LGBTI rights activist Harish Iyer announced this week he would be joining one of India’s major political parties, the Indian National Congress (INC).
Iyer was looking forward to ‘working with the Mumbai Congress team in weeding out homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia and the politics of hate’ he wrote on Twitter.
‘I encourage more people from the LGBT community to join politics’ he said. ‘Come out and be the change’.
He expressed a hope that one day INC would have an LGBTI section of the party, just as they have a section for women.
In an interview with News18, the activist urged better representation in politics and encouraged more minorities to join political parties.
‘I do believe that equality is the way to go. I hope I can become the Pete Buttigieg of India,’ he said, referencing the US gay presidential hopeful.
INC in its manifesto has promised to withdraw the controversial Transgender Bill. The trans community has slammed the bill.
It also pledged to introduce gender sensitivity training in all government offices including the army and the Indian Air Force.
Iyer has long campaigned for equal rights in India. He was at the forefront of India’s long campaign to decriminalize gay sex.
In August last year, India’s National Human Rights Commission consulted him on LGBTI issues.
Iyer’s entry into politics was welcomed by LGBTI rights groups in the country.
@incindia and @rahulgandhi have indeed walked the talk by bringing in @hiyer ; LGBTQ rights activist to the party.
It’s important to have strong queer voices in politics to build an inclusive future of India.#KSFoundation #PureLove #ItGetsBetterIndia #Politics #Congress #lgbtq pic.twitter.com/MZ2G12FVEF
— KeshavSuriFoundation (@KSF_IN) April 10, 2019
On Twitter, Iyer acknowledged the leading role trans people had played in bringing LGBTI issues to politics.
He thanked transgender activist Aspara Reddy, who in January became general secretary of the INC’s women’s wing.
An unprecedented number of gender-diverse Indians are partaking in India’s upcoming elections.
Sneha Kale made headlines as the first-ever trans woman to run in the general election.
The elections are also the first time transgender Indians can vote as a third gender.
In September last year, India’s LGBTI community celebrated the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling to decriminalize gay sex.
But, activists have warned it will take time for society to truly accept LGBTI rights.