A group of young women July 12 announced the formation of ‘Sukia’ in northeastern Indian state of Assam, according to timesofindia.indiatimes.com adding that this is the state’s first collective organization working to support the region’s LGBT community.
The group is organizing a three-day national event in the state capital of Guwahati August 8-10 next to create awareness about the rights of same-sex relations in India.
“We want to reach out to the people at the grass root level. There is too much social stigma attached to homosexuality, and gay people fear to disclose them due to this,” Meenakshi Bujorbaruah, one of the founders of Sukia told timesofindia.indiatimes.com.
In February, the young women, along with some volunteers, had organized the first gay pride parade in northeastern India.
The northeastern region, bordering Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Myanmar, is cut off from mainland India except for a 20-kilometer wide strip of land.
The region is India’s most impoverished with many complaining it has been marginalized because it is largely tribal-dominated.
It also has some 25 militant groups clamoring either for secession or more autonomy and who have undertaken an armed fight for socio-economic independence that has claimed hundreds of lives over the years.
“It is a collective of mostly young women and others to take forward LGBT activism in the region. Sukia envisages to one day make its mark in forming a strong LGBT mass movement, creating a gay friendly Assam,” said Gayatri Bhuyan, another co-founder.
Sukia aims to encourage more active participation in the organization from across the region.
The women have had to face intimidation especially from rightwing groups because they are women and same-sex issues are not only controversial but socially considered taboo.
India is also a highly conservative patriarchal society that generally mistreats women. Sexual violence against women include kidnapping, torture, molestation and sexual harassment.
Sukia also led the protest against the Supreme Court’s reinstatement of the repressive Section 377 law last December.
The gay, lesbian and bisexual community in India is facing severe constraints, waging a legal battle to do away with the British colonial-era “Section 377” law that describes same-sex relations as “unnatural” and punishable with life imprisonment.
India saw a window of opportunity in equality laws when the Delhi High Court in 2009 decriminalized same-sex relations. However, that was reversed.
India has at least 40-60 million LGBT people in India but anecdotal suggestion that one in 10 people are LGBT would put the figure even higher, at around 120 million people in India.