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Queer Leaders Summit

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans (LGBT) PRIDE celebrations around the world serve as a time for communities to reflect upon past accomplishments, revel in present successes, and strategize for a prosperous future. In this spirit of progress that coincides with New York PRIDE, Engendered, a transnational arts and human rights organization focused on exploring gender, sexuality, ritual, and religion in South Asia, organizes the country’s first-ever South Asian Queer Leaders Summit on Thursday, June 25 and Friday, June 26, at eclectic venues in New York City.

“We are at an interesting precipice as the South Asian queer community living in the United States and South Asia,” says Myna Mukherjee, Executive Director of Engendered. “On the one hand, we have countries like Nepal, which in 2008 commemorated the passage of landmark, constitutional rights, such as same-sex marriage, for her LGBT people; in neighboring India, however, activists and policy advocates are still challenging Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes the act of sodomy; and in the United States, where we’re supposed to be the most progressive when it comes to equal rights, Proposition 8 just passed in California. There is a clear need for greater dialogue between our Eastern and Western counterparts to strategize around ‘best practices’ that will benefit our community, as a whole.”

In the U.S., the South Asian community has fought hard for the passage of marriage rights and immigration reform. In these times of rapid and significant change for gender and sexuality in South Asia and the Diaspora, what is the state of the queer community? To answer this and other such critical questions, Engendered, in partnership with the Asia Society and the LGBT Center of Manhattan, is hosting the following LGBT rights advocates, cultural workers, and political officials from around the world:

• Sunil Pant, Nepal’s first openly gay parliamentarian, who was instrumental in the passage of same-sex marriage rights for the LGBT people of his country.
• Mala Nagarajan, Co-Director of the National Queer Asian and Pacific Islander American Alliance and Policy Fellow at the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce.
• Tarunabh Khaitan, Advocate, Oxford University, and member of queer movements against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
• Gayatri Gopinath, Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University.
• Faisal Alam, Founder, Al-Fatiha Foundation, International LGBT Muslim Organization.
• Gautam Bhan, Nigah Queer Collective, Co-editor of Because I Have a Voice, and LGBT rights activist.
• Parvez Sharma, Director of "A Jihad for Love.”
• D'Lo, Political Theatre Artist, Writer, and Music Producer.
• Naveed Alam, Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, City University of New York.
• Urooj Arshad, Advocates for Youth, Muslim Youth Project.

“The Summit aims to create a venue that will historicize movements and critical moments of struggles around gender and sexuality,” predicts Shilpa Ahluwalia, a New York LGBT rights activist. “It will also enable us to share strategies, strengthen transnational queer organizing, and chart new visions and paths for the future.”

The schedule for the two-day summit on June 25 and June 26 is as follows:

• Thursday, June 25 – Press Conference followed by Welcome Reception: Halvai Gallery, 75 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013 from 5 p.m. onwards
***Press RSVP strongly encouraged. Email: JitinHingorani@Gmail.com
• Friday, June 26 – South Asian Queer Leaders Summit:
Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10021 from 12 to 7 p.m.
1. Panel One (12 to 2 p.m.) - Institutions
What kind of institutional and policy changes do we need to see within gender and sexuality?
2. Panel Two (2:30 to 4:30 p.m.) – Movements
How have social movements, academic and cultural spaces in South Asia and the Diaspora dealt with questions of gender and sexuality?
3. Panel Three (5 to 7 p.m.) – Syntheses and Strategies
What Lies Ahead?

***One-on-one interviews with specific summit participants will be made available at the Halvai Gallery for 30 minutes immediately following the press conference on June 25. Press access to the panels on June 26 at the Asia Society must be arranged in advance.

For more information about Engendered, please visit www.engendered.org.




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