Although India reinstated a controversial colonial-era law against homosexuality in 2013, a local group is supporting and empowering LGBT youth to persevere and inspire social change.
South Asian queer organization Sher Vancouver announced the first winner of the January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award on, appropriate for the award's namesake, January 1.
The award was created to honour a youth between 16 and 30 years of age who has demonstrated significant involvement and leadership in LGBT communities.
Gaylaxy Magazine founder Sukhdeep Singh is the recipient of the $500 award.
Singh is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology (Indian School of Mines) in Dhanbad, India, where he launched the magazine in 2010 when he was 21 years old. Gaylaxy started a Hindi section in 2014 which remains one of the only online queer resources in Hindi.
The magazine, which includes an audience in South Asia as well as among the international South Asian diaspora, publishes news as well as short stories and poetry.
Singh has written articles addressing issues of homosexuality and Sikhism which have challenged the viewpoints of Sikh religious authorities, including the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the Akal Takht.
According to Sher Vancouver founder (and Georgia Straight contributor) Alex Sangha, the selection committee chose Singh because of the "significant influence and impact he is having on advancing LGBTQ+ rights in India and South Asia and abroad, not to mention his innovative use of technology on various platforms to create more awareness of LGBTQ+ issues".
The award was established to create a legacy in memory of January Marie Lapuz.
Lapuz, who was born in the Philippines and moved to Canada, was a transgender Filipina who was the social coordinator of Sher Vancouver. Unfortunately, she was attacked in New Westminster and died in 2012. Her killer, Charles Jameson "Jamie" Mungo Neel, was sentenced to eight years in jail in 2014.
A documentary entitled My Name Was January is being made about her and will be released in November.