Pride march

Are Pride Marches Caste Inclusive?

What happened? 

The Mumbai Pride Parade is fresh in the memory of India’s queer community. Pictures and videos from the day are still making the rounds on our social media feeds. However, on this day of acceptance and celebration, certain groups within the queer community reported feeling unheard and alienated.  

At this year’s Pride march, a confusion arose where some marchers were refrained by the authorities from raising political slogans. Among these were sympathizers for the Palestinian cause, and people from the anti-caste movement. 

The initial stance of the organizers was that they had received police permission to only celebrate and amplify issues surrounding the LGBTQ community. However, later they issued a public apology for the actions of certain volunteers.   

At the outset, the caution exercised by the Mumbai Pride authorities is understandable, given its recent history. In 2019 the Mumbai Police filed sedition charges against several who marched at Pride, because they were making anti-CAA slogans. Then the pandemic hit us, so Mumbai Pride has returned after a long wait of four years. Yet this incident made way for discourse around the need to provide space to minority groups within the queer community, e.g. queer folx from the Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi (DBA) community. 

Delving into the history of Pride as a protest 

So, then the question arises, is it necessary to make way for the voices of a minority group in a Pride march. Maybe the answer to that lies in the history of the Pride protest. The first Pride march in the world happened in the USA in 1970. It was meant to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. On June 28th, 1969, police clashed with the local community during one of their regular raids on the Stonewall Inn. The patrons protested the policing of gender expression—it was US law to arrest cross-dressers and ‘sexually deviant’ persons in the 1960s.  

Therefore, the idea of the Pride march rose from the belly of an uprising against heteronormative, patriarchal norms. As it grew over the decades, and as gay rights had its moments of victories, it also made space for celebration of queer people. 

In India, the earliest LGBTQIA+ demonstration happened in 1992. That too was elicited by a police raid at Connaught Place, Delhi, where they suspected homosexual activity. Members of the AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan (ABVA) picketed outside the police headquarters in Delhi.  

This very same group filed a public interest litigation (PIL) against the homophobic clauses in Section 377 of IPC, making it the first such move that attempted to decriminalize homosexuality in India. Following this, in July 1999 India had its first Pride Walk in the city of Kolkata. It also happened to be the first Pride march in south Asia. 

Over the last decade, especially since the decriminalization of Section 377, the Pride movement has garnered momentum in India, with Pride marches now being held over 21 Indian cities. And while celebration of queer expression is a big part of it, revisiting the history of the Pride movement globally and in our country clearly shows that it started as a protest. People came together in solidarity demanding their rights to dignity and justice. 

The very existence of LGBTQIA+ people in a world that prescribes heterosexuality, gender binary and monogamy as the prescribed lifestyle is a political endeavor. Therefore, to assume that the queer space cannot make way for political questions, besides queer rights, is a partial understanding of queerness. 

What is intersectionality? 

There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”—Audre Lorde 

When the term intersectionality was introduced to the feminist movement, a lot of minority groups previously sidelined by white feminism found new ground to build upon. Intersectionality is the understanding of our lived experiences through the sociopolitical markers of power and privilege (or the lack thereof) that we are born into. This includes among other things race, gender, sexuality, religion, ability and in India, the question of caste.  

Intersectionality helps us make sense of the differing power dynamics that arise from differing sociopolitical locations. For example, a white gay man might be discriminated against based on his sexuality, but he will have racial and ableist privilege over a black disabled queer non-binary person. Similarly, in our country while all queer people face systemic discrimination, the inequity faced by Dalit queer folx is multiplied due to their oppressed caste location. 

The intersection of queer and caste identities 

Caste is one of the biggest markers of privilege in the Indian subcontinent. One’s caste location becomes a factor that can lead to discrimination in all aspects of social life, from accessing education to financial mobility. If we were to go by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) there has been a 35 per cent increase in caste-based violence from 2018 to 2022. In 2021, Maharashtra was among the top five Indian states when it came to violence against Scheduled Tribes (ST). The NCRB doesn’t have consolidated data for crimes against LGBTQIA+ persons, which itself belies a systemic gap in providing safety to queer people. 

The Indian queer movement functions within this same social order, where unspoken hierarchies exist. This is a moment for self-reflection within the queer community, where these unofficial fault lines within the community need to be examined.  


The queer liberation movement is based on the idea of freedom for all people, of all intersections. However, if Dalit queer people who are discriminated against in most spaces cannot claim space for themselves then the movement fails at its ideals of diversity, equality, and inclusion. For that awareness of caste privilege and sensitization towards DBA lived realities is the natural progression. 

Did You Know? 

The term intersectionality was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. A black scholar, activist and Professor of law, Crenshaw conceived this idea as she was advocating for a black woman who was denied employment at a car manufacturing plant. While the company hired Black men for technical, mechanical work, and white women for clerical roles, being a black woman Crenshaw’s client was uniquely discriminated against given her identity. Which intersected between the racial identity of being a Black person, and the gender identity of being a woman. Hence, the idea of intersectionality! 

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