This week, here at the Pride and Joy Foundation, we are exploring the theme of "PRIDE: What does it mean to you?" In this essay our intern Gopika offers her take as an Indian woman...
Pride month 2020 has been flagged off and it’s time to celebrate the equality, visibility, and dignity of LGBTQ people all over the world.
I think I got it wrong by using the phrase ‘All over the world’. While Pride parades are in full swing and people celebrate the existence and acceptance of their identity in countries like the U.S, France, Canada, Belgium, etc, there is a harsh truth on the other side that there are numerous countries which still criminalize homosexuality and deny LGBTQ identity. There are people who still march on streets amidst violence from authority just like the Stonewall riot. For them, nothing has changed yet.
As an Indian girl, I grew up hearing the term “Unnatural relationships” as whispers and murmurings. And it was a taboo to talk about it or ask about it. I didn’t know that there is yet another reality other than male and female. And of course, like any other ‘Well-bred’ Indian girl, it was hard for me to grasp and digest it. Once I started gaining information and knowledge from books and other reliable sources, my understanding of homosexuality and LGBTQ grew more factual, differing from the earlier mythical conception. I tried to understand the difference between gender and sex and around me I could see groups of transgender people fighting with the authority to add a term next to Male and Female columns in the Indian identity card. They couldn’t have Indian identity cards, ration cards, or voters’ identity cards just because they didn’t stick to either male or female.
They were almost invisible.
Gay and transgender kids were seen as a curse to the family and the village and were abandoned by their family. Many fled to big cities like Mumbai and lived on streets and were deprived of many basic rights they deserve including a shelter to live, education, job, and legal right to get married to a person of the same gender and so many more.
Having no acceptance from society and no source of income, the majority of the transgender people in India became sex workers, which also is illegal and thus not a secure way of living.
After years of endurance, homosexuality was legalized in India in 2018. Transgender people are now allowed to change their legal gender and register under a third gender after their surgery.
Even though the law has accepted homosexuality, there is no legal provision for homosexual marriage in India.
Still there are families that abandon their gay or transgender kids. Still there are people fighting with the society to live as they are. The LGBTQ community is still being abused and looked down upon with the eyes of taboo and stigma. Still there are parents who forcefully make their gay son/daughter get married to a person of the opposite sex to save their face before society.
Still in every nook and corner of India, identities are being oppressed and voices are being silenced.
Now can you imagine a colourful, joyful pride parade in a street in India with acceptance, love, and inclusion in every eye that looks at it and passes by? Maybe in a not far away future.
This is a brief look at the LGBTQ life in India where homosexuality is legalized. What about the countries where it is illegal and criminalized? Saudi Arabia has the Sharia law which deals with LQBTQ identity and activities in the country severely. Those who come out as homosexual or indulge in any LGBTQ activity is stoned to death in Saudi Arabia.
LGBTQ groups in Uganda conduct Pride parades as a protest against the murder of their gay rights leader David Kato. They continue to conduct parades which end up in violence and brutality every year.
Iran also has the same law as Saudi Arabia. Since 1979, approximately 5,000 men and women have been reported to be executed in Iran for their sexuality. Despite the law, a small group of people marched on the streets in 2012 against homophobia and the brutal law.
Yemen has never witnessed a pride parade to date because of its law. Stoning to death is the punishment for being gay in Yemen. There are other countries like Kenya, Sudan, etc where homosexuality is punished with years of jail time.
This is only a glance at the other parts of the world at this time of the year at which streets of New York will traditionally be flooded with happy faces rejoicing love, celebrating with flags of colours, screams of joy.
This is the time we should look at them of other countries and know that they don’t have colorful flags and hands to hold. These are some of the organizations for LGBTQ community in the countries where they suffer the most:
(Editor's Note: please do your own research before committing any resources to any of these links.)
As the privileged queer, we can support them by donating through platforms like these and by helping to increase traffic and public attention to these efforts. We can represent those silenced voices in our Parades and celebrations and let them be heard through us. The greatest thing we can do for our suppressed brothers and sisters around the world is to make them seen in the world.
It is important to let them know that they are not unheard and unseen.
We see you.
Author: Gopika Kalarikkal - A Professional Writing student at Humber College and a writing intern at Pride and Joy Foundation. I am an aspiring writer with a keen interest in poetry and spirituality and a homesick Indian girl in Canada who loves to get lost in scribbling down my stream of consciousness.