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Performing Pride/Performing Protest: LGBT Activism Post Recriminalizing of Section 377

Priyam Ghosh, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

Abstract

The landmark judgment delivered by the Delhi High Court on 2nd July 2009 for reading down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and its reinstatement on 11th December, 2013 seemed to spearhead search for alternative spaces for performances. This paper aims at mapping and studying some LGBT protest performances emerging post recriminalisation of homosexuality under Section 377. Events and performances including LGBT pride parade, gay for a day (on facebook) and Global day of Rage have stirred public conscience and are known for the level of performativity and feminist/queer strategies like parody and camp. Considering the events during this period the categorization of the performances as feminist/queer itself is problematised. This paper aims to identify potential common ground wherein the feminism-queer divide breaks to produce alternative performance spaces. The case studies are historicized and considered through impact of state surveillance, the market, globalization, culture and changing feminist/queer ideology in the above mentioned case studies.

Introduction

The 90s in India has seen the emergence of the political assertion of the ‘private realm of sexuality’ (Narrain, 2004: 1). The euphoric outburst post the 2009 judgment reading down Section 377 seemed to be a culminating moment of the ‘performative coming out’ of queer sexuality in public space. In the capital, celebratory spectacles like pride parade, flash mobs and other performances contrasted the earlier more clandestine subcultures of queer life. The performative euphoria reflected through the effects of decriminalization was seen as the ‘new lease of life’ for different feminist/queer communities, legitimizing a space where their sexuality could be performed without the constant surveillance or harassment by the State. While the recriminalisation of Section 377 in December, 2013 curbed individual rights and ‘right to life’, LGBT activists along with people from the LGBT community and supporters for equal rights resorted to occupying strategic public spaces as well as virtual world through social media.

The euphoric celebration of sexuality in form of protest indeed contrasted a number of defiant performative incidents initiated by feminist and queer groups before. These earlier incidents were now recalled and re-contextualized as significant ‘performative’ expressions, which were reflected the mood for change. For example the incident of the Mangalore Pub Attack and the subsequent ‘pink chaddi campaign’ (Bangalore 2009), performance art on sexual harassment by Blank Noise, FKBK etc (Manola Gayatri: 2009). The self-confessed ‘frivolous’ response of the Pink Chaddi Campaign nevertheless set a precedent for later modes of protest whose impact may even be seen on the later slut walks. While citing particular feminist/ queer performances, I contextualize how one is inherently connected to the other in a more complex way than cause-effect syndrome… Access Full Text of the Article

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