2017: The Indian LGBT Year in Review
With 2017 drawing to a close, it is time to quickly look back at some of the key events and people who grabbed our attention before we start celebrating the new year. 2017 was marked with some encouraging news from the Supreme Court on privacy rights for LGBT Indians. The Indian government maintained its antipathy towards the community by proposing a rather transphobic bill on transgender rights. On the positive side, new films and books on LGBT themes ensured that the voices of LGBT Indians remained strong throughout.
- Indian LGBT News Story of the Year – SC Ruling on Privacy Rights
The right to privacy cannot be denied to members of the LGBT community merely because they have unconventional sexual orientation and form a miniscule fraction of the over 1.32 billion Indian population, the Supreme Court observed in August. This ruling was seen as an indication that the SC could review its own earlier Section 377 judgement that recriminalized homosexuality in 2013.
- International LGBT News Story of the year: Australia approves gay marriage
As the year closed, the Australian Parliament has approved same-sex marriage with an overwhelming majority after a popular referendum indicated widespread public support for the same. The prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said after the vote, “Australia has done it. Every Australian had their say, and they said – it’s fair, get on with it.” Australia is now the 25th country in the world that allows gay couples to marry.
- Homophobic Act of the year – India votes against death penalty for gays
The 47-member Human Rights Council passed the resolution – “The question of the death penalty” – on Friday, September 29, with 27 States voting in favour, 13 against and 7 abstentions. India was one of the countries that voted against. “It is unconscionable to think that there are hundreds of millions of people living in States where somebody may be executed simply because of whom they love” said Renato Sabbadini, Executive Director of The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).
- LGBT Books of the Year – ‘No Other World’ and ‘No One Can Pronounce My Name’
Two novels from Indian gay men living in the United States grabbed our attention this year. ’No Other World’ by Rahul Mehta features an Indian American boy, Kiran, growing up in rural New York. As Kiran learns what it is to be a gay Indian boy – later, man – in the United States, his parents navigate their own marital discord, while also struggling to adjust to life in a new country. ‘No One Can Pronounce My Name’ by Rakesh Satyal focuses on a group of Indian Americans living outside Cleveland. Not only are they struggling to figure out who they are and what their relationship is with their adopted country, but they are also trying to discern how exactly they fit within their cultural community, and even within their families.
- LGBT Film of the Year – ‘Call Me By Your Name’
Call Me By Your Name’ directed by Luca Guadagnino and written by James Ivory, is based on the novel by André Aciman. Set in the summer of 1983, in the north of Italy, this is a love story between Elio Perlman, (Timothée Chalamet) a 17-year-old American and Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old graduate student working on his doctorate. Elio and Oliver spend a summer together that will alter their lives forever
- LGBT Ally of the Year: Amar Singh
Amar Singh, whose belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Kapurthala state, is the owner of Amar Gallery in Islington, London and promotes the works of LGBT people and women in the art world. He is a champion of diversity in the arts, and an activist against India’s anti-gay laws. “We have a serious problem when people are being repressed for their love choices,” he said in an interview to a British magazine. “Who cares about peoples’ relationships? It’s a sad state of affairs when Indian law puts people in prison for years for being gay. And living in fear is worse than being dead!”
- LGBT Person of the year – Ashok Row Kavi
Ashok Row Kavi received the Shivananda Khan Award for Extraordinary Achievement following a lifetime devoted to improving the lives of LGBT people and people affected by HIV across India specifically and throughout Asia more broadly. The Director of the awards, Poonkasetwattana said, “Mr. Kavi is an exceptional figure in the region and a true hero of the LGBT community and the response to HIV. He is a courageous and inspirational leader who has dedicated his life to improving the lives of others in need.”