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ConQueering Politics: LBGTQIA+ Representation in India

With representation, comes rights. Understanding this, the queer community has been engaging in politics, and is on a quest to secure the rights that is rightfully theirs. 

On a particular October morning, a bunch of youngsters walked towards the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) office quite exalted. They reached their destination. After forming two lines, they proudly waved their appointment letters. They were new members – inducted into the party’s fresh LGBTQ+ cell. This is a major milestone in the political representation of the community. That is, a dedicated cell to represent them in a mainstream political party. That’s why this is perhaps the most significant ‘walk’ after India’s very first 15-member Pride Parade in 1999. Both of these walks are thresholds of greater development of the queer movement.

Since the first pride parade, the queer movement has only grown, albeit slowly. Till 2018, homosexuality was criminalized. But when the Supreme Court decided to partially strike down IPC Section 377, it opened up various public avenues that had been previously withheld from the community, simply because they were queer. And politics was one of those avenues. Before this, there was queer participation in politics. But those were more of the exceptions than the collective norm. They were sporadic instances like Shabnam ‘Mausi’ Bano and others. But now, there are more openly queer politicians than there have ever been. In that sense, striking down of Section 377 was the Renaissance of the queer movement – ushering in a period of groundbreaking achievements.

Madhu Kinnar. Gopi Shankar Madurai. Apsara Reddy. Sneha Kale. Who are these people? They are some of India’s openly queer politicians, signifying the ‘rainbow wave’ in Indian politics. From being in the shadows, they have come into the light – either independently, or as a part of political parties. The inception of the LGBTQ+ cell is a standing testimony of the increasing participation of the community in politics. Historically, rights have come with representation, and all over the world, representation has been seen as a prerequisite for acquiring rights; for instance, minority representation in the legislature, amongst others. And hopefully, queer rights would be established more solidly with more LGBTQIA+ representation in mainstream politics. 

Apart from mainstream politics, what about DUSU? Speaking about this, Prabhanu – a member of the community and a part of AISA – says that “There are a few members of the community in SFI and AISA. Personally speaking, I have felt that AISA is an inclusive space for me. But the queer representation here is symbolic, at least as of now. ABVP is voted to power almost always, and we can’t expect queer rights on its agenda. As long as ABVP dominates DUSU, queer rights would be difficult to attain, even with representation, albeit in other organizations.”

Isn’t it high time to change this symbolic representation?

Read also: Reclaiming Queer Identity in Literature

Featured Image Credits: Bhagyashree Chatterjee for DU Beat

Harish Neela Lingam

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Just a guy trying to live before he dies.