On September 6, 2018, the Supreme Court of India finally decriminalised gay sex by revising Section 377 of the penal code. Without a doubt, this was a monumental step for the country’s LGBTQ community. The new provisions to Section 377 also gave fundamental rights to transgender people and ensured that being gay would not be regarded as a mental disorder.
Still, when it comes to LGBTQ rights, conservative Indian society has a long way to go. Because of this, young people across the country are working to challenge deeply-rooted discriminatory attitudes. That’s the intention behind the Allahabad Queer Film Fest, a two-day film festival to be held in Allahabad or Prayagraj, as it is officially known, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. This is a big deal because this is the first time a queer film fest will be held in the city known for its traditional mindset when it comes to gender and sexuality.
The event is organised by Allahabad's Resistive Alliance for Queer Solidarity (RAQS), a youth-based initiative, and sponsored by Humsafar Trust, a Mumbai-based collective that works with LGBTQ communities.
Pratik Srivastav, a lawyer at Allahabad high court and a member of RAQS, told the Hindustan Times that the featured films will focus on “issues faced by the community across the country.”
The selection of films, documentaries, and videos includes Red Wali Dress about a young girl coming out to her mother, and Lesbian Anthem, a music video that tells the story of love without barriers. The screenings will mainly be in Hindi.
Allahabad is known for its historical and profoundly-religious significance. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was the administrative and cultural centre under the Mughal rule. In 2018, its name was changed back to what it was once known as — Prayagraj, the Sanskrit word for “place of sacrifice.”
For Hindus, this is a sacred place and a popular pilgrimage destination. It is situated at the centre of India’s three holy rivers: the Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati. It is also dotted with temples, which have become important landmarks.
With this history also comes conservative attitudes that are entrenched in the city’s society. Some say, though, that people are starting to be more accepting. Organisations like RAQS hope initiatives like the upcoming film festival can encourage conversation and give a voice to the LGBTQ community.