Gay India News & Reports 2006

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Islam and Homosexuality
Gay Bombay Yahoo Group:

1 Gay prostitution on the rise in the City of Joy 1/06

2 Actor and Director Anupam Kher is Happy and Gay 1/06

3 Anger at ‘shameful’ India gay law 1/06

4 Protests mount in India over arrest of gay men 1/06

5 Indian gay ban may be reversed 2/06

6 JCops track down eloped lesbian couple 3/06

7 Tamil Nadu’s first homosexual society 3/06

8 India’s celebrities speak up for gay rights 3/06

9 Court unites lesbian couple–huge 3/06

10 New Site: Matrimonials for Same-sex Marriages 4/06

11 Family disowns ‘royal’ son for being gay 6/06

12 ‘Same-sex visa a tough process 8/06’

13 Indian Politicians clueless about HIV? 8/06

14 India’s first openly gay royal has announced plans to adopt a child. 8/06

15 Being gay in India had never been easy 9/06

16 St Petersburg hot with India’s gays 9/06

17 Amid a climate of growing sexual tolerance within urban India 9/06

18 Notables urge India to end 145-year ban on gay sex 9/06

19 India’s gay prince has a happy birthday 9/06

20 Survey: Young Indians split over whether to scrap sodomy law 9/06

21 Why we need to break the chains of India’s gay people 9/06

22 I appreciate GayBombay Yahoo Group 10/06

22a Hijara moving up in society to become elected member of Assembly 10/06

23 Two Orissa girls defy norms, get married 11/06

24 Islamic clerics address HIV, but not condoms 12/06

25 India’s Law Criminalizing Homosexuality Hinders HIV Prevention 12/06

26 Tribe blesses lesbian ‘marriage’ 12/06

27 Second Gay Hyderabad Meeting Doubles Attendence 12/06

28 JSexuality minorities’ take out rally against `discrimination’ 12/06

29 `Sexuality minorities’ take out rally against `discrimination’ 12/06

30 Rape, sodomy equal before law? 12/06

31 India Prosperity Creates Paradox 12/06


January 03, 2006

Gay prostitution on the rise in the City of Joy

Kolkata – As homosexuals and bisexuals in India slowly come out of the closet, there seems to be a rise in gay prostitution in Kolkata. The joints are same as those used for the flesh trade three to four years back. Due to constant police raids, many such joints were forced to close down and the owners even saw their kitty drying up. Now, suddenly, with homosexuality coming out of the closet over the last couple of years, owners of these joints have got the opportunity to reopen shop.

The only difference is that previously a woman escorted a male to these joints. Now, instead, a homosexual sex worker accompanies the customer. Jeevan (name changed), the owner of such a joint in central Kolkata, told DNA that although the new trend has helped him earn some money, income is not as high as in the traditional flesh trade. “ Previously, I took Rs 250 for an hour as room charges. Now, I cannot charge more than Rs 100. Apart from this, the income of a homosexual sex worker is much lower that that of a female sex worker. Hence, my commission from them is also lower,” Jeevan added. He said the only positive aspect of this new trade is that there are no chances of police raids or trouble from the local goons, which was the main concern with the traditional flesh trade.

People Like Us (PLUS) is an organisation working for the welfare of homosexual sex workers. According to its statistics, around 1,000 homosexual sex workers are currently active in Kolkata. The figure has risen from around 100- 150 even two years back. “ Interestingly, young homosexuals from the suburbs in Kolkata, are now coming to Kolkata in search of clients. Some of them hail from well-to-do families and are college students. They take up this profession to make a quick buck,” a PLUS spokesperson told DNA.

According to him, currently, of around 1,000 homosexual sex workers operating in Kolkata, 70 per cent are from the suburban towns of Barasat, Habra, Duttapukur and Howrah. Another interesting factor has come to light. Women sex workers from the suburbs who frequent Kolkata everyday in search of clients are mainly from these towns too. Pranjal is one such young sex worker. His outlook is simple. “ I come from a middle class family, and, at the same time, I love partying. But my parents cannot afford my lifestyle. I am homosexual and I arrive in Kolkata each weekend and serve some of my regular clients in the evenings,” Pranjal told DNA.

