Free & Equal Does Bollywood

Free & Equal Does Bollywood

Last year, in an arguably archaic move, India’s Supreme Court recriminalized homosexuality in India. Since then, there has been a huge nationwide debate in regards to sex and sexuality – not all of it healthy.

It seems modern India is heavily divided on whether homosexuality is ‘sinful’ and ‘goes against traditional Indian culture’, or on whether love is sacred and should be honoured between two consenting adults regardless of gender (at BJ!, we obviously subscribe to the latter).

On the slightly brighter side, the ruling once again brings LBGT rights to the forefront of India’s conversation on sex and sexuality, and there has been a renewed outpouring of support for the LBGT community.

Free & Equal is the UN initiative advocating for LBGT rights worldwide, and considering India accounts for roughly 14% of the world population, it is no surprise that Free & Equal’s latest campaign has a Bollywood theme to it, specifically targeting Indian audiences. And considering Bollywood’s massive pull worldwide, and especially around Asia and Africa, the video is a great way to reach many different nations across the world with the idea of universal equal human rights.

The video – titled ‘The Welcome’ – focuses on the very relatable story of bringing a partner home to meet the family and incorporates signature Bollywood features such as dancing, colours, singing and dramatic, cutesy grandmas.

What we especially love  is the active role of Celina Jaitly – the former Miss India, now Bollywood actress – who acts as a ‘mediator’ between the family and the man bringing home his boyfriend (presumably, her brother). Jaitly has said she has received death threats towards her and her children for choosing to support LBGT community, which unfortunately isn’t surprising.

With threats like that, it is understandably not easy for any public figure in India to come out in support of LBGT rights. However, as a recent Policy Mic article points out, for any country to progress socially, the coming out and/or support of public figures is especially important to create awareness and confidence amongst the LBGT and larger communities.

In countries like Russia, Uganda and Kenya, where homosexuality has also been recently outlawed, punishable with incarceration and fears of mob violence, there are public figures and writers stepping out of the closet to push for social progress – to be fearless agents of change. In India, however, we still seem to lack an honest public discourse and fearlessness around homosexuality, with very few people stepping up to advocate for our LBGT community.

While I do not mean to put all the burden of discourse on the shoulders of Bollywood, our heros and heroines do have an unprecedented cult following, and it would greatly benefit the nation to have those public figures who believe in LBGT rights to step out and speak publicly on the issue when the opportunity arises – or create such opportunities – if only to spark the conversation on a national level.

In the meantime, all of us here at BJ! extend our unconditional support to those in the LBGT community and will continue to fight alongside them for their rights – and we suggest you kick back and enjoy the video, the infectious music and perhaps do a little equal rights dance of your own!