I remember the 6th of September, 2018. It wasn’t very remarkable a day in terms of how the sun shined or which way the wind blew. But it was one that went down in the annals of Indian History as the coming of age of Indian jurisprudence. After years of petitioning by the LGBTQIA+ community, aspects of section 377 that criminalised “consensual sexual conduct between consenting adults of the same sex” was struck down. While we have miles to go in terms of decriminalising same-sex marriage and affirmative policies for non-binary children, youth and adults, and many more, this was still a great milestone.
However, this legal milestone has to be supplemented by progressive policy changes to have a real impact on the lives of people. Also, the queer political landscape in India is undergoing a massive transformation. This change needs to be used to make a difference. It is with these dual objectives that a trio of youngsters – Anish Gawande, Devina Buckshee, and Smriti Deora, collaborated to make the Pink List.
What is the Pink List?
“The Pink List is a collection of candidates contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha elections who have publicly supported LGBTQ+ rights”, reads the introduction of their website. It is a non-exhaustive list of almost all the candidates who have stood up for LGBTQIA+ rights. It is to not only reward them for their endeavours but also to eventually build “a network of politicians across party lines to make queer issues a political imperative.”
Devina and Anish, in an interview with Verve Magazine also note that the list tries to bring grassroots level change. There is a general perception that proactive stances on queer and trans issues only come from English-speaking, elite, urban politicians. By including candidates from all constituencies, urban and rural, the list “brings forth queer allies from smaller towns and rural areas to show that being queer or a queer supporter is not restricted to elite, urban circles.” This goes to reinforce the obvious – that marginalised communities have an important stake in this discourse too.
There are four categories on the list into which politicians have been grouped – Trailblazers, Changemakers, Outspoken Allies, and Allies. Trailblazers are political candidates from the LGBTQIA+ community who have chosen to represent the community in the 17th Lok Sabha. Should they win, they would go down in history as the first ever MP(s) from the community. The list of changemakers includes Dr Shashi Tharoor, Jay Panda, and so on. They are politicians who have “vocally and unequivocally” supported LQBTQIA+ rights in the past, whether it is on the Parliament floor or on various media platforms.
Outspoken Allies are politicians who have gone out of their way to show their support for LGBTQIA+ rights. This could be through public statements on social media, interviews, speeches or Parliament remarks. And finally, Allies are politicians who have shown silent support through small statements or actions within Parliament. Mainly those who supported Shashi Tharoor’s Private Member Bill to scrap Section 377 in the Lok Sabha.
The list is also quick to disclaim that the politicians in the list are only there based on their stance on LGBTQIA+ issues. It is not a blind endorsement and advises voters to do their own research into other aspects of the respective candidates’ views, so as to make an informed choice. Some of the politicians on the list are indeed problematic in various other aspects.
For instance, take Anbumani Ramadoss, a terrific former Union Health Minister who has piloted several important schemes and institutions like the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the 108 ambulance service. He is a Changemaker for being one of the first Indian MPs to speak up on LGBTQIA+ issues. However, he is alleged to be deeply casteist and violated the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) this year by hinting at a possible booth capture at an election rally in Kancheepuram (PRS’s MPtrack and National Election Watch are two sources for quick performance and background data).
Trailblazers: The Fab Five
However, the names to look out for, in the ongoing elections, are definitely the ‘Fab 5’ – the five Trailblazers. Ashwathi Rajappan from Ernakulam, Radha from Chennai South, Sneha Kale from Mumbai North Central, Jatin Mummy from Mumbai North East, and Chirpi Bhawani from Prayagraj. These politicians, if elected, could be India’s first elected Member of Parliament from the LGBTQIA+ community. All the candidates have been known for their phenomenal work for the community on various issues and will provide the much-needed representation for India’s hundreds of thousands of suppressed and oppressed voices.
The Pink List is on Instagram in a super aesthetic, ultra-shareable format, as well as online at pinklistindia.com. The creators, as mentioned before, are the young graduates Anish, Devina, and Smriti. Anish, a graduate from Columbia University, is currently the Director for the Dara Shikoh Fellowship. Devina, who is a deskwriter at TheQuint and a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. Smriti recently graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in Economics and a minor in Consumer Behaviour. Go see if a candidate from your constituency is on the list!
Featured Image Source: Instagram