New Delhi: Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBTs) should not feel caged in our society, asserted Congress leader and Parliamentarian Priya Dutt. She was speaking at the 3rd National Solidarity Event in New Delhi.
Supporting the cause of men who have sex with men (MSM), Priya said that LGBTs are entitled to enjoy rights like anyone else. “Sexuality of an individual is a private matter and there is no need for anyone to hide because of their sexuality. Every Indian lives by the constitution of our country which talks about equal rights and equal opportunities to all citizens without discrimination of any kind,” she said.
Priya affirmed her commitment towards protecting the rights of MSM and the LGBT community more broadly and called for collective action towards this goal. Talking about the cultural arguments against the LGBTs, she said India has had long tradition of being a diverse and cultural society and the presence of LGBTs is just an extension of that diversity with the former living in harmony with the rest of society for ages.
Prominent gay rights activist Aditya Banopadhyay pointed out that article 377 mobilised the gay community into a movement. “In our society, the lives of MSM are fraught with social taboos and homophobia. What further compounds the issue is criminalization and infringement of our basic human rights by people, police authorities and the government,” he said.
Bandopadhyay urged the gay community for building its own culture and said that the government was not providing enough funds for the welfare of LGBTs. “The need of the hour is that MSM people should come out of their closets and fights for their rights in solidarity, so that the legislature is forced to recognize the strength of our population and work towards our collective welfare,” he said.
James Robertson, Executive Director of India HIV/AIDS Alliance, said, “To address the engaging vulnerabilities of MSM and gay men in India to HIV and a host of social ills, it will be necessary for all stakeholders across the spectrum to collaborate actively and commit themselves to the task ahead.”
Leaders of the LGBT movement, such as Ashok Row Kavi, Rajesh Srinivas, and celebrities like Sushant Divgikar and Yuvraj Parashar, also spoke about the importance of national forums, such as the solidarity event, in ensuring the collaboration of different stakeholders for strengthening the work that has been done so far and to come out with the plan ahead.
The event saw gay rights activists across India come together to consolidate efforts towards the realization of health and human rights for the LGBT community. Policy makers, social welfare officials, UN representatives, members of Parliament, National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) delegates, media, healthcare providers, and civil society also took part in the event.
Organised by India HIV/AIDS Alliance’s Pehchan programme, the event highlighted the continued escalation of violence and discrimination against the LGBT community in India. This year’s Solidarity Event served as a forum for dialogue for different stakeholders from government, civil society and communities to strengthen the movement and create a consensus for a national action plan for the welfare of MSM and other gay men.