The pride walk will be flagged off at Deorali in Gangtok and will culminate at Paljor Stadium Credit: File image

Gangtok: Close on the heels of a successful queer pride parade held in neighbouring Darjeeling, the Himalayan state of Sikkim is now gearing up to host one of its own on January 27 this year. The first-of-its-kind event will be organised by the state’s LGBTQIA community to celebrate their ‘freedom’, nearly four months after the Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality in a landmark verdict in September last year.

The event is all set to be organised under the banner of a newly floated organisation, ‘Rainbow Hills’, in collaboration with Mitzyu Foundation of Darjeeling. The parade will be flagged off at Deorali in Gangtok and will culminate at the capital city’s Paljor Stadium.

In the socially conservative Sikkim society, sexual orientation beyond the otherwise accepted ‘heterosexuals’ is often considered a taboo, which leaves the members belonging to the LGBTQIA community isolated and often vulnerable to abuse and discrimination.

Speaking to EastMojo, Lakpa Tamang, founder, Miit Jyu Society, an NGO working among the LGBTQIA community in neighbouring Darjeeling, said, “We are organising this event for the first time in Sikkim. We want all to take part in it and support this noble initiative.”

A similar walk was held successfully in Darjeeling on December 10 last year.

Apart from spreading awareness among the people of the state about LGBTQIA rights, the members of the community also aim at registering their protest against the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2018, a contentious Bill which was recently passed in the Lok Sabha.

Lhamu Dukpa, research scholar, Sikkim University, and a member of the Rainbow Hills Collective, said, “I want to bring the power of self-determination to the table. The Supreme Court has already given us the power to determine who we are. Suddenly, this Bill comes out of nowhere and says that there is going to be a set of individuals including bureaucrats and a transgender representative, who are going to decide whether we are LGBTQIA or not.”

She added, “I feel that there is a lack of representation in terms of LGBTQIA community in its entirety. There should be segregation not just at the national level, but also at the state and district level. There should be stationing of representatives who belong to every identity of this spectrum of desires, and not just transgender. This is why we want to sensitise people and appeal them to oppose the Bill.”

Highlighting the social stigma and the mental trauma faced by members of the community in Sikkim, Tshering Wangchuk Lepcha, LGBTQIA activist, said “Due to lack of acceptance or probably homophobia among the general population of the state, members belonging to LGBTQIA community are suffering from psychotic disorders including depression and anxiety. Some have even committed suicide due to lack of support from society. ”

Drawing a comparison with the neighbouring Darjeeling, Lepcha added, “There are NGO’s in Darjeeling which have been working for the LGBTQIA since 2009, but Sikkim doesn’t have one.”

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