Gay India News & Reports 2004

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Islam and Homosexuality
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1 Film fest with a difference 1/04

2 India’s Gay Community To Fight Fast Spread Of AIDS 1/04

3 Twenty percent of Mumbai’s gay are HIV positive 5/04

4 Anti-Gay Extremists Torch Theater Playing Lesbian Film 6/04

5 City gays, lesbians yearn for open-mindedness 6/04

6 Now, gay activists critical of film ‘Girlfriend’ 6/04

7 Rape and Police Abuse of Hijra in Bangalore, Inida 7/04

8 Bollywood style gay film in India 8/04

9 India Uses Condoms For Everything But AIDS Prevention 8/04

10 Gay Double Murder Shocks India (New Delhi) 8/04

11 City gayscape: Not quite in the pink of health 8/04

12 India high court rejects gay petition tolegalize homosexuality 9/04

13 Gay activists vow to challenge India court decision on petition 9/04

14 Runaway girls tie knot in Hindu ceremmony 12/04

15 Charges Dismissed Against Lesbian Couple 12/04

The Times of India, Mumbai, India ( )

January 4, 2004

Film fest with a difference
1st International Film Festival of Sexuality and Gender Plurality

by Neil Pate, Times News Network
Pune – For some gays and lesbians the film festival was a catharsis of emotions while for some others its was coming out of the closet and celebrating their very existence. Larzish – Tremors of a Revolution, the 1st International Film Festival of Sexuality and Gender Plurality held in Pune on Sunday received an overwhelming response from the gay, lesbians, bisexuals and other sexually marginalised people from the city. Replete with award-winning feature films, documentaries, short-films, the festival organised by city based lesbian support group OLAVA (Organised Lesbian Alliance for Visibility and Action) in association with the India Centre for Human Rights and Law (ICHRL) and Humjinsi, a Mumbai based support group for lesbians sensibly dealt with issues related to the sexually marginalised people.

Chatura, an activist from Olava, who spearheaded in organising the film festival told TNN on Sunday that the main aim of the film-fest was to bring together the gay community. "Besides entertainment, the festival has provided a safe space for like-minded people to interact, discuss issues pertaining to sexually marginalised people," Chatura said.

Explaining the meaning of the term Larzish, Chatura said: "Larzish in Urdu means, from the slightest trembles of the lip to the tremors of a revolution." A total of 12 films and documentaries on sexuality and gender, ranging from 15 minutes to one hour, the films’ lucidity explored the complexities of gender amongst the queer, gay, lesbian, trans-gender, bisexual, bent, deviant, kothi, eunuch, hijra, panthi, and drag queen community in India.

Some of the films screened in the one-day festival were Gulabi Aaina, Plain Truth, Tales of Night Fairies, Beauty Parlour, Tampon Manual, Womb on One’s Own, Women in Black, Grass is Greener, Gender Trouble, Era Mela Mela and Brother Outsider among others. However, the star attraction of the film festival was Berlin Package films. Besides sexual minorities, the festival saw a huge chunk of heterosexual audience as well. City based film critique cum writer Gayatri Chatterji said the films showcased in the festival not only raised visibility, but also opened up spaces for discussion on issues of homosexuality. "Some of the films dealt women’s issues, violence against women and sex workers in a broad spectrum. We should have these kind of festival more often in Pune," Chatterji averred.

In addition to the films, hitting the nail on the head were the brainstorming debates and discussions after the film screenings. Impressed by a pack-house audience turnout, city based gay activists R Raj Rao, founder of the Queer Study Circle (QSC) said, "The festival was a true reminder of unity. It’s time all the gay and lesbian support groups came together and organised such programmes regularly under one roof," Raj Rao said.

Associated Press,

January 13, 2004

India’s Gay Community To Fight Fast Spread Of AIDS

Calcutta – India’s secretive gay community is emerging to fight the fast spread of the AIDS disease among homosexuals and street children. At least 10 homosexual groups have formed a common platform called "Manas" – the Hindi word for "thought" – with the intention of stopping the spread of the AIDS, gay activists said Tuesday. "Ten … groups have decided to work together against AIDS and the focus would be on spreading awareness and providing support and counseling to homosexuals," Amitava Sarkar of People Like Us, one of the homosexual groups, told The Associated Press.

