How Global Day of Rage Fueled Solidarity Protests for India's LGBT Community

Search form

How Global Day of Rage Fueled Solidarity Protests for India's LGBT Community

How Global Day of Rage Fueled Solidarity Protests for India's LGBT Community
Thu, 1/2/2014 - by Paromita Pain

In India, the first Pride march took place in 1999 in the city of Kolkata. It took its time spreading across the country to cities like Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, Bhawanipatna (Odisha), Hyderabad, Pune and Thrissur. But once pride marches became a norm, most assumed that being gay in the country had finally served its time in the closet.

Then, on December 11, the Supreme Court ruled to reinstate Section 377 of India's penal code – the law banning "sex against the order of nature" – officially making homosexuality a crime in India.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court had ruled "unconstitutional" a section of the penal code dating back to 1860 that prohibits "carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal," and lifted the ban for consenting adults. Homosexuality in India enjoyed four years of legal acceptance until, once again, the whims of lawmakers snatched away that basic human right.

The ruling undoes all the advances made by the 2009 verdict. But today, this vulnerable section of society in India isn’t alone in fighting back. Students, organizations, activists and people from all social strata across the world stood up in solidarity through a December 15 event called The Global Day of Rage.

Organized mostly through Facebook, Twitter and mailing lists, the Global Day of Rage helped coordinate protests and gatherings so that anyone, anywhere, could have a say and join in the protection of this basic human right.

Solidarity With India

After activists in India conceived of the idea, more and more cities got on board to organize protests on the same day. “In Boston, the event was organized by five or six individuals, but we received a great deal of support in terms of posters that had been designed by volunteers in other cities,” says Karthik Rao Cavale, a Phd student at MIT who got involved in the protest.

“I think the act of organizing a protest simultaneously in so many cities created a sense of solidarity that is quite rare. I can only speak of the sense of community I felt at seeing photographs of protests in Mumbai, Delhi, Berlin, London and so on, but I certainly hope that protesters in these other places felt the same way when they saw photographs of the Boston protest.”

Rao Cavale joined students from Harvard and MIT who stood on a freezing Harvard Square and made their views clear. According to the group's message:

“As members and allies of the South Asian LGBTQ community in the Boston area, we find ourselves just as immediately impacted by the Supreme Court verdict as we would be if we were in India today. Our participation in this protest is not symbolic; it is an effort to build a global community stand up against hatred and prejudice, of which Section 377 is just one instance.”

Many Voices, One View

Siddharth Narrain Arcot Ananth, a student at Harvard Law School, supported the solidarity action. “The Supreme Court judgment effectively re-criminalizes millions of LGBT Indians making them vulnerable to arrest, blackmail and discrimination," Ananth said. "We wanted to show our solidarity with those in India and those protesting across the world.”

In the recent legal decision, the re-criminalization of homosexuality has been seen as the issue of crucial importance. There are no laws in India against discrimination in the private sector. Free and open discussion of matters related to sex and sexuality are taboo in the country.

In Chennai, the Chennai Rainbow Coalition gathered at the Press Club recently to protest the decision, shouting slogans like "Love is Not a Crime" and "I'm a Lesbian — Not an Alien."

“I am sacred that now I might lose my job,” said Devan, a teacher at a local school. “I don’t have a legal standing to battle stigma anymore.”

Devan said his parents thought they could get him cured. “A lot of my early years were spent in temples and with religious god men who assured my parents they could make me straight,” he said.

Continuing Homophobia

In Toronto, a solidarity rally was organized by the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP), the South Asian Visual Arts Centre (SAVAC) and Pride Toronto along with friends, families and other communities.

“While we are angered by the decisions of the Supreme Court, we recognize the blood, sweat and tears of the people in India on the frontlines of this fight who evoke not shame, but pride,” said ASAAP Executive Director Vijaya Chikermane.

Meanwhile, political leaders in India have shown little signs of letting up from their expression of homophobic ideologies. Senior politician Yashwant Sinha went so far as to suggest that “the Indian government should prosecute same-sex companions of U.S. diplomats in India since it is criminal in this country.”

And statements like these are helping fuel further activist anger. Ponni Arasu, who was involved in efforts that led to the 2009 landmark ruling in India, took part in the latest Toronto meeting. “This struggle never was and never will be about decriminalizing any one community or person but about changing the fabric of society itself," Arasu said.

"It doesn’t all end with this one law, but it has to also begin here in order for us to have the space to speak, live, breathe without fear.”

And in fact, the global protests against India's new homophobic ruling have already forced the government there to take a fresh look the law. As the Times of India reported, the central government set up a review petition led by attorney general G. E. Vahanvati, who sharply criticized the December 11 judgment saying that the apex court had failed to protect the fundamental rights of the country’s LBGT population.

Will this bring forward the much-needed revision to the law? Many aren't holding their breath. But as one Mumbai protest supporter, named Sumi, said: “We will fight on till our rights are recognized.”

Follow the author Paromita Pain on the Commons or on twitter at @ParoP

 

Article Tabs

money in politics, Super PACs, Federal Election Commission, Citizens United, Campaign Legal Center, campaign finance laws, campaign finance reform

Spending more than twice as much as the last three White House races combined, the unregulated fundraising juggernauts backed by unlimited contributions from wealthy donors threaten to completely shape – and control – the 2016 race.

rising homelessness, chronic homelessness, Los Angeles homeless, Poverty Matters, Section 8 federal housing

The number of people who are chronically homeless has overwhelmed the dwindling supply of affordable housing in southern California's sprawling metropolitan area.

The lawsuit filed by the Center for Food Safety accuses the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of withholding information about GMOs for more than 13 years.

Rebel Girls

Feminism is alive and well, my friends. And I’ve got 95 photos from across the planet to prove it.

coal shipments, coal terminals, Bowie Resource Partners, Arch Coal

A secretive plan to ship coal through the Port of Oakland is being driven by a company that wants to massively expand its coal mining operations in Utah – and by a public official who stands to profit personally.

Alexis Tsipras, Greece, austerity

Alexis Tsipras fought the austerity, and the austerity won.

Posted 6 days 6 hours ago
Al Jazeera, You Stink, Beirut,

Clashes intensify as protests sparked by the city's garbage problem widen in scope, and the prime minister calls an emergency parliament session.

Posted 3 days 8 hours ago
Our Children’s Trust, climate change, greenhouse gases,

We can’t say we are protecting our children’s future unless we are doing what science says we must do to recover climate stability.

Posted 6 days 6 hours ago
police body cameras, police surveillance, Michael Brown, Stingray

The spread of body cameras into our schools may come as surprise to some, but it shouldn’t.

Posted 2 days 10 hours ago

Despite half its population claiming African roots, Brazil's police have been implicated in what rights groups call a genocide against black people.

Posted 6 days 6 hours ago
Our Children’s Trust, climate change, greenhouse gases,

We can’t say we are protecting our children’s future unless we are doing what science says we must do to recover climate stability.

Despite half its population claiming African roots, Brazil's police have been implicated in what rights groups call a genocide against black people.

Corinthian Colleges, Bank of America

An invisible entity strongly influenced the messy unwinding of Corinthian Colleges: Bank of America.

It’s all of us little guys against the immense, concentrated wealth and power of the biggest companies on earth.

Sign Up