The pace of progress regarding gender issues might be slow, but it is steady. The way the feminist and the LGBTQ movement have gained momentum in India constantly transcends the personal realm and entry into the public. Community action against misogyny, homophobia, and discrimination has given rise to various campaigns and organizations which are battling these issues stalwartly.
Bringing out the queerness in all ways possible, Pride Parades have become an intrinsic part of urban culture, especially in the metropolitan cities of India. Delhi marked its 10th year of the annual pride parade in 2017. Besides that, it was a delightful beginning for the queer communities in the cities of Lucknow and Bhopal, as they conducted their first ever pride parade this year.
The Supreme Court of India declared the ‘Right to Privacy’ as a fundamental right in a unanimous decision. This further made room for the reconsideration of the homophobic Section-377. Justice Shah further clarified that invading someone’s sexual choices cannot be used to restrict this right, and also that the court upholds the interpretation of Article 15, where a person cannot be discriminated against on the basis of sex, or even sexual orientation.
Red Brigade – Fight against sexual violence
A brainchild of attempted rape survivor Usha Vishwakarma, the Red Brigade is dedicated to fighting sexual violence in India in numerous ways. From doing Nukkad Nataks to exposing the perpetrators, this group engages with women of all ages and various backgrounds. Apart from spreading awareness, they also indulge in teaching self-defence to women and reaching out to teenage girls to encourage them to pursue education. The commitment of this group of women continues to help countless survivors of sexual violence by giving them a voice, and also by using and teaching preventive measures.
MAVA – Men Against Violence and Abuse
Toxic masculinity has been one of the biggest problems faced by all genders. MAVA is dedicated to humanizing men and inculcating sensitivity. It strongly believes that when men break the constructs of society and express rather than suppress their emotions, they can become less violent towards others. MAVA has taken up the crucial subject of the harmful effects of masculinity under patriarchy.
The march was conducted on 21st March 2017 in around 30 cities, taking the initiative to claim public spaces. Women and the queer community from all over the country took to the streets to voice their concern for safety. #IWillGoOut is a campaign against street harassment, misogyny, and oppression. The march also took up various other issues of free love, education, and representation. Vulnerable gender groups often feel at risk in public spaces, especially during certain times of the day where the threat of violence and abuse is present all around. So making their presence felt is the first step towards normalization of their existence in public life.
The Fearless Collective uses visual art and activism to make space for love to exist freely. Born out of the after-shock of the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case, it focuses on the South Asian diaspora. They use fine art, photography, films, storytelling, workshops, and other art forms to engage in gender issues and bring out their narratives in a creatively striking way.
Queer Collectives in Universities
Several student organisations have been formed which are dedicated towards gender sensitisation on campus. In Delhi University, the Delhi University Queer Collective is one such initiative to have undertaken the responsibility to spread awareness and also create a safe environment of queer persons. They hold regular workshops, talks and discussions which engage in dialogue about the Indian queer movement and its progress. Similar collectives run in other universities like TISS, Ambedkar University, and JNU. They discuss, promote and encourage queer concerns and politics, and also fight against acts of homophobia.
The Queer Question
Referring to themselves as ‘April’ and ‘May’, The Queer Question is an experimental project aimed towards educating and answering questions about being queer and the spectrum of gender. They run a Google form where anyone can ask questions regarding being queer, facing hostility, dealing with family, self-acceptance, etc., and the answers provided are research-based. It provides a platform for increasing awareness amongst queer individuals as well as the community.
The Aravani Art Project
The Aravani Art Project is an art collective creating space for the transgender community. Their team includes artists, photographers, filmmakers, artists and also the support of friends, neighbours and family. They indulge in artistic interventions on streets, neighbourhoods, and localities. By creating politically conscious murals and other forms of street art, they aim to reclaim public spaces and create a secure environment for trans-people. They also provide the community with a creative outlet where individuals can express their concerns, issues, and aspirations through art.
Godrej India Queer Aesthetics
Godrej India started this New Year with a special LGBTQ event as a part of its cultural lab called Queer Aesthetics, which celebrated fashion, cinema, and other art forms embraced by the queer youth of India. It showcased a collection of queer films, followed by a panel discussion and a dance performance. It was in association with Queer Azaadi Mumbai, which kick-started Godrej’s initiative to explore LGBTQ culture in youth and various form of expressing queerness.