Last year about 610,000 Indians contracted the HIV virus that can lead to AIDS, raising the overall number of infected Indians to about 4.5 million, according to a study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. That figure, which India’s Health Ministry supports, is the second-highest national total after South Africa. It does not include child victims, who are not counted by the government. But street children are among the focus groups of the Manas program, said Saurav Banerjee of the Prajak voluntary group. "Sex happens among street children at a very early age, making them a medium-risk group. So we have decided to involve them in our initiative," he said.

The campaign will begin in Calcutta, capital of West Bengal state, where some 200,000 children are estimated to live on the streets. Homosexuality is banned in India under a law first framed by British colonialists. Manas members said the AIDS control program would be hampered if the government does not withdraw the law because homosexuals will not seek screening for the disease or help to combat it. "Homosexuality is practiced clandestinely and it will remain so if the government continues to consider gays and lesbians criminals. And this will not help fight AIDS among homosexuals," said Sarkar. The Manas campaign is financed solely by the West Bengal state government. The east Indian state has agreed to fund Manas because the program itself is not identified as homosexual, said Suresh Kumar, an official with the West Bengal state AIDS Cell, a government department.

The Times of India,
Mumbai, India ( )

May 21, 2004

Twenty percent of Mumbai’s gay are HIV positive

Mumbai – As many as 17 to 20 per cent of gay men in this city are HIV positive, a startling survey by the Humsafar Trust and the Indian Market Research Bureau has revealed. However, these numbers have remained stable in the last four years, the survey by the marketing research group and the Mumbai-based organisation of gay people added. The first-of-its-kind study was conducted among 240 homosexual men in the city. The study found that while 92 per cent of the men knew where to get condoms, only 12 to 16 per cent used condoms during oral sex with a man.

The study further showed that 27 per cent of gay men were married and 47 per cent reported that they had had sex with a female partner in the last month. Said Ashok Row Kavi, founder of the Humsafar Trust: "There is need to bring married men who have sex with men (MSM) into the fold of healthy sexual behaviour. A change in perception of condom usage is needed. "The aim of the study was to assess the knowledge and attitude of people towards HIV and AIDS," said Vive Anand, Humsafar chief. "It also attempted to assess the sexual behaviour and practices of the community, which will help in preparing intervention programmes."

Anand said previous awareness campaigns had been successful. "In the first study carried out in 2000, most of the gay men reported at least 11 partners in a month, which has come down to four in 2004." The recent study also threw up some other facts – 70 per cent of gay men were born and brought up in Mumbai; 60 per cent work in private offices or government organisations; 17 per cent were self-employed, eight per cent were students and three per cent were commercial sex workers.

Moreover, 92 per cent met sexual partners at cruising sites and 56 per cent through friends; 69 per cent met their partners at public toilets, 81 per cent at local railway stations and 70 per cent had sex at a friend’s place. The study further showed that 96 per cent and over 98 per cent knew that the HIV virus could be transmitted through sex without condoms. However, condom usage was low.,

June 14, 2004

Anti-Gay Extremists Torch Theater Playing Lesbian Film

by Newscenter Staff
New Delhi – An angry mob set fire to a movie theater on Monday where a Bollywood film with a lesbian theme was showing. The theater, in the northern town of Varanasi, was showing the film "Girlfriend". There were no injuries but damage to the building was extensive. The militant Hindu group Shiv Sena claimed responsibility. The same group attacked theatergoers in Bombay Sunday. Nearly 100 people threw stones and burned an effigy of two women. Windows at the theater were smashed and posters destroyed.
The theater continued the movie under heavy police guard but cancelled future showings.

Gay themes have been slowly working their way into Bollywood films over the past few years, but each time the movies have been met with opposition. "Fire", a 1998 Hindi-language film that portrayed a love affair between two women, provoked the wrath of hardline Hindus who claimed it promoted "the alien practice of lesbianism and hurt Indian culture." The films are still tame by American standards. India has strict censorship that prevents on-screen nudity and profanity, and sexual acts by consenting gays are illegal under the country’s criminal code. Despite the weekend violence, "Girlfriend" director Karan Razdan said he would not pull the film from distribution. "I’m just trying to show what’s happening in society," Razdan told Indian television Zee News.

The Times of India, Mumbai, India

June 21, 2004

City gays, lesbians yearn for open-mindedness

Times News Network
Mumbai – Amid protests over Karan Razdan’s portrayal of a lesbian relationship in the movie Girlfriend, gay rights activists in the city have pointed to numerous problems faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. "There are now gay cultures coming up which are Indian," says Ashok Row Kavi, chairperson of Humsafar Trust, a Mumbai organisation that reaches out to gay men. Row Kavi says that while traditionally Indian society is less antagonistic towards homosexuality than Western society, what upsets many Indians is that "gay people are taking a decision about their sexuality as individuals. In India, the basic unit of society is not the individual but the family".

