An Indian startup just released an online ad featuring a lesbian woman hoping to win her father's approval. Clothing brand Red Lotus cast transgender models in a fashion shoot to showcase a sari collection, and a Hindustan Unilever tea brand helped launch a transgender musical act.
A few Indian advertisers have started putting out online ads and content with LGBT themes, hoping to inspire discussion and build acceptance in a country where talking about the issues can still be taboo.
Koninika Roy, advocacy manager of Mumbai-based LGBT rights group Humsafar Trust, said the organization was pleased. "Before now, LGBT inclusion was never at the forefront of ad-makers, and representation of the community was mainly comical," Ms. Roy said. She added that the "recent turn towards showcasing LGBT characters and persons in the ads and talking about their everyday struggles is a very important step towards acceptance. "
India reinstated a ban on gay sex in 2013; the Supreme Court said this year that it would review that law. While Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox have raised awareness of trans issues globally, India and other south Asian countries have had a transgender community since antiquity; they're often referred to locally as hijra. India's Supreme Court recognized a third gender in 2014, but the community remains marginalized and discriminated against.
Clothing brand Red Lotus last month dedicated a collection of saris to the transgender community and named it the Mazhavil (Rainbow) Collection. Several transgender models posed for a photo shoot and a video. The brand's founder, Sharmila Nair, was inspired by a policy that went into effect last year in Kerala, the southern state where she is based, to try to protect the community from discrimination. She's planning another similar campaign in the coming weeks.
"We want to know what our audiences feel about the initiative and the brand," Ms. Nair said. "Whether they liked it or not? Whether it was impactful or not?"