Last weekend Nitoli and I and two of our Naga friends saw a little slice of history in the making: Delhi's first ever gay pride parade. We had turned up partially to witness the colourful spectacle and partially to show our support for people's right to live their own lives as they see fit.
We didn't expect too much of a turnout though. Homosexuality is still strictly taboo in most parts of India's society and there are strict anti-sodomy laws in effect. It is a common myth in Indian discourse that homosexuality historically has been inexistant in India and to the extent it exists today it is because of corrupting western influences. The reality is probably rather the opposite. In the land, which once gave birth to the Kama Sutra and the incredible erotic sculptures of Khajurao and other places, the development into prejudice puritanism was probably greatly strenghtened by the colonial influx of uptight Victorian morals. In fact the anti-sodomy laws in effect today were written by the British colonial masters prior to independence.
Given all the facts above, we were suprised to see a good turnout of many hundred people supporting the cause - mostly Indian but also quite a few expats. But it was extremely important to create an openness about the fact that homosexuals DO exist and that their rights are being violated. There was an atmopsphere of joy and a sense of achievement, but also a very real mood of sadness and contemplation as the organisers of the event announced two minutes of silence in remembrance of all those gay and lesbian Indians, who lost their lives for resisting to enter into a "normal" forced, heterosexual marriage. It was a moving event, hopefully the first of many to come. India has a long way to go and many of the protestors wore masks for fear of retaliation from conservative forces. Yet India should be proud that it has now reached a stage where homosexuals finally feel they can go to the streets and let their voice be heard. This could not have happened in Delhi just 5-10 years ago at least not as peacefully as it did last week.
For those who are interested in reading more about this historical event, Time Magazine has a brilliant article about it here.