#RightToLove campaign narrates how India's LGBT citizens cope with discrimination

Published: May 19, 2014

Yesterday was marked as the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, calling upon the world leaders to take action on crimes against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community.

United Nation’s general secretary Ban Ki-moon stood with placard appealing to the world to be more tolerant of each other.

In his blogpost ‘Equality begins with you’, Ban noted how most countries not only don’t offer protection against discrimination, but instead have laws that criminalise homosexuality (looking at you, India). He reminds the readers, "In 76 countries, having a partner of the same sex is even a prosecutable crime. People are arrested, imprisoned, and in some cases executed, just because they are in a loving relationship."

In conclusion, he adds, "We have a long road ahead. It will not be easy. But we must ask ourselves: Do we want to live in a world where love is targeted or where it is celebrated?"

That. Just that one simple question.

Why should love be criminalised? Why isn’t the right to love a universal human right yet?

A small group of Indian student activists from Jamia Millia Islamia, attempts to answer this question. Aptly called the ‘Right to Love’, document true to life stories of love from across the country. "Love shouldn’t need a justification at all. It is our right," they theorise.

Tahir Ahmed, co founder on the project, explains, "For one, Right to Love is not just about the right to have sex with a consenting adult. We are talking about all the other rights too—be it the right to marry, the right to own property as a gay couple, the right to economic equality as a homosexual."

It was only in December last year, in one sweeping judgement the Supreme Court of India criminalised the entire LGBT community by upholding the archaic law Section 377, four years after it was decriminalised by the Delhi High Court.

And if one were to go by the numbers given by the government, the judgement affected 2.5million homosexuals in India. "Now that is more than the population of Greece, Portugal and Mauritius combined. Our aim is to document this phase of struggle for equality," emphasises Ahmed.

Although the idea for this campaign was conceived for a Master’s project, the SC verdict suddenly shot it to forefront, providing voice to the marginalised.

What is the project about?

"As the project’s title suggests, our goal is to make sure that we all have the Right to Love whoever we want, the way we want," explains cofounder Karan Deep Singh. "Somewhere we felt that dominant perceptions could only be changed once people see and experience human stories from the community. Because, sexuality is so intrinsic to oneself, it makes us who we are," he elaborates.

And so in short five minute video clips, they narrate personal stories of those struggling to cope with being queer in India, a nation that is still grappling with 21st century ideas of human rights and dignity. "Real-life stories have an instant connect with people. These are stories of love, abuse, coming out, struggle for identity and most importantly, stories of people who have been marginalised. It helps people comprehend what the challenges have been for the ones who’ve been denied their rights since 1861," explains Karan Dhar.

For instance, in the very first episode of explores how a 21 year old tries to come to terms with his identity, after having been told over and again how his feelings were wrong and immoral.

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