Huge procession marks 10th anniversary of Bengaluru’s pride march

More than 5000 people joined the march for the rights of the LGBT community and demand an end to discrimination.

bengaluru Updated: Nov 26, 2017 20:40 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Bengaluru pride march,Namma Pride,LGBT community
Participants in the 10th anniversary celebration of Namma Pride and Karnataka Queer Habba in Bengaluru on Sunday. (HT Photo)

It was a synthesis of protest, colour and pride as thousands took part in the 10th edition of the Namma Pride, or queer pride march in the heart of the city on Sunday.

Members of the Campaign for Sex Workers and Sexual Minorities Rights, which organised the event, pegged the number of participants around 5,000, the largest turn out yet. The march wound its way from the Tulsi Park near the Kempegowda Bus Station to the Town Hall, a distance of about six km, and the participants assembled in the amphitheatre of the Ravindra Kalakshetra where cultural programmes were held.

Yash, one of the organisers, said the movement had come a long way from its humble beginnings 10 years ago. “When it was first held there were about 300 people, so this turnout is really heartening,” he said. Crucially, Yash said, the initial marches had seen a significant proportion of participants donning masks, “but now there are hardly any”.

While some demands had remained the same over time, like the repeal of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which curbs the rights of sexual minorities, there were others like shelters for transgenders, the right to self-identification and compulsory sexual-identity education.

“There has been a huge shift in terms of participants as well,” said Romal Laisram, who works for a start-up. According to him, there used to be a lot fewer allies and it was mostly the queer community that was marching. “Now, the proportion has been reversed and around 60 per cent of the marchers are now allies.”

Read more: Delhi’s queer pride parade: A short gasp of breath in a choked environment

However, Laisram said the worry even in this moment of triumph was the low turnout of transgenders. “This is just the result of some internal politics. We will disagree but we will also come together in the future.”

Meanwhile, others felt the more things changed the more they remained the same. Rumi, who works at a start-up, said this was her first pride march in Bengaluru, although she had participated previously in Kolkata.

“The numbers today were definitely huge, but the same problems we faced earlier were on show even during this march. People took photos of the march and one could hear cat-calls and jeering, so clearly a lot more needs to change,” she said. It was not very easy to gain acceptance, she added.

Derrick Loue, who works at a private bank, echoed the same views. According to Loue, there was a long way to go before society would accept the idea of self-identification. “There is change, but honestly maybe now about 15 per cent of society is willing to accept us. The battle is still quite a long one.”

While the participants were skeptical about the efforts of the central government to address issues of sexual minorities, there was appreciation of the state government’s recent transgender policy.

Laisram said it was essential that more protection was given to transgender persons as they were more vulnerable than other groups to violence, especially from the police. “But this has reduced drastically over the past 10 years.”

However, Loue felt that was just a small step. “The policy only recognises the issue of identification of transgender people, while arms of the government continue to treat homosexuals as criminals. This has to change,” Loue said.

First Published: Nov 26, 2017 20:40 IST