Kolkata, July 7: Several hundred members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community decked up in psychedelic accessories, proudly walked and danced their way through in the oldest pride walk in south Asia - Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk - Sunday to protest violence against women and sexual minorities.
In its 12th year, the Kolkata Pride Walk witnessed participation of Indians (from Odisha, Delhi, Bangalore etc.) as well as foreigners from Nepal, African countries and the US and also underscored the need to legalise gay marriage in the country.
"Initially the core issue was to spread awareness but now the walk has evolved as a way to fight for our rights. This year we have focused on legalising gay marriage in India and acceptance of the LGBT community as part of the mainstream," Madhu, a transvestite, told IANS.
The walkers in vibrant clothes accentuated with rainbow-hued scarves, peacock-feather head dresses, bow-ties, bonnets, waistbands, badges and flags, stunned onlookers as they threaded their way through city traffic from Jatin Das Park Metro station in south Kolkata to the centrally-located Academy of Fine Arts, displaying banners that said 'Yes to Sexual Diversity, No to Sexual Violence'.
Making sure that their slogans of "Meyete meyete prem hoyeche ... priti koto ulte geche (there is reversal in rules of love as women fall for women now)" were heard amid the din of traffic, drummers accompanied the procession all the way through leading from the front.
Two trucks decorated in balloons and streamers ferried some of the sloganeers as a few constantly jived to the rhythm of the drums.
"The walk has really evolved. We are hopeful that it will bring about positive changes in the future," said Souvik of Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival, one of the organisers.
Athlete Pinky Pramanik also felt the same.
"I hope they don't have to face problems in the future. I am here so that they can have a better future," said Pramanik.
Known as 'Star Max' in the gay community, a 21-year-old participant from Nepal (where gay marriage is legal) said India should go for legalising gay marriage as "awareness has finally led to acceptance".
"Most importantly we want respect. I hope society learns to respect us. I feel happy to be in Kolkata which has a huge acceptance of the community. Now India should opt for making gay marriage legal," Star Max told IANS.
A participant from Odisha said the acceptance was greater in metropolitan cities whereas small cities like Bhubaneswar still have a long way to go.
Pitching in to show their support, members of several organisations like Dum Dum Swikriti Society, the American Center, Responsible Charity, Desi Boyz and Kalyani University's New Gender Studies group also joined in.
In a display of solidarity, organisers of the Kolkata Slut Walk also did their bit.
Taking a cue from the July 2, 2009, historic verdict of the Delhi High Court that decriminalised gay sex, the rallyists also drew attention to decriminalising same-sex relationships.
"One must understand that they are not criminals. It is something natural," said a teacher from Ghana working in the city, who had come to support the cause.
Drawing huge rounds of applause, Debi Debnath, a lesbian, swathed in a black outfit with multi-coloured wings, was egged-on by her mother dressed symbolically in a white saree with rainbow border, while Rohan Noronha, a gay freelance journalist showed his support of the transgender members by showing up in bridal wear.
Several onlookers were seen asking for leaflets and brochures as several others spontaneously started walking with the LGBT community.