Toronto Pride’s record of naming badass females as international grand marshals continues this year as it names a woman who fought hard against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (which criminalizes consensual, same sex relationships in India). Oh yeah, she’s also a Bollywood star and a United Nations “equality champion.” Her name is Celina Jaitly, and she is a force.
Joining the ranks of past international grand marshals like Georgian activist Anna Rekhviashvili in 2014 and human rights defender Marcela Romero in 2013, Jaitly will act as an ambassador to represent global LGBTQ communities during the 10-day Pride festival (Friday, June 19–Tuesday, June 28).
Jaitly was named by the UN as an equality champion for its Free & Equal campaign, an unprecedented global effort for LGBT equality. In 2014, that campaign launched the UN’s first ever Bollywood-style music video, titled “The Welcome.”
“Pride Toronto is proud to recognize the contributions of Ms Jaitly in her ongoing fight for our community’s rights in India as our 2015 international grand marshal,” says Mathieu Chantelois, Pride Toronto’s executive director, in a press release. “We look forward to welcoming her to educate Toronto about international human rights and celebrating her inspiring work to end inequality for sexual minorities in India.”
The celebrated actress and one-time Femina Miss India Universe will lead the annual Pride Toronto Parade on Sunday, June 28 at 2pm. The parade will begin at the corner of Church and Bloor Streets, continuing onto Yonge-Dundas Square. She’ll also be celebrated as a guest of honour with a special, outdoor celebration of South Asian culture on Friday, June 26 at 7pm at the TD Wellesley stage.