Five judges of the Supreme Court of India ruled on the 6th of September, 2018; in a stunning leap for the nation’s gay rights and a rainbow moment in its history – that Homosexuality is no longer a crime. But, since the British-era, the LGBTQIA+ Community in India has had to face a lot of struggles. In spite of all that, there are a few inspiring people who refuse to stay silent and bear the in-humane pain of not being able to live freely.
These are a few Indian LGBTQIA+ Activists who fought tirelessly, are still fighting for Queer rights and trying to make our country a better place to live in for one and all –
Ashok Row Kavi
A prolific journalist, he is India’s first and oldest gay activist. It’s been 4 decades since he started conversing openly about homosexuality. His 1986 Savvy magazine tell-all interview is legendary because it is where he came out as gay.
He founded the Humsafar Trust, which has done exceptionally well in raising awareness of the queer faction in India. Kavi is also the founder of India’s first gay magazine, Bombay Dost, and has also run a multitude of social projects for HIV/AIDS awareness.
Suave and gentlemanly, he is the executive director of the luxury hotel chain Lalit. He is easily a fearless activist and the corporate face of our country’s gay pride. Now married to his longtime boyfriend; Suri was instrumental in the ruling on Section 377 of the Supreme Court. The policies of his company are amongst the most LGBT-friendly policies that India Inc. has seen. His Kitty Su nightclub in New Delhi has a weekly bash where drag queens and singers attract a number of guests.
She is the loud and proud voice of the lesbian and bisexual women who are often left out from the battle of gay rights. Giani co-founded the eminent LGBT youth group ‘Yaariyan’ and the lesbian-bisexual-transgender support group ‘Umang’. She became a prominent face in 2013, with the TV series ‘Connected Hum Tum’. In this show, she spoke about being a bisexual woman in India.
An LGBTQ+ rights activist, columnist, and environmentalist based in Mumbai; he campaigns in India for a variety of sociopolitical causes. Interestingly, Iyer’s mother had India’s first gay matrimonial ad printed in an Indian newspaper, looking for her son, a “well-placed vegetarian groom”. He also launched and hosted a radio talk show entirely focused on LGBTQ+ issues.
Smashing gender stereotypes about parenting, she featured in a commercial for Vicks, adopting a little girl. Although born as Ganesh, Gauri was never happy in her skin and always stood for her identity. She’s an inspiration to numerous trans people; As well as a mother figure to various children at Aaji Cha Ghar; a place that strives to provide a happy childhood to the kids of sex-workers. Gauri started the trust Sakhi Char Chowghi, which works for the rights of trans people.
Manvendra Singh Gohil
Not just India’s, but world’s first openly gay prince, he was publicly disowned by his mother when he came out. He was on Oprah three times and is now fighting for LGBT rights in India and around the world. He launched a campaign called Free Gay India in 2014; while also setting up the Lakshya Foundation; which promotes safe sex practices, working closely with the gay and transgender communities.
As a young lawyer, he helped draft a challenge to Section 377 in 2001. Bandopadhyay described the ruling as flawed.
“The whole point of the litigation was that it is a constitutional responsibility to protect their rights if even one person is affected,” he said.
Since then, he has been working tirelessly to make sure that the LGBTQ+ community have rights such as same-sex marriage, adoption, etc.
Following the July Supreme Court hearings on Twitter, she and her fellow activists applauded when justices recognized the prejudice faced by LGBTQ Indians; and fumed when homosexuality was linked to “perversions” like bestiality and incest by government lawyers defending the statute.
She has been actively working for the welfare and equal rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi
Also a choreographer, she is a noted activist for transgender rights. She applied to the Indian Supreme Court for recognition of transgender as a third category in legal documents.