March for pride, respect & equality

The city witnessed the seven colours of the rainbow come together today as members of the LGBTQIA community and gay rights supporters came together to hold the third edition of the Guwahati Queer Pride Parade.

By Joydeep Hazarika
  • Published 8.02.16
  •  
Participants in the parade in Guwahati. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, Feb. 7: The city witnessed the seven colours of the rainbow come together today as members of the LGBTQIA community and gay rights supporters came together to hold the third edition of the Guwahati Queer Pride Parade.

Around 200 people marched in the parade, which was organised by Xukia, a group that deals with LGBTQIA issues.

The event saw a colourful mix of people from the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual) community along with activists and gay rights supporters, who were mostly students.

The parade started from Dighalipukhuri Park and went around the neighbourhood of Cotton College in Panbazar before returning to its starting point.

Shivalal Gautam, a member of Xukia, said the parade was part of their struggle to gain respect for who they are. "Every year this parade is held to let the world know who we are and demand the respect and recognition we deserve. It is a symbol of our struggle against the draconian Section 377 and our quest to find our place in this world," he said.

People sang, danced and waved miniature rainbow-coloured flags, which have to come to symbolise gay rights around the world, as they marched in the parade. Some wore colourful masks and held signs demanding equality of sexual rights among all humans. A fashion show was also held.

Most of the marchers felt the parade was a demonstration against Section 377 of the IPC, a colonial-era provision criminalising consensual sexual acts of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults in private. The participants said hope had been kindled in their hearts in wake of the Supreme Court's decision to refer a batch of curative petitions against Section 377 to a five-judge Constitution bench for a possible back-to-roots, in-depth hearing.

"Our struggle has been against the 150-year-old Section 377 that has denied us our sexual rights. We have had to suffer a lot of discrimination and bias because of this. Now, because of recent developments, we see a glimmer of hope that finally justice will be done and we shall bid adieu to this law this year itself," said Bidhan Baruah, a law student.

In the first edition of the Guwahati Queer Pride Parade in 2014, just a few dozen people participated. Over the past couple of years, it has garnered the support of people from various walks of life and today's turnout reflected the increasing acceptability LGBTQIA issues are gaining in society.

"Over the years, the support for our endeavour has increased and there also has been a marked improvement in people's attitude towards us," said Debika Chakravarty, a participant. "But there is still a lot of work to be done. Discrimination still exists against the LGBTQIA people in various walks of life and there has to be channelling of proper information regarding the matter towards people."

Xukia means "being different" in Assamese and the group has been running the Guwahati chapter of the Queer Pride Parade. It organises the annual event with the help of a few NGOs and other like-minded organisations.