges criticized the government for its ‘casual’ approach and announced on 28 March 2012 that it would reserve its verdict. To date there has been no further announcement on that verdict.