India’s most populous city celebrated LGBT Pride on the weekend, with thousands taking to the streets in a colourful display of defiance and fun.
On Saturday afternoon, an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 people proudly took part in the annual Mumbai Pride parade, known as the Queer Azaadi Mumbai march, despite homosexuality remaining criminalised in the country.
Participants carried posters and banners calling for an end to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that bans gay sex while others wore colourful outfits and held up bunches of rainbow balloons and waved rainbow flags.
One girl held up a sign that read, “Searching for a perfect boyfriend for my brother,” while two men dressed in traditional garb walked with a poster proclaiming, “Marriage is all about love, not gender.”
According to DNA, a considerable number of the chanting and cheering marchers were parents who came out to show their support for their LGBTI children.
Pradip Divgikar, whose son Sushant represented India at the Mr Gay World competition last year, told DNA: “He’s gay and I’m happy.”
Sushant added: “I want all parents of LGBTQ children to be like him.”
Pride organiser Harish Iyer commented: “This year’s theme is ‘Fakr’ which means taking pride in what you are. It is a way of underlining how important it is for us to take pride in who we are and for family and society to take pride in letting us be without pressurising us into conforming to the hetero-normative.”
Last month, India’s ruling political party gave its backing to the principle of repealing Section 377, but has not committed to any process to do so.
The law was struck down in 2009 by the Delhi High Court, but reinstated in an unexpected December 2013 ruling by the Supreme Court of India. In April 2014, the court agreed to hear a petition to reconsider its ruling, but there has been no movement on the matter since.
It was recently revealed that almost 600 people were arrested under the law last year. Although it is unclear if any were actually convicted, they could face penalties including life imprisonment.