IndiaFM News Bureau

January 3, 2006

Actor and Director Anupam Kher is Happy and Gay

Actor turned director Anupam Kher is all set for his next film titled ‘Happy and Gay’. Anupam will be taking charge of direction and will act in the movie. Happy and Gay is a state of mind rather than a statement on sexuality. The film will go on the floors in August ’06 and the star cast is yet to be finalized. Anupam Kher’s first film as a director was Om Jai Jagdish starring Anil Kapoor, Fardeen Khan and Abhishek Bachchan. Kher also plans to produce a film called ‘The Hindu’, which is based on the lives of Kashmiri pundits.

11 January 2006

Anger at ‘shameful’ India gay law

India says same-sex relationships are "unnatural". India’s laws on homosexuality threaten human rights and encourage the spread of HIV, a leading rights watchdog has told the prime minister in a letter. Human Rights Watch wrote to Manmohan Singh after police in the northern city of Lucknow allegedly carried out a sting operation on gay men. It accused the police of "shameful" harassment. Police said those arrested had engaged in "unnatural acts". Homosexuality is illegal in India and can carry a 10-year sentence. ‘Internet links’ Human Rights Watch says that last week police officers in Lucknow posed as gays on a website, entrapping one man and forcing him to call others who were then arrested. Criminalisation of people most at risk of HIV infection may increase stigma and discrimination, ultimately fuelling the AIDS epidemic.

UNAIDS Scott Long, director of Human Rights Watch’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Programme, said: "Lucknow police have a shameful record of harassing gay men as well as non-governmental organisations that work with them. " They are able to do so because India’s government clings to the criminalisation of homosexual conduct, which only prevents people from coming forward for HIV/Aids testing, information and services." The United Nations’ Aids body, UNAids, also condemned the arrests. Denis Broun, UNAids India coordinator, said: "Criminalisation of people most at risk of HIV infection may increase stigma and discrimination, ultimately fuelling the Aids epidemic." Lucknow police spokesman Ashutosh Pandey told Reuters those arrested had "established online internet links with gay groups outside the country too" and would not be released.

Dismissed petition
The 145-year-old colonial Indian Penal Code clearly describes a same-sex relationship as an "unnatural offence". Many people in conservative India regard same-sex relationships as illegal or even blasphemous. In 2004, the Indian government opposed a legal petition that sought to legalise homosexuality – a petition the high court in Delhi dismissed.
The government argued that the abolition of the law dealing with what it 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.


January 12, 2006

Protests mount in India over arrest of gay men

by Palash Kumar, New Delhi
Gay activists held a rare and noisy protest in the Indian capital on Thursday demanding the release of four men arrested for homosexuality and running an online gay club. Homsexuality is banned in India under a 19th century law but is prevalent undercover. About two dozen gay men and women and their supporters gathered outside the New Delhi guesthouse of the northern Uttar Pradesh state which ordered the arrest of the four last week. The protesters from the largely closetted gay community waved banners and placards which read: "My sexuality, My right," "Queer and Proud," and "I am a man. I love a man. That’s my only crime". "

The entire case is fabricated," said Gautam Bhan, a gay rights activist. "None of the men were having public sex. They have been arrested simply because they are homosexual." Human rights and anti-AIDS groups have slammed the arrests saying such discrimination will hurt the fight against HIV/AIDS. " Criminalisation of people most at risk of HIV infection may increase stigma and discrimination, ultimately fuelling the AIDS epidemic," UNAIDS India coordinator Denis Broun told Reuters. India has 5.1 million people with HIV/AIDS, the second largest number after South Africa.

New York-based Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, protesting against the arrests. " Lucknow police have a shameful record of harassing gay men as well as non-governmental organisations that work with them," said Human Rights Watch official Scott Long in a statement. In a similar incident in 2001, Long said, police in Lucknow raided the offices of two non-government organisations working on HIV/AIDS prevention and arrested four staff. They were accused of running a gay sex racket. An outcry by activists led to their release after a month.

Veil of Secrecy
India’s gay community is trying to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding homosexuality in a nation where public hugging or kissing among heterosexuals invites angry stares and lewd comments. " I am queer and I know how difficult it is," said Pramado Menon. "We have to hide our lives." In the past year, three lesbian couples have hit the headlines as they struggled to stay together despite public pressure for them to split up. Although activists have been pressing for the scrapping of the anti-homosexuality