Lesbians face more opposition than gay men, Row Kavi adds: "Single men can usually stay together without a problem, but women living together may be accused of running a brothel."
Geeta Kumana of lesbian support group Aanchal agrees: "Where can an Indian woman get any privacy? She is just looked on as someone to be protected by a father, brother or husband." Kumana says the biggest barrier for lesbians who wish to leave home and cohabit with a partner is that they would have to explain their decision to family. The process of coming out or being open about one’s sexuality, Kumana says, is especially difficult when coming out to parents.

"I never told my parents. I guess they got to know through the newspapers," she says. In the past decade, gay people have created spaces in which they can meet, Row Kavi says. These include events at bars and discos. But Kumana says that lesbians have no public space in which to meet openly. She adds that many lesbians are happy to be involved in the social aspect of meeting, but prefer not to become involved in activism. Akash, a young software professional who has come out to family, friends and colleagues, says that gay events interest him less than socialising with his own friends, whether straight or gay. "Why should you put yourself in a ghetto?" he asks.

Writer and university teacher R Raj Rao, whose recent novel The Boyfriend openly described the life of its gay, Mumbai-based protagonist, stresses that "a gay guy in Bombay of whatever social class cannot afford to be open about his sexuality". Rao suggests that allowing the representation of gay relationships in the media, from Bollywood to music videos, is one measure that could make gay people’s lives easier. He adds that the primary change that needs to be effected is making marriage strictly a matter of choice in India.

Sify (India),

16 June 2004

Now, gay activists frown on ‘Girlfriend’

Mumbai, India – Gay activists in India are up in arms over what they call the negative portrayal of lesbianism in a new film, "Girlfriend", which has also drawn fire – for different reasons – from the Shiv Sena. "’Girlfriend’ reinforces all the negative stereotypes about lesbian and bisexual women," said Chatura, of the Organised Lesbian Alliance for Visibility and Action (OLAVA). "Not only is it a cheap and titillation-oriented film masquerading as one that’s liberal, but it portrays the minority community in a negative light," said Chatura.

"It has repercussions for people whose parents are trying to come to terms with their sexuality and gives bosses a tool with which to harass us," she said. "Girlfriend", starring Isha Koppikar and Amrita Arora, is about two women who are close friends, sleep on the same bed and have once shared a sexual encounter. When one of them falls in love with a man, the other is consumed by jealousy and assumes the role of the jilted lover.

Critics say the film portrays lesbians as being unnatural and assumes that their sexual preferences are the result of psychological problems. Leading homosexual activist Ashok Row Kavi said: "We have a major problem with director Karan Razdan for demonising lesbians. The film takes our sexual identities and makes a joke of them," he said.

An open letter to the director, published in Mid-Day, lamented that the film would dent decades of campaigns by gay rights activists. "(The) film contains the worst possible misnomers about same sex attraction. More than two decades of work done by gay and lesbian activist groups will suffer thanks to this homophobic film," said the letter, written by Tejal Shah. Sena activists, claiming homosexuality was an affront to Indian culture, disrupted shows of the film in Mumbai and the holy city of Varanasi, but gay rights campaigners made it clear they were not making common cause.

"We’re not going to allow the Sena to do this to us. They didn’t bother when the same director’s previous film, ‘Hawas’ which was also all about lust and sex, was released, so why is it that this film is being targeted?" asked Row Kavi.

An analyst said Indian films lack sensitivity over issues such as homosexuality. "Subjects like lesbianism need sensitive and mature handling, for which the context should be sensible," said analyst Indu Mirani. "Unfortunately, here there was nothing of the sort. It was just a whole heap of titillation. The message the film gave out was that a homosexual relationship is bad as compared to a heterosexual one, which is a skewed morality." Bollywood has a long way to go before learning to tackle sensitive and risque themes with maturity, she suggested. "Because currently writers and directors are only looking at these films as a way of being ‘different’ and making quick money," Mirani said. "For a film industry that has barely moved away from the boy-meets-girl, boy-gets-girl formula, maturity is a long way off."

