NEW DELHI (AP) — Nearly a thousand gay rights activists marched through central New Delhi on Nov. 30 to demand an end to discrimination against gays in India’s deeply conservative society.
Holding balloons, flags and placards, activists and their supporters sang songs and danced to the beat of Indian drums as they held hands and walked in the rally, which has been held annually over the past few years. Many wore multi-colored wigs, while others wore face masks or had painted their faces.
Some activists carried a 15-meter (50-foot) rainbow-colored banner, a symbol of lesbian, gay and transgender pride.
Indian gays are demanding that the government remove a colonial-era law banning same-sex relations. India’s Supreme Court last year reversed a lower court order that decriminalized gay sex.
Supporters of gays, lesbians and transsexuals vowed to continue pressing for the removal of the law, which makes gay sex punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Gay rights activists in the parade said the Supreme Court’s decision was a setback. Many people in India are more accepting of gays, especially in big cities where gay-pride parades are now a fixture. Many bars have gay nights, and some high-profile Bollywood films have dealt with gay issues.
In most of the country, however, being gay is seen as shameful, and many gays remain closeted.
“The Supreme Court decision has been a disappointment,” said Hilol Dutta, a gay rights activist who marched Sunday. “We have come together to fight. We should win this case and claim our right to live with dignity.”
The Supreme Court ruled that a 2009 decision by the High Court to strike down the law was unconstitutional, saying that it was for lawmakers — not the courts — to decide the matter.
The ruling dealt a blow to gay activists who have fought for years for the chance to live openly in India.
Many at the parade said the decision was a denial of their human rights.
“Living in India, a democratic country, we feel our rights are being violated as we are not allowed to live as we want,” said Rudrani Chettri, a transgender woman who runs a non-governmental organization that works with sexual minorities on health and rights issues.