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Indian Filmmaker Leena Yadav to Direct Tragic Gay Love Story “Secret Sky” set in Iran

Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands? - Author Ernest J. Gaines

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"Bear" community carry a banner during the 2014 D.C. Capital Pride parade, held in Washington, D.C

November 6, 2016: Indian filmmaker Leena Yadav, who helmed the acclaimed film “Parched”, has signed on to direct “Secret Sky”, the true and tragic love story between teenage boys in Iran, where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by the death penalty.

Carol Polakoff’s Viewfinder Pictures and Daniel Dreifuss’s Anima Pictures are developing the human rights film based on a true story, reports the online Hollywood Reporter.

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 It follows the two teens as they are put in prison, go to trial and pay the price for their crimes. A female lawyer, inspired by a real person, attempts to fight for their freedom.

Micah Schraft and Abdi Nazemian are writing the film, which is planned as Yadav’s English-language debut. Gersh represents Yadav and Viewfinder, and is presenting the film to foreign buyers this week at American Film Market & Conferences (AFM). It’s slated to be shot in 2017.

“This story, though political in nature and about civil rights, must be delivered through the heart and Leena has shown that she can make a beautiful film… But also deliver a socially impactful punch,” Polakoff said.

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“She has uncommon courage and passion, and holds nothing back,” she added.

Yadav’s most recently “Parched”, which followed the lives of four women in rural India who rebel against century-old cultural practices and patriarchal traditions, and break free to explore the true meaning of what it is like to be alive. (IANS)

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Treading Towards a More Tolerant Society, Serbia’s Openly Gay PM Joins Belgian Gay-Pride March

Ana Brnabic, Serbia's first openly gay prime minister, has always tried to shift the focus away from her sexual orientation, asking "Why does it matter?"

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Serbia's first ever openly gay prime minister, Ana Brnabic, center, attends a gay pride march in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. Brnabic joined several hundred gay activists at a pride event held amid tight security in the conservative Balkan country. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic) (VOA)

Serbia, September 18, 2017 : Ana Brnabic, Serbia’s first openly gay prime minister, joined several hundred activists at a gay-pride march in Belgrade on Sunday.

Brnabic, who is also the first woman in top-level job, said she is working “one step at a time” toward building a more tolerant society.

Serbian riot police cordoned off the city center with metal fences early Sunday to prevent possible clashes with extremist groups opposed to the gay-pride march. Similar events have been marred by violent clashes in the conservative country.

“The government is here for all citizens and will secure the respect of rights for all citizens,” Brnabic told reporters. “We want to send a signal that diversity makes our society stronger, that together we can do more.”

Members of Serbia’s embattled LGBT community face widespread harassment and violence from extremists. Violence marred the country’s first gay-pride march in 2001, and more than 100 people were injured during a similar event in 2010 when police clashed with right-wing groups and soccer hooligans. Several pride events were banned before marches resumed in 2014.

GAY-PRIDE MARCH
Gay rights activists dance during a gay pride march in Belgrade, Serbia, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. Holding rainbow flags, balloons and a banner reading ‘For change,’ participants gather in central Belgrade, capital, before setting off for a march through the city center. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic) (VOA)

Brnabic, who was elected in June, has tried to shift the focus away from her sexual orientation, asking “Why does it matter?”

Serbia is on track to join the European Union, but the EU has asked the country to improve minority rights, including for the LGBT community.

The marchers Sunday said they hoped Brnabic will bring about legislative changes for same-sex couples. (VOA)

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Nepal’s Gay Pride Parade to Correspond with Hindu Festival Gai Jatra

The gay pride march is timed to correspond with the Hindu festival of Gai Jatra

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Gay pride parade
Gay Pride Procession. Pixabay
  • Around 1,500 people took part in the parade, paying tribute to members of LGBTI community who had died in 2017
  • Last month a transgender woman and her husband were issued a marriage certificate by a district office, a first in Nepal
  • Country’s laws are silent on same-sex or transgender marriages and the legality of the union is unclear

Kathmandu, Aug 09, 2017:  In an annual gay pride parade, members of Nepal’s gay community marched through Kathmandu Tuesday in masses wearing vibrant costumes and carrying rainbow flags and balloons.

The gay pride march is timed to correspond with the Hindu festival of Gai Jatra, which brings crowds onto the streets to pay tributes to those who have died in the past year.

Formerly, when Nepal was under royal rule, Gai Jatra was also a chance for people to criticize the government. It was an event where people were seen in colorful costumes satirizing politicians.

With context to Hinduism, the whole complex of Gai Jatra festival has its roots in the biblical age when people feared and worshiped Yamaraj, the god of death.

During the festival of Gaijatra, the cow parade was brought before the grief-stricken ruler. Then the participants began ridiculing and be-fooling the influential people of the society.

In recent years, the gay community has started following the festival to underscore its demands for equal rights.

More than 1,500 people who took part in the parade, to pay tribute to members of LGBTI community had died in 2017, including American artist Gilbert Baker who designed the rainbow flag that has become an emblem of the gay community.

ALSO READ: Gaydio-India’s First LGBTQ Radio Show will help People understand Gender and Sexuality in a better manner 

“Every year we celebrate a pride festival to show that we want to be recognized in this society with our different identity, that we are a part of this society,” said Pinky Gurung, president of the Blue Diamond Society, a gay rights organization in Nepal, reports Deccan Chronicle.