International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission –

June 24, 2004

Rape and Police Abuse of Hijra in Bangalore, Inida: Call for Action by Sangama

Kokila is a 21-year-old hijra (member of a traditional male-to-female transsexual community in South Asia) living in Bangalore City. On 18 June 2004, she was raped by several men. However, when Kokila attempted to seek redress by the police, she was arrested, verbally harassed and tortured. Her gender identity was ridiculed and she was forced to remain naked for many hours. Please join SANGAMA in protesting the brutal and humiliating rape and torture of transgender person Kokila in Bangalore, India and the discrimination to which she was subject.

Join SANGAMA in demanding an immediate response to police abuse against transgender people in Bangalore, India, thorough and impartial investigations of all reported incidences of police abuse against these groups, and sensitivity trainings for police regarding issues of sexual orientation and expression and gender identity and expression. With local coalitions, SANGAMA furthermore demands

1 Byappanahalli Police personnel (including Ashwat Narayana – PI, Krishanappa – SI, Ramakrishna – Constable and Roshan Ali Khan – Constable) involved in torture immediately be arrested and sent to judicial custody
2. Byappanahalli Police personnel should be charged for offenses under IPC Sections 330 (voluntarily causing hurt to extort confession or to compel restoration of property), 342 (wrongful confinement), 348 (wrongful confinement to extort confession, or compel restoration of property), 456 (lurking house trespass or house breaking by night) and 461 (dishonestly breaking open receptacle containing property) read with IPC 34
3. CBI should conduct an impartial enquiry in to the incidents
4. Hijras should be declared as women
5. Repeal Section 377 of the IPC and ITPA [Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act], which criminalize sexuality minorities and sex-workers respectively

IGLHRC supports SANGAMA in asking for urgent letters of concern demanding a full and impartial investigation of the torture and humiliation of Kokila to be sent to the following persons:
1. Mr. Dharam Singh, Honorable Chief Minister of Karnataka
2. Justice A. S. Anand, Chairperson of National Human Rights Commission
3. Dr. Poornima Advani, Chairperson of National Commission for Women
4. Shri T. Madiyal, Director General and Inspector General of Police, Karnataka
5. Shri S. Mariswamy, Commissioner of Police, Bangalore City
6. Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission

To the following email addresses:,,,,
Please send copies of correspondence to SANGAMA: E-mail:
Contact SANGAMA:
Mobile: 91 9844013413, Phone: 91 80 22868080/22868121, Fax: 91 80 22868161
Address: SANGAMA, Flat 13, 3rd Floor, ‘Royal Park’ Apartments, 34 Park Road, Tasker Town, Bangalore – 560051, India.

Model Letter
Dear Madam/Sir We are shocked to hear of the brutal torture suffered by Kokila, a Hijra, on 18th June 2004, at the hands of policemen of Byappanahalli Police Station, Bangalore, India. The police took her into custody when she was being raped that night by ten goondas near Old Madras Road. Instead of providing support and relief to her, they carried on the brutal assault at the Police Station. This is not a stray incident but is part of ongoing police violence against hijras. The level of violence has increased after hijras and other sexuality minorities started protesting against police brutality. The police are used to treating hijras as outcasts with no rights. The police think that no hijra would dare to stand up to them. Police routinely use hijras by falsely implicating them in crimes. The vicious anger with which the police have reacted to the hijras protesting against their torture is frightening. We demand that the policemen implicated, Ashwat Narayana (PI), Krishanappa (SI), Ramakrishna (Constable) and Roshan Ali Khan (Constable) be immediately arrested and sent to judicial custody. We also demand an impartial CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) enquiry into the whole incidence. Only such strong measures will send the message down that human rights violations will not be tolerated any longer. We reiterate that notions of different rights for different sets of people, and discrimination by the police against hijras and various other minority groups/communities can have no place in a civilized democracy that India claim to be. Sincerely
[Name, organization, address]

Background Provided By SANGAMA
Kokila, a 21-year-old hijra (member of a traditional male-to-female transsexual community in South Asia), has been living in Bangalore City for the last 5 years. She survives by doing sex-work, the only option available to most hijras. On 18th June, 2004 (Friday), around 8 p.m., while she was waiting for clients, she was raped by 10 goondas (all male) who forcefully took her to the grounds next to Old Madras Road. They threatened to kill her if she wouldn’t have sex with them. She was forced to have oral and anal sex with all of them. While she was being sexually assaulted, two policemen arrived. Most of the goondas ran away from the scene but the police caught two. Kokila told the police about the sexual assault by the goondas. Instead of registering a case against the goondas and sending Kokila for medical examination, they harassed her with offensive language and took her along with the two captured goondas to the Byappanahalli Police Station. The police disallowed Kokila to put-on her trousers and forced her to be naked for the next 7 hours.

