On May 23, volunteer-run group Pink List India launched a first-of-its-kind digital project – ‘The State of the QUnion (SOTQ): India’s largest queer archive’. It consists of a list of Lok Sabha members across party lines and regions who have made public statements on LGBTQIA+ rights.
The archive, available free of cost on Pink List’s website, reveals that out of 543 members of parliament, only 151 have spoken about queer rights and these include both who have made statements in favour and those against. Hence, the list includes names of those who have made homophobic statements at various instances.
Pink List India started out as a digital experiment by three youngsters around the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, aiming to improve queer political representation in India. Back then, the group had released a non-exhaustive list of members of parliament who had made statements supporting the LGBTQIA+ rights.
However, these members may or may not have progressive outlook on other fronts such as caste, class, religion and so on – as was pointed out by the founding members of the group.
Pink List has now grown into a ten-member group who put in 700 hours of research over a period of two months to come up with the new list. These members include Amrita Saxena, Anish Gawande, Arushi Bhaskar, Isha Riza, Ishani Sahai, Jwalika Balaji, Ritik Lallan, Sal Goyal, Smriti Deora, and Vaarun Sardesai.
As a follow up to the previous list, Pink List intends to hold MPs accountable and drive change in society. The website has a user-friendly map with constituencies coloured with two shades of pink: dark pink for the MPs who have spoken and light pink for those who haven’t. It also provides report cards for each MP, detailing their stance on Section 377, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act and more.
With this list, the members don’t intend to endorse any of the MPs mentioned in the list in any way. “We cover the good, the bad, and the ugly and leave you to judge your elected representatives for yourself,” says the press note released by the members.
According to the website, out of eight recognised national parties, the Communist Party of India, the National Congress Party and the Indian National Congress have the highest percentage of MPs speaking up for LGBTQIA+ issues. On other hand, the Bhartiya Janata Party, with 89 outspoken members, has the highest number of MPs who have spoken on LGBTQIA+ issues.
The ongoing pandemic, the members say, have made the lives of the transgender community worse with many losing their sources of livelihood. The list, therefore, also includes all the necessary policy-based interventions (if at all) made to help the community over the past few months and before.
Besides, it highlights whether the MPs mentioned in the list have participated in parliamentary discussions on the controversial Transgenders Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, which was vociferously opposed by the members the transgender community. “On our part, we want State of the QUnion to reach every LGBTQIA+ person, every activist, and every academic who wants to make a difference,”says a note on the website.
“We want to make sure that this [list] reaches every young queer kid – giving them a glimmer of hope to dream of a future in politics, and dream big.”