MUMBAI (Reuters) - A gay-and-lesbian themed film festival, said to be the biggest of its kind in India, opens this week in a country where a powerful stigma against homosexuality still exists.
Organisers hope the four-day “Kashish” festival in Mumbai will sensitise audiences and lead to a more open dialogue on gay and lesbian rights.
“Our main purpose of the festival is that queer issues should be mainstreamed,” said festival director Sridhar Rangayan.
The festival is being organised nearly a year after the Delhi High Court ruled that homosexual sex among consenting adults was not a crime, boosting an increasingly vocal pro-gay lobby in India that says the British-era law was a violation of human rights.
The current law bans “sex against the order of nature” and is widely interpreted to mean homosexual sex in India.
In a country where public hugging and kissing even among heterosexuals invites lewd remarks and sometimes beatings, gay sex has been a taboo subject.
“Our main aim is to entertain and start a debate,” said Vivek Anand, CEO of the Humsafar Trust, an NGO which deals with homosexual rights and is one of the organisers of the festival.
“We don’t want to offend anyone’s sensibilities,” he said.
The “Kashish” film festival opens on Thursday and will showcase 110 films from 25 countries.