India’s First Gay Film Festival Highlights Growing LGBT Visibility
Newscenter, October 19, 2003
By Peter Hacker, 365Gay.com Newscenter, Asia Bureau Chief
Bombay, India—LGBT film festivals are nothing new for most western gay
communities, but for India’s gays the country’s first film festival was
major step forward in self identity.
In a country where homosexuality remains a criminal offence punishable with
sentences from 10 years to life imprisonment just buying a ticket to the film
festival, held this weekend in Bombay, was a major political statement.
Hundreds of people, including lesbian and gay activists, their parents,
relatives and college students packed into the small auditorium to watch the
films that delved into the angst of being gay in tradition-bound India.
The festival featured more than 40 films, including documentaries and
experimental films from 16 countries, including the US, Britain, Germany,
South Korea and France.
“We need to create public awareness and confront prejudice,” said
Chatura, who uses only one name, an activist with Humjinsi, a Bombay-based
lesbian support group. “We hope the film festival will dispel ignorance
about us and our lives and spark debate.”
The Indian produced films were all documentaries. One film, Manjuben, Truck
Driver, focused on the life of a lesbian truck driver from a western Indian
village who said economic independence helped her lead life on her own terms.
Another documentary showed an elderly gay couple who refer to each other as
“my friend,” admit to being gay, lovingly feed each other on New Delhi’s
streets but have not yet come out to their wives, children or grandchildren.
Most Indian gays live at home with their parents, meet their partners at
private parties and invite them home as “friends” for fear of being
disowned by their families.
Gay activists are pressing for the courts to overturn the country’s
sodomy laws. But, the federal government has argued that homosexuality goes
“against public morality.” It said society’s disapproval of
homosexuality was “strong enough to justify it being treated as a criminal
offense, even when adults indulge in it in private.”
Nevertheless, LGBT groups are increasingly becoming vocal. In June there
was a gay pride parade in Calcutta, in eastern India.
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