The plethora of different approaches taken to alleviate suffering of the LGBTQ+ communities within South Asia has necessitated the need for the community to fight for itself. Many activists, social workers and public figures have worked tirelessly to help mobilize and protect the LGBT communities within South Asia. Since it is Pride Month, we decided to highlight the heroes who have worked towards the betterment of the LGBT communities within their countries.
Neeli Rana has been part of the fight for Transgender rights since the beginning of the movement in Pakistan.
Pakistan has a long history of Transgender activism. Neeli Rana, one of the oldest, is a transgender activist, who was at the forefront of the struggle with the Supreme Court of Pakistan to grant basic civil rights to the third gender. She is the field supervisor at the Khawaja Sira Society, which provides services for the local transgender community, including HIV/AIDS treatment as well as contraception awareness and distribution through its outreach programme and clinic.
Taking a different approach to her activism, Anaya Sheikh is one of Pakistan’s first and most promising transgender stand up comedians.
Her performances are hilarious but also nuanced as she draws a lot from her life as a person growing up with gender ambiguity. Today, she is a proud trans woman who works on transgender rights and spends her free time making people laugh and showcases the lives of transgender women in a different light.
Jannat defied odds by being a MBA Degree holder with a gold medal distinction.
Jannat Ali is a well-known Lahore based transgender activist, performing artist and NGO professional working who also works at the Khawaja Sira Society, which is a community-based organisation led by the transgender community. Jannat defied odds by also being a MBA Degree holder with a gold medal distinction. She is also a successful Kathak dancer and theater performer for which she has been able to showcase her work not only in Pakistan but across the western world notably Denmark and the United States, in 2016, showing a different side of Pakistan.
Long recognized as one of the most influential figures in the LGBT community in India, Laxmi become famous across the country when she appeared on reality TV show “Big Boss” in 2011. She was also a petitioner in the landmark court ruling that recognized transgender people.
Last year India decriminalized homosexuality. The petition to shoot down the law was headed by 4 people, Chef Ritu Dalmia, owner of the Neemrana chain of hotels Aman Nath, dancer Navtej Singh Johar, senior journalist Sunil Mehra, and businesswoman Ayesha Kapur. In the petition, they argued that “sexual expression, in whatever form, between consenting adults in the privacy of a home ought to receive protection of fundamental rights.”
Without their tireless work, India wouldn’t have sexual equality in their law.
Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, heir apparent to the throne of Rajpipla in western Gujarat state is the first openly gay prince in the world.
He runs a charity that helps the LGBT youth of India, and recently opened up his 15-acre palace grounds to help house vulnerable LGBT people who might otherwise be “left with nothing” when their families disown them after coming out. Gohil’s high profile has helped the LGBT community in India enormously, said Harish Iyer, a gay rights activist.
The man at the forefront of Bhutan’s fight for LGBT equality, Tashi Tsheten has been able to help navigate his country without much opposition. According to Tsheten, the move towards creating an LGBT friendly environment was made possible by the allies to the community, showing how important mobilization of the community is.
As the executive director of Equal Ground, the only mixed organization advocating for LGBTI rights in Sri Lanka, Rosanna is right at the front line of the LGBT battle in Sri Lanka. She is also a co-founder of the Sri Lankan LBT organization, Women’s Support Group, which was established in 1999 to provide support for lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. In more conservative countries like Sri Lanka, activists are at risk of much greater danger, making their work all the more meaningful.
While he may not belong to the community, Ismail Khilath Rasheed is a Maldivian blogger known for his support of religious tolerance and his involvement in several national controversies. Reporters Without Borders has described him as a “leading journalist” and “one of his country’s leading free speech advocates”. His work has moved towards protecting and calling out the conservative government for it’s punishment of LGBT members. He was once even stabbed in the neck by extremists for his views.
An activist that paid the ultimate price for his work, Xulhaz Mannan was the founder of Bangladesh’s first and only LGBT-themed magazine Roopbaan. Giving a voice and platform to the disenfranchised LGBT community of conservative Bangladesh, Xulhaz made a lot of enemies. Xulhaz Mannan was one of two people hacked to death in an attack in the capital, Dhaka, by a gang posing as couriers in order to gain access to his apartment in the Kalabagan area of the city.
For the LGBT communities of South Asia, now is a time for both freedom and oppression.
While some communities have found a way to exist and fight for each other, other parts of the community still have to hide within the shadows to exist. Understanding that, the best way for you to help out is by providing a safe space for those around you to mobilize. To help the community know they are not alone, but without putting them at risk.