Across the globe, June is celebrated as Pride Month in dedication to LGBTQIA communities right to live an equal and dignified life. The history of Pride dates back to 28th June 1969, when the police raided the Stonewall inn, a gay club in Manhattan NYC. Police raids on LGBTQ+ bars were common, distressed with the constant harassment by the officials on the night of 28th June, the members of the community decided to fight back, which led to an uprising and more than 500 people marched the streets to protest against the discrimination of LGBTQ+ people. The movement was mainly led by drag queens and trans people.
Why is it called Pride?
A year later, on the morning of 28th June 1970, the first Pride Parade took place in New York — Christopher Street Liberation March. LGTBTQ+ people were subjected to unwanted hatred, deprived of basic human dignity and were made to feel ashamed and guilty of their identities. Craig Schoonmaker who was a part of the organising committee first associated the word 'Pride' with the LGBTQ+ parade to counter the stigma and honour the struggle and give dignity to the queer community.
When did India celebrate its first pride?
Even though Pride Parades started in 1970, it took 29 years for Pride to come to India. The first Pride Parade in India took place in Calcutta on 2nd July 1999. It was called 'The Friendship Walk'. Considering Kolkata's rich history of the human rights movement, such as feminism, rights of peoples with disabilities, etc., and also cultural influences; it was chosen for the first march. A group of 15 men wearing yellow shirts with the phrases “LGBT-India” and “Walk on the Rainbow” led the march.
After the 1999 parade, the Pride Parade wasn't organised again till 2003. In 2008, the Pride Parade spread from Kolkata to other metro cities like Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai. The first parade in Mumbai was called 'Queer Azaadi Mumbai' and was held in August, just a day after Independence Day.
After the decriminalisation of homosexuality by the Delhi High Court, more cities started organising pride parades.
Criminalisation of Homosexuality
The criminalisation of homosexuality or homosexual activity was enacted by British rule in India under Article 377. The law stood the same even after 70 years of independence. It is argued that initially, the British Raj introduced Section 377 to police and control the bodies of their colonial subjects, as according to them these subjects were seen as perverse and in need of imposition.
In 2009, the Delhi High Court, in the Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi case found that Section 377 was in direct violation of fundamental human rights under the Indian Constitution, following homosexuality was decriminalised. This law was applied across the country and not only in Delhi.
In 2012, the Ministry of Home Affairs under P. Chidambaram opposed the decriminalisation of homosexuality, stating that in India and Indian culture it is considered immoral. Even though in a few days, the Central government changed its stance by saying that there was no legal error in decriminalising homosexuality, in 2013, the Supreme Court of India revoked the 2009 Delhi High Courts decision, decriminalising consensual homosexual activity.
In 2014, Naz Foundation filed a review petition in the Supreme Court of India, which was dismissed because, "While reading down Section 377, the High Court overlooked that a minuscule fraction of the country's population constitutes lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgender people, and in the more than 150 years past, less than 200 persons have been prosecuted for committing (an) offence under Section 377, and this cannot be made a sound basis for declaring that Section ultra vires Articles 14, 15 and 21."
Decriminalisation of Homosexuality
Again in 2016, the Supreme Court decided to review the criminalisation of homosexuality and the following year (2017), they unanimously ruled that the right to individual privacy is an intrinsic and fundamental right under the Indian Constitution.
Finally in 2018, on 6th September, Supreme Court issued its verdict and ruled that Section377 was unconstitutional and infringed upon the fundamental rights of autonomy, intimacy, and identity, thus legalising homosexuality in India. The previous judgement in 2013, was overturned (for good). The judgement was also safeguarded to ensure that it cannot be revoked again in the future under the "Doctrine of Progressive Realisation of Rights".
The LGBTQIA+ community felt valid and accepted in the country. In the pride parades following the judgement, the community marched as freer citizens of the countries.