In the Police Station Kokila was subjected to brutal torture. They took her to a room inside the Police Station, stripped her naked and handcuffed her hands to a window. Six policemen, allegedly drunk, hit her with lathis and their hands and kicked her with their boots. They abused her using sexually violent language, including the statements: "ninna ammane keyya" (we will fuck your mother), "ninna akkane keyya" (we will fuck your sister), "khoja" (derogatory word used against transgenders) and "gandu" (one who gets penetrated anally, a derogatory word). She suffered severe injuries on her hands, palms, buttocks, shoulder and legs. The police also burned her nipples and chapdi (vaginal portion of hijras) with a burning coir rope. One policeman of the rank of SI (Sub Inspector of Police) positioned his rifle on her chapdi and threatened to shoot her. He also tried pushing the rifle butt and lathi into the chapdi and saying, "Do you have a vagina, can this go inside?" while other policemen were laughing. This is to humiliate a transsexual woman by insisting that she is not a woman, as she was not born with a vagina.

At around 11 p.m. PI (Inspector of Police, highest-ranking Police Official of that Police Station) arrived into the room. He directed the policemen to continue the torture. The torture continued till 1 a.m. in the night. Despite begging for water she was not given any water. The police tied her up and the Inspector of Police threatened to leave her on the railway track unless she confessed to the knowledge of the robbery of a diamond ring and a bracelet. They paid no attention to her pleading that she had no knowledge of the robbery, or the person they were trying to get to implicate in the robbery. At 1 a.m., four policemen (including PI and SI) dragged Kokila into a police jeep and took her to a hamam (bathhouse run by hijras) in Krishnarajapuram area. They physically abused her and forced her to knock on the hamam door and call the hijras living there to open the door. At around 2 a.m., they took her to another hamam in Garudacharapalya area. They broke open the lock of that hamam. They forced her to wear male clothes (shirt and trouser). They tied a towel to her head and threatened to shave off her hair. Police also searched both the hamams illegally.

At around 3 a.m., while on the way, Kokila begged the Police to take her to the house of Chandini (a hijra human rights activist) who lived nearby. The police entered Chandini’s house forcefully and searched the entire house despite severe protests by Chandini. Chandini told the policemen that they couldn’t enter her house at such hours and without any valid reason and her consent. When she protested, the police threatened her and her husband with dire consequences. Finally, on Chandani’s demand that Kokila be left behind, and her assurance that she would bring Kokila to the Police Station in the morning if her presence were required, the police left her residence at 3.30 am.

Kokila’s complaint was registered in Ulsoor Police Station on 19th June 2004. The complaint was registered only after legal intervention and after putting a lot of pressure on various high-ranking Police Officials of Bangalore City for three hours. The IPC (Indian Penal Code) Sections in the FIR (First Information Report) are 506 (criminal intimidation – threat to cause death or grievous hurt), 377 (unnatural sexual intercourse), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention). Kokila has already identified four policemen who tortured her. She has also identified five goondas, who sexually assaulted her.
These are not stray incidents but are part of ongoing police violence against hijras. The level of violence has increased after hijras; other sexuality minorities and sex-workers started protesting against police brutality. India Limited

August 6, 2004

Bollywood style gay film in India

Mumbai – Most of the top Bollywood stars have been in drag (cross-dressing) – Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and even the star of millennium Amitabh Bachhan, usually for a song-dance routine or for comic interlude. Otherwise drag queens have been relegated to the sideline – stereotyped and ridiculed. Gulabi Aaina (The Pink Mirror) – a Bollywood style short film on Indian drag queens is being screened at the British Council, Mumbai on August 6. The film’s director Sridhar Rangayan is glad for this opportunity to screen the movie before his home audiences. " It will be the 100th screening of the film! The film has been screened around the world at 35 international film festivals, universities and organizational screenings. A lot of Indian film buffs and media who have heard so much about the film and not seen it yet are looking forward to the British Council screening in India."

The UK premiere of the film at the Commonwealth Film Festival in Manchester in May was supported by the British Council, Mumbai. " The film received tremendous media response in UK with the BBC online entertainment feature (in the news) which was picked up by more than 30 ezines around the world! Suddenly we were in news!!" Rangayan notes excitedly. Encouraged by the success of his short film, Rangayan and the team of The Pink Mirror is now collaborating with `Wise Thoughts`, multi-media organization in London, in developing two more projects centered around gay themes.

