With rainbow flags waving in the sky, hundreds of Kolkata walked together hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder – celebrating Pride, demanding the revocation of Section 377 of the IPC, withdrawal of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill of 2016 and implementation of the NALSA judgement at the Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk 2017. Bright colours and happy faces adorned the city streets and Kolkata never looked prettier on a winter afternoon. The march began from Deshapriya Park and concluded at Park Circus Maidan, with members of the LGBTQIA+ community, activists and allies holding a 40 meter long rainbow flag. Some bodies swayed gracefully with the music while others cheered on, and some lips were busy shouting slogans demanding equal rights.
What’s at stake?
The participants of the Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk 2017 had three main demands, apart from celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community.
Revocation of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code
When people talk about Section 377, it is generally thought that it just criminalizes homosexuality, and in turn, violates human rights of gay people. However, there is more to it than that. Section 377 states: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.” This means that section bans any kind of sexual activity that does not contribute to the process of reproduction and that is not peno-vaginal in nature, hence affecting heterosexuals as well.
Implementation of the NALSA judgement
The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) judgement is a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of India which declared transgender people to be the third gender, affirmed that the fundamental rights granted under the Constitution of India will be equally applicable to transgender people, and gave them the right to self-identification of their gender as male, female or third-gender. Moreover, the court ruled that because transgender people were treated as socially and economically backward classes, they will be granted reservations in admissions to educational institutions and jobs.
Withdrawal of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill of 2016
After NALSA, LGBTQIA+ groups and human rights activists have been working with the government to implement the court’s directives through the passage of a comprehensive law in the Parliament. But recently, the Ministry of Justice and Empowerment has proposed the Transgender Person (Protection of Rights) Bill that goes against the NALSA verdict and does not uphold the right to self-identify one’s gender as assured by the apex court.
“Furthermore, the Bill criminalizes begging without offering other livelihood options to transgender / Hijra people. Then they’ll have to starve and die!,” says Souvik Ekamebadwitiyam, one of the organisers of the Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk 2017 and a founder member of Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival.
Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk 2017 – A Walk To Remember
Kolkata was one of the first cities in South East Asia to organise its own pride march. First organised on July 2, 1999, the walk was called “Friendship Walk”, and over the course of sixteen years, it has gained solidarity from the LGBTQIA+ community all over the world.
This year, the Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk 2017 aimed higher to be more inclusive of people with disabilities – they had an assistive translator for deaf and mute people on board.
“Every year I attend Kolkata Pride Walk to celebrate our sexuality, demand for equal rights and for the overall good vibe of the crowd. People are at their flamboyant best and proudly so!” says Satabhisa Basu, a participant at the Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk 2017.