News (World)

Gay rights activists in India rally, demand end to discrimination

Tsering Topgyal, APGay rights activists display rainbow-colored banner and shout slogans as they march in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013.
Tsering Topgyal, AP
Gay rights activists display rainbow-colored banner and shout slogans as they march in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013.

NEW DELHI — Gay rights activists sang songs and carried rainbow-colored flags while marching to the beat of traditional Indian drums Sunday, as they paraded through India’s capital to demand an end to the stigmatization of gays in the deeply conservative country.

The demonstrators urged an end to all forms of discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgenders in India, four years after a colonial-era law that criminalized gay sex was overturned.

One group of activists carried a 15-meter (50-foot) rainbow-colored banner, while others waved placards demanding the freedom to lead dignified lives.

The march ended with a public meeting at Jantar Mantar, the main area for protests in New Delhi. Many gay rights group members and their families danced and sang as drummers and musicians performed. Others distributed rainbow-colored flags and badges to members of the public who gathered to watch and listen to the speeches.

Many demonstr ators had come to the march to express their support for the gay community in the city.

Ashok Chauhan, an advertising executive in his mid-40s, said he cycled 8 kilometers (5 miles) to the parade to support his friends in their choice of sexuality.

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“It’s a matter of choice, and I think each one of us has the right to choose,” Chauhan said.

The activists also demanded that people be allowed to record the gender of their choice in the national census, voter identity cards and other government documents.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court decriminalized gay sex, which until then had been punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

In some big Indian cities, homosexuality is slowly gaining acceptance, and a few high-profile Bollywood films have dealt with gay issues.

Still, many marchers Sunday covered their faces with scarves or wore masks because they have not told their friends and families about their sexuality.

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