" A lot of people don’t want to address difficult subjects such as homosexuality or its wider human spectrum. There are too many myths and fears associated with this community who have been denied a humane existence in Indian society. `Wise Thoughts` and Solaris Pictures are committed to highlight their plight through their next film project," Rangayan notes. A hilarious comedy replete with bitchiness and camp humour set ‘a la Bollywood’ with song, dance and drama about two drag queens and a sly gay teenager seducing a handsome hunk! Apart from being a spicy drag romp, the film is a first-ever peep into the Indian homosexual closet unearthing humanly tender bonds between drag queens who form non-patriarchal families and the lurking impact of HIV/AIDS.

Appreciated and feted the world over at 38 international film festivals in 18 countries across 6 continents- including Cork Film Festival, Ireland; Busan Asian Short Film Festival, South Korea; San Francisco Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, SF, USA; Mix Brazil, Out Takes, Dallas; Mardi Gras Film Festival, Australia, it won the Best Film of the Festival award at ‘Question de Genre’ queer festival in France. However, the film has been banned in India by the Censor Board, because of its gay content. A repeal is on way along with support from both Indian and international media professionals. ANI

August 9, 2004

India Uses Condoms For Everything But AIDS Prevention

by Peter Hacker
New Delhi – Despite having the world’s second highest number of HIV/AIDS cases, about 75 percent of the condoms manufactured in India are used for almost everything but HIV prevention, including patching roofs and paving roads according to a new report prepared for the government.
Only about 25 percent of the condoms are used for sexual activity, despite an aggressive government campaign to combat the spread of AIDS. Most of the condoms produced in India are paid for by the government and meant for free distribution by social service agencies. But, few reach the people who need them.

The report, prepared by Professor Ramakant of King George’s Medical University of Lucknow, says that businesses are buying up the condoms in bulk. Contractors use them mixed with concrete and tar to pave roads. The latex apparently helps make the roads smooth and resistant to cracks. Builders are using the condoms on the layer that lies beneath the cement plaster on roofs and as heat penetrates they expand to form a waterproof layer that prevents seepage.

Condoms are also used in large quantities by manufacturers of gold embroidered saris, the 11-yard garments worn by Indian women. Workers use the lubricated condoms to polish the gold embroidery, the report says.
India has 5.1 million HIV-positive people, the world’s second highest number of infections after South Africa, according to the United Nations.

August 16, 2004

Gay Double Murder Shocks India (New Delhi)

The slayings of two young men whose bodies were found in a home in an affluent New Delhi neighborhood has both shocked and titillated India where most gays are underground and where crimes against gays often go unreported. The bodies of Pushkin Chandra, a USAID worker and the son of a prominent former government employee, and a man identified only as Vishal were found Saturday in the first floor of the sprawling mansion owned by Chandra’s parents. Both men had been stabbed to death. Police say that the area where the men were found had been ransacked and Polaroid photos of nude men, many with names on the back of them, were found strewn around the room. Police say it appears that the victims knew their killers, adding revenge could be the motive. "There is a possibility that the victims were blackmailing someone. But nothing definite can be said at this stage," a police officer said.

The room in which the bodies were found was locked from the outside. There were no signs of a forced entry into the room investigators said. Investigations have revealed that both men had returned from a party around midnight Saturday. A security camera showed the two leaving the home for the party, but not returning. Chandra’s car is also missing. Monday, police began rounding up male prostitutes in New Delhi for questioning. Police say that material found at the scene of the killings indicated Chandra often hired hustlers. Police also want to question a Danish national identified as Uffe Gartner, who knew Chandra and reportedly flew to France on the day the bodies were discovered. The party that the two victims had attended was reportedly a farewell for Gartner. The murders have put a media spotlight on India’s gay community. As gays fight to have laws against sodomy, dating back to British colonial rule, repealed, many people in the community say lurid media reports are only harming that effort.

The Times of India

August 22, 2004

City gayscape: Not quite in the pink of health

by Nina Martyris
It Is A Two-Edged Sword. As Gay And Lesbian Groups Become More Visible, So Does Metro’s Latent Homophobia

Mumbai – The murder of two gay men in an upscale New Delhi apartment last week provided a ready excuse for gay baiters to go ill-will hunting. There were rich pickings for those who hissed about the underbelly of gay life what with the murdered couple found in the midst of a scatter of risque Polaroid photographs. Perfect grist for those who subscribe to the stereotype that gay men are promiscuous and have little else on their minds. But if there is some cold solace to be drawn from this gruesome crime and the resulting sleaze offensive, it is that the murder was most probably not a gay-hate crime but the result of a personal fallout. This wasn’t like the Matthew Shephard case, where he was tied to a fence post in freezing Wyoming temperatures, pistol whipped and left to die primarily because he was gay.