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Nepal has some of South Asia’s most liberal laws on homosexuality and transgender rights, nonetheless, members of the community continue to face discrimination and live in the shadows of society, say activists.

According to a report in Deccan Chronicle, Kirti Gurung, a 21-year-old transgender woman said, “The government has recognized us but should do more. People of the third gender like us should be able to come out in the open, society should accept us.”

Last month a transgender woman and her husband were issued a marriage certificate by a district office which is the first occurrence of its kind in Nepal.

However, the country’s laws are still silent on same-sex or transgender marriages and the legality of the union is ambiguous.


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Rainbow Designs: Using Architecture to Sensitize People for the Rights of LGBT Community

The sensitisation hub, shaped like a pizza slice, seeks to make the point that the environment can "remedy the shortcomings" of India's LGBT community

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The rainbow pride flag of the LGBT community. wikimedia
  • 23-year-old Abhyam Shukla’s design of a sensitization centre for the community takes gender-tropes head on
  • Kolkata-based Shukla’s interest in designing the sensitization centre was triggered when a friend from the community committed suicide last year
  • Cities like Paris, Madrid and New York have hubs for the LGBT community and there is no reason why Indian cities should also not have umbrella centres

Kolkata, July 21, 2017: It’s shaped like a pizza slice and seeks to make the point that the environment can “remedy the shortcomings” of India’s LGBT community. Taking gender tropes head-on, 23-year-old Abhyam Shukla’s design of a sensitisation centre for the community, his undergraduate architectural thesis, makes it a dissertation with a difference.

Kolkata-based Shukla’s interest in designing the sensitisation centre was triggered when a friend from the community committed suicide last year.

“The idea came to me when a friend from Lucknow committed suicide and that’s when I realised how I could use architecture to benefit the community,” Shukla, who identifies himself as a bisexual, told IANS.

The Lady Ga Ga fan says the hub traverses the gray areas and eschews the binary perspective in architectural realms in the sense that it brings about a balance between masculine and feminine elements.

“In the last five years that I have studied architecture, I have been involved in theatre and making short films. So when I had to submit my thesis, I wanted to do something that had not been done by universities in India before,” Shukla explained.

Shukla, who has just concluded his B.Arch from Jadavpur University, says cities like Paris, Madrid and New York have hubs for the LGBT community and there is no reason why Indian cities should also not have umbrella centres.

Set in the satellite township of Rajarhat in northeastern fringes of Kolkata, the blueprint of the pizza-slice shaped, slightly dented triangular hub includes queer museum spaces, healthcare and housing plans amid a landscape replete with a “healthy mix of sharp angular edges as well as soft undulating curves”.

To shape his vision and to be fair to the community’s needs, Shukla conducted a survey of as many as 250 respondents from the LGBT community (15-25 year olds) spanning 24 states.

“I asked them if they would like such a centre in their city and I also asked them what functions they would like. Based on their feedback, I started my design,” said Shukla, for whom Danish architect Bjarke Bundgaard Ingels and India’s Charles Correa are inspirations.

A majority of respondents — when queried on how effective queer museums can be in educating society — backed the idea of queer libraries and museums in helping society draw inspiration from the past. Similarly, there was a thumping “yes” on the presence of judicial services and trauma cells for assisting the community in rehabilitative measures.

“What I wanted to do was to use the stereotypical notions of masculine and feminine and show the world the concept of a third gender. Nothing in the world is binary; there is a spectrum of gray. I tried to use the male form, the female form and then create a hybrid form. So my design has all the three mixed together to show that society is supposed to live like this,” he elaborated.

Some of the built spaces that were analysed by Shukla as case studies are the National Centre for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, the Welfare Centre for Children and Teenagers in Paris, the Proyecto Hombre in Madrid and the BE Friendly Space in Hanoi.

ALSO READHow did Rainbow Flag attain the Prestige of representing the LGBT Community?

Three main aspects — awareness, housing and healthcare — underpin the design elements of Shukla’s version. “In the awareness aspect, which encompasses queer museums and libraries, people can go and learn about the community. This gives will inform people that India has had a long tryst with homosexuality and debunk myths that it is a Western concept,” he said.

The housing facility provides shelter to the homeless and estranged members of the community,” added Shukla.

Gender activist Pawan Dhall felt a sensitisation hub was a great idea.

“I can just say that the idea is excellent. But I would be sceptical about housing plans. I’m not much in favour of people living in exclusive domains, unless it’s for people with special needs. Or because of old age and there is a need for institutionalised caregiving. Otherwise, a sensitisation hub idea is great. It would be even better if there are some elements of intersections with other social issues at the hub,” Dhall told IANS.

According to Gita Balakrishnan, Chairperson of the Indian Institute of Architects, West Bengal Chapter, the design indicates “sensitive handling of spaces that respects privacy while allowing freedom”.

However, activist Meenakshi Sanyal, questioned how a physical hub would function given the dichotomy in the legal perception (Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code) about the community in India.

“In 2009, the Delhi High Court had decriminalized homosexuality. That time a lot of closet LGBT members had come out. When the Supreme Court had set aside that verdict in 2013, many became invisible again. I am not saying the hub is not a good idea but there is a need to focus on the accessibility of a physical hub.

“In that sense, digital fora are more accessible. Also, with the Supreme Court recognising the rights of transgender people, there is a gap in the community… the ‘T’ from LGBT is removed… so we have to factor in all these aspects,” Sanyal, who runs LGBT community support group Sappho for Equality, told IANS. (IANS)


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