The city of Chennai, in Tamil Nadu, is due to hold its first Rainbow Parade on June 28th.
The event aims to raise awareness of the challenges facing the state’s LGBT population.
“We would like to look at discrimination of homosexuals by families and society. But most importantly, we would try to bring the role of medical practitioners – primarily mental health professionals who try to ‘cure’ patients of their sexual orientation,” said Dr L Ramakrishnan, the country director of Solidarity and Action Against the HIV Infection in India.
According to section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” a gay man can be given life imprisonment for having consenting adult sex with another man.
Although this law is very seldom enforced, it makes any sort of support or safe sex programme extremely difficult to carry out in practice.
The criminalisation of homosexuality, and the homophobic attitudes held by many across the country, has also led many psychiatrists to prescribe anti-depressants and even electro-shock therapy as ‘cures’ for gay people.
Although India still has a very conservative attitude to gay rights, there does exist a long history of trans and eunuch communities. Trans performers often dance at weddings and trans people in Tamil Nadu are given ration cards and have a welfare board.
“There is a cultural acceptance of transgenders,” Kalki, a trans activist told Expressbuzz.com. “Ours is an issue of gender identity, so the government and media have had a soft spot for us. But homosexuality and bisexuality are related to sexual orientation and society is not as accepting of that.”
“Most transgenders do not identify with the concept of a Pride,” Kalki went on to say, “as most are uneducated and not too westernised unlike the LGB individuals. But this is an opportunity to support them because their state is quite backward in many ways.”