As activists like Mumbai’s Ashok Row Kavi have never tired of repeating, Indians are not homophobic, and that it was the repressive British Victorian ethic that introduced Section 377 making homosexuality a crime. Sure, the average Indian may have no desire to look homosexuality in the eye but there is also no desire to kill or maim those whose sexuality may flow to a different current. "Homosexuality has been essayed in several optimistic forms down the ages," says Kavi. "From the Kama Sutra to frescoes in ancient temples portraying same-sex love."

Although there may not be hate-killings, it is hardly a happy, all-embracing scene for the gay community in India. Gay men and women point to two ostensibly contradictory trends — on the one hand, society has begun to make fleeting if furtive eye contact; on the other, attacks and extortion attempts have increased. But perhaps there is no contradiction. The rise in homophobia parallels efforts by the community to be more aggressive about its rights and shake a reluctant society into acknowledging that it exists.

What better indication than the Lesbian-Gay pride march that took place in Kolkata on June 27 to mark the Stonewall Riots of 1969 when homosexuals in New York decided to fight police injustice? Even five years ago, a march like this with cross-dressers out in full tilt would have been unthinkable in India, but the unthinkable has now happened and in the still conservative environs of Kolkata. "Repeal Section 377," said banner on banner.

Perhaps the sharpest hook that has yanked this sexual minority into the floodlights is HIV
. In Bhubaneshwar, where the issue of homosexuality is rarely discussed in public, a former IG of prisons Bidyabhusan Mohanty said at a seminar that condoms were being distributed in jail to check the spread of AIDS given the gay activity within the walls. In Hyderabad, there may be no organisation specifically devoted to gay welfare, but health practitioners have found it necessary to reach out and communicate on HIV-AIDS.

" Five years ago life for an MSM was demeaning," recalls Sunil Menon who runs support group, Sahodaran in Chennai. "There was abuse, blackmail, sexual abuse and harassment. Chennai is still conservative but there is a growing acceptance." He said there was even an e-group, Inside the closet, it’s action stations. As gay activists have grown, there has been a rise in inhouse activity — serious seminars on gay rights are part of it, but so are fun things like parties, film-festivals and hanging out at local pubs. The liberal amounts of money (called the pink pound) splashed at these dos have made otherwise chary pub owners open their doors wide.

But within the community itself, there is plenty of ambivalence about this pink image. Not everyone, to use a phrase from Mahesh Dattani’s Muggy Nights in Mumbai, wants to be "as gay as a goose" and quieter members often feel the need to distance themselves from the "dahlings" and rainbow exuberance of their friends. Menon may comfortable with his rings and chains but a manager with a Mumbai placement agency says although companies are opening up to employing gay people, they are sometimes told to "tone down their appearance" in deference to corporate code. The number of those coming out is still a trickle. Many gay people are unwilling to be quoted on gay issues. So it’s always Ashok Row Kavi in Mumbai, Sunil Menon in Chennai, Wendell Rodricks in Goa and Pawan Dhall in Kolkata. The rest, for the most part, prefer the shroud of ‘name changed to protect identity’.

(Inputs from Neil Pate in Mumbai, Swati Das in Chennai, Sujata Dugar in Kolkata, Rajaram Satapathy in Bhubaneswar)


2 September 2004

India high court rejects gay petition tolegalize homosexuality

by Ayanjit Sen BBC corespondent in Delhi
The government says public morals need to be protected The high court in the Indian capital Delhi has dismissed a legal petition that sought to legalise homosexuality. The petition challenged laws which deem homosexual acts to be "unnatural criminal behaviour". The court ruled that the "validity of a law" cannot be challenged by anyone who is "not affected by it". The petition, filed by a voluntary organisation, argued that it is wrong for homosexuality to be a punishable offence in 21st century India.

‘Delinquent behaviour’
The petition was filed by the HIV and Aids organisation, the Naz Foundation. It alleged that the police use the law to harass homosexuals. Indian society, by and large, disapproves of homosexuality Lawyers for Indian government Lawyers for the government earlier argued in court that homosexuality cannot be legalised in India because society strongly disapproves of it. "Indian society, by and large, disapproves of homosexuality and justifies it being treated as a criminal offence even when adults indulge in private," said a government lawyer.

