Bengaluru saw its 10th Namma Pride on Sunday, where hundreds of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons, queer and questioning people, intersex persons, straight allies etc took out a colourful and fun march from Tulsi Park to the Town Hall. The marchers chanted slogans about gender and sexuality rights, and many even danced all the way to the beat of drums – a distance of 4.5 km!
The march was organised by the Coalition for Sex Workers, Sexual and Sexuality Minorities’ Rights (CSMR), an umbrella organisation which managed to bring the LGBTQI+ community together with the help of a network of LGBTQI+ groups in the city.
Many of the banners and posters at pride spoke about acceptance of queer individuals, opposition to the controversial Transgender Persons Bill, repealing Section 377 of IPC etc. Many also decided to be quirky in their choice of props – one person carried a pan (yes, a literal pan) with ‘sexual’ written on it, a couple sported “With her” T-shirts, many opted for matching shirts and kurtas.
The marchers also chanted slogans in Kannada, English, Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi. From “I’m gay, that’s okay!” to “Namma deha, namma hakku!” (our body, our rights), the sloganeering continued through the march, that took around four hours.
Many people at the pride marched against the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, that’s currently in Parliament. The problematic bill goes back on the historic NALSA judgment of 2014 in several ways, and many in the community have raised their voice against it, saying it criminalises trans people instead of protecting their rights.
Riyana, a student of Cosmotology at St Joseph College and a transgender woman, said, “The bill is inhuman on many levels. I want the government to provide jobs for transgender persons in the government sector and not just the private sector as mentioned in the Bill. Why can’t they provide quotas for transgender persons in government sector too?”
The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in August 2016 and was referred to the Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment for recommendations. However, the committee’s recommendations of safeguarding rights of transgender persons and providing them with provision of toilets and counselling services to cope with trauma in addition to quotas in government colleges and jobs were rejected in favour of the Ministry’s version of the bill. The originally tabled bill is set to be re-introduced in the Winter Session of the Parliament this year.
Anwesh, a gay man said, "I was in University three years ago and a queer group started only in my final semester. I only came out to friends and coworkers after I started working in Bengaluru. Now I am no longer in the city but I made the trip to come be a part of the pride because this is the city where I decided to come out."
The march was also a place for people who haven't yet come out to their family and friends to express themselves. Pratiksha*, a lesbian, said, "I cannot really come out of the closet to my family or my friends other than those within the community. That's why I am out here marching with the community."
The most sought after people at the march however were the drummers. Several individuals and groups of people gathered around the drummers, who moved around during the march, to dance gloriously for Pride. Sundar, who leads a band of drums said, "If we play the drums hard, may be more people will hear them out. We are here not only to pick up a paycheck but to make the voices of the community are heard."
A large number of people at the event identified themselves as allies. An ‘ally’ is a term used to describe someone who is supportive of LGBTQI+ people. “I have never been to a pride march so I am here both to get to know about the community and their cause and to show my support to it,” said.
Romal Laisram, an organiser, pointed out that they were trying to make Pride much more intersectional every year. “In fact, the Namma Pride also focused on minorities other than gender and sexuality minorities this year. It is becoming more and more intersectional every year which is good because the movement needs the support of allies. The lawmakers and policymakers are mostly people outside the community of LGBTQI+ persons and awareness is the only way we can reach them and change mindsets”, he said.
The Namma Pride marked the end of a month long flurry of activities with organisers hosting 'Rainbow Run 'and 'Garage Sale' among other events to raise funds and create awareness about the Pride march.
A moderated community discussion on Mental Health and the Queer Community was also held earlier in the month where access to affirmative counselling for the LGBTQ+ community was discussed.
Among other demands, organisers want the repeal of Section 36-A of the Karnataka Police Act which gives police powers to regulate ‘eunuchs’ (a derogatory term for transgender persons). It allows the police to maintain a register with the names and addresses of transgender persons in an area in order to control “undesirable activities.”
Photographs Courtesy: Manas Mishra