With an estimated lgbt population somewhere between the total population of France or Australia, India has gotten its first radio station catering exclusively to it, with a plethora of queer content to educate and entertain straight and non-listeners alike.
At midnight on September 10, Radiowalla.in released India’s first LGBT community radio station: Qradio, with shows dedicated to talking about lgbt issues and catering to the queer demographic. Estimates of India’s queer population differ (just like in the U.S.), on the low end, 2% of the population, being around 20 million, and less conservative estimates, 7% by NGO Humsafar Trust promoting lgbt rights in the country, equals over 70 million people. The station is headquartered in Bangalore, India, and will have native hosts and callers to add to programming.
Radiowalla is an online live-streaming radio station that is accessible online or on a mobile device by downloading their app. Qradio is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Currently programs are broadcast in both English and Hindi, though the network plans to expand to more regional languages in the future, of which the Indian government recognizes 22 official ones. There are currently three shows, with more on the way: HQO: Celebrating Gender Fluidity—coming out stories; Heart to Heart—a counseling service; and LGBT (Let’s Get Beyond Ties)—exploring what it means to be queer in India and attempting to remove prevalent stereotypes.
CEO and Co-founder of Radiowalla, Anil Srivatsa, said in an interview with Pink Pages that one of the reasons for starting the specialized channel was that “the gay and lesbian population can benefit from a space of their own. This community has style, they are upwardly mobile, they are coming out to show the nation that they belong and have to be accepted and it is about time they get a voice of their own in the national discourse.” She also hopes that it will “bridge the gap between sexualities” and ultimately, “create awareness and acceptance about alternate sexuality, and sensitize non-LGBT people to it.”
Descriptions on the Facebook page give insights to the different types of programming, though while some are playful, some are practical, and some are quite provocative. One of the more recent discussions on a campus radio show called “Between the Sheets” talked about getting caught during sex, improving one’s sex life, and about the importance of orgasms. For a conservative culture, this station is bound to get attention.
Like many British colonies throughout the world, India had a historical sodomy law on the books, which was repealed in 2009. There is a third-sex legally recognized in India—hijra—though queer people are not formally recognized within the country and receive some discrimination, especially within families and in rural communities.
Finding a space of their own is important for queer people in developing countries who face a lot of challenges dealing with internalized homophobia, and queerness worldwide seen as a “Western export.” Hopefully the radio station will be on the forefront for championing queer rights in the country and will create a more accepting culture throughout the entire country.
Tune in and hear for yourself what queer issues are like worldwide. You might be surprised!
Author: Eugene Riordan, Jr.