Last weekend I had the amazing opportunity to march in the gay pride parade in Pune, India. Overhearing it was happening the night before, I showed up at the bus into the city that is run by the school and asked to join two girls I met there. We travelled together to a street not far from where the bus dropped us off and joined a crowd of enthusiastic, passionate, excited, and hopeful Indians.
We also met some Americans also studying abroad and shared our travelling stories.
(Picture taken of non-Indians showing support ^)
I had not heard any news about gay rights in India before arriving and had actually assumed they were highly supported here. I quickly learnt that was not the case over dinner one night shortly after I arrived. Under section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, homosexual intercourse is a criminal offence since 1860. The code states that it is an offence for a person to voluntarily have “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.” The debate has reignited of late as in 2009 the Delhi High Court found Section 377 to be in direction violation of fundamental rights based on the Indian Constitution.
In 2012 the Ministry of Home Affairs expressed opposition to this decriminalization of homosexual activity and stated that in India homosexuality is seen as being immoral. In 2013 the Supreme Court set aside the Delhi High Court order and reinstated Section 377.
The debate is ongoing, but from what I experienced in Pune this past weekend, many are passionate for change.
The atmosphere was incredible. The stares we received on the busy road were nothing to match the powerful, but controlled excitement of the marchers. Amidst chants of various sorts (including “I am gay.” “That’s okay.” “I am lesbian.” “That’s okay.”), we took the hour-long trek.
These are the kinds of unexpected, but incredible experiences that led me to go on exchange. I never would have imagined marching a in a gay pride parade in India, but when you take the opportunities that are available to you, you never know where you will end up.
This is just one of my many adventure stories in my first three weeks on campus at FLAME.
I also got to try watermelon juice for the first time!
More to come.
(For more information about gay rights in India, check out this article: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/140740/ira-trivedi/the-indian-in-the-closet )