The government argued that that the abolition of the law dealing with what they termed as "unnatural sex acts" could result in an increase in delinquent behaviour. "While the right to respect for private and family life is undisputed, interference by public authority in the interest of public safety and protection of health and morals is equally permissible. "This is precisely what the law does," said a government affidavit. Legal experts are debating the court’s ruling that petitions against the law cannot be brought by anyone who is "not affected by it". It is unclear what exactly this phrase means, but some lawyers argue that public interest petitions should be filed by affected people rather than by organisations representing them.

Daily Times of Pakistan

September 2004

Gay activists vow to challenge India court decision on petition

New Dehli – An India Supreme Court decision to dismiss a petition seeking to legalize homosexuality in India will be challenged by gay activists, the Daily Times of Pakistan reported this week. Filed in December 2001, the petition requested the striking of laws that make homosexuality between consenting adults punishable by up to 10 years in prison, the Times reported.

“After three years of going back and forth the High Court has thrown out our petition on the flimsiest and most baffling grounds,” Shaleen Rakesh of the Naz Foundation told the media. “But we are not prepared to sit back and accept what the court is throwing at us.” The foundation fought the anti-gay laws after some of its members were harassed by police as they handed out safe-sex brochures, the newspaper reported. The court’s ruling last week stated that the “validity of a law” cannot be challenged by anyone who is “not affected by it,” the Times reported.

Calcutta Telegraph, India

December 8, 2004

Runaway girls tie knot

Gajinder Singh
Chandigarh –
Their parents are hoping it’s a joke. And the police are clueless. In what could be the first instance of same-sex marriage in the region, two girls fled their homes in conservative Amritsar recently and then phoned their parents to tell them they should be allowed to live like couples as they had “tied” the “knot”.

Both girls — Raju, 25, and Mala, 22 — are from Sandhu Colony and their decision to get “married” has sent shock waves through the holy city. “We were shocked when we came to know that they had fled. We were aghast when they informed us that they had got married. Is this what we call kalyug?” said Raju’s mother Ranjit Kaur. “They have even told us that they will return only if we give them a sworn affidavit to allow them to live like couples. It is humiliating for us and for humanity. We only wish they are joking.” Ranjit said Raju and Mala were friends since childhood.

“We had no idea that the two were up to other things than being just good friends. They were always seen together. We used to laugh when they used to say they would get married to each other. Now we know why Raju shunned the proposals that used to come for her. Mala’s parents, too, hold similar views,” she said.

If the parents are horrified, the police in both Amritsar and Chandigarh are clueless on what steps to take. While Chandigarh police are seeking expert opinion on the case to be registered against the two, Amritsar police have washed their hands of the matter, saying the law is not clear on same-sex marriages. “We would not be able to do anything as both are adults,” said Amritsar Civil Lines DSP Ashish Kapoor, though a missing persons’ case has been registered on the complaints of both families. A lawyer, however, said Raju and Mala’s marriage would not be legally acceptable.

“The law does not recognise lesbian marriages. The Hindu Marriage Act, Indian Marriage Act and the Special Marriage Act stipulate that a marriage can only be solemnised between a male and a female,” the lawyer explained. Chandigarh police have alerted their Himachal Pradesh counterparts to be on the lookout for the girls. “They could have gone to the hills for their honeymoon, in case they have really tied the knot,” a police officer said. Police sources in Chandigarh said investigations are on and it is possible that the girls are playing a prank. “But since the girls’ parents have mentioned in the complaints that they have eloped and married, we have to seek legal opinion on the matter before making the next move in case they are arrested here,” an officer said. Women’s rights activist Ranjit Chadha said nobody should object to who is living with whom, but added that “such marriages do not contribute to society in any way”. Newscenter Staff (New Delhi, India)

December 15, 2004

Charges Dismissed Against Indian Lesbian Couple

A judge in the Indian city of Amritsar has dismissed a case against a lesbian couple saying there was no law that prevented the women from living together. Homosexuality is illegal in India, but lesbians are not specifically mentioned in the law the judge noted. The two women, one 22, the other 25, say they were married in a Hindu ceremony, but did not provide proof of the wedding, according to Indian media reports. The women claimed their marriage was performed according to Hindu rites, but police said they did not believe Hindu priests would knowingly have allowed a same-sex marriage.

The couple was detained by police following a complaint by the father of one of the women who told officers that his neighbors had shunned the family after his daughter’s sexuality was known. The family of the other woman reportedly supports the couple. Gay activists in India have tried with no avail for several years to have the country’s sodomy law overturned.