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Maiden rainbow pride walk
- Sexual minorities from 10 districts join hands

Bhubaneswar, June 27: Arjun (name changed), a resident of Bhubaneswar, was denied treatment by a doctor at a government hospital for a sexually transmitted infection. When a support group for sexual minorities put pressure on the doctor, he intentionally humiliated Arjun by doing the check-up in front of other patients. A traumatised Arjun never returned to the hospital for treatment.

Bhubaneswar resident Meena (name changed) was thrown out of home by her family when she revealed her transgender identity. She now lives with some of her transgender (Kothi) friends.

These are not isolated cases.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other sexually marginalised people in Orissa have been living under pressure. For the first time here, these people came together for a Rainbow Pride Walk to change the way society looks at them. Sexual minorities from 10 districts of the state walked from the master canteen square to the big bazaar to draw the attention of the government and the citizens against Section 377.

Though the number of actual convictions under the section till date remains very small (only 29 between 1860 and 2000), the threat of the law looms large. Its existence allows the police to harass and threaten lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and extort money from them, said Mitali Mohanty, the training co-ordinator of Solidarity and Action Against The HIV Infection in India (SAATHII).

“The beautifully sculpted temples at Konark and Khajuraho are examples of the celebration of sexual diversity in our heritage. Even medical institutions like World Health Organisation de-listed homosexuality as a mental illness in 1990,” said Mohanty.

The “rainbow” stands for diversity in gender and sexual expressions, signified by the colours of the rainbow. Each of these is equally worthy of “pride”. Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people worldwide have adopted the rainbow as a symbol of “equality and unity in diversity”, explained Satya Sundar Mishra, another activist.

The walk began with street theatre performances and ended with public meetings and candlelight vigils. Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Calcutta and Mumbai will also be observing pride activities this year.

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