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Grassroots campaign started in India to counter homophobia

Campaign hopes to attract people's attention to country's sodomy law and change perceptions of the LGBT community

Grassroots campaign started in India to counter homophobia
Photo by Shubham Mehrotra
Members of India's transgender community, also known as hijras, are amongst the most marginalized in the country.

A grassroots campaign with a wordplay on the title of a renowned movie has been started in India to counter homophobia.

Titled ’50 Shades of Gay’ (as opposed to the movie 50 Shades of Grey), the grassroots campaign hopes to attract people’s attention to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code – which criminalizes sexual activities ‘against the order of nature’. Initiated three weeks ago, the campaign also hopes to change perceptions of the LGBT community in India.

The campaign was started by journalist and filmmaker Shubham Mehrotra after she noticed a gap in the advocacy work of organizations and mainstream media to highlight LGBT voices in India.

‘I have always believed that stories have the ability to connect people, transform opinions, open minds and change policies,’ said Mehrotra.

The Indian citizen added: ‘I’m just trying to tell the story of 2.5 million Indians who are being treated as criminals and are being denied basic human rights in this country’.

The campaign – a photojournalism project featuring LGBT individuals of different ages, social and economic backgrounds – is what Mehrota plans to bring to different parts of the country. As the campaign evolves, Mehrota has also been giving LGBT individuals a platform to tell their stories through Instagram, riding on her own popularity on this social media channel to raise awareness of these individuals’ situations. Another part of the campaign saw Mehrota interviewing members of the transgender community on the streets, hoping to get them involved in the project.

Other renowned figures have also stepped in to express their support for the campaign. These examples include local TV personality and gay icon Sushant Divgikar as well as the recently-crowned Mr Gay World India 2016, Anwesh Sahoo.

‘The biggest struggle for the LGBT community in India according to me is mainstream acceptance and inequality in the fields of occupations, relationships and just life as such,’ said Divgikar.

The LGBT activist also added: ‘Striking down (Section) 377 is absolutely necessary so as to safeguard all the LGBT individuals of this country and give them their fundamental rights to choose who they want to love and be with’.

Homosexuality was declared legal by the Delhi High Court in 2009 but the Indian Supreme Court reversed that ruling in December 2013. Two years later,  the attempt to repeal the sodomy law via the introduction of a private members bill failed as the lower house of India’s parliament voted against the bill. In February this year, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a petition on legalizing gay sex but decided last week to stick with the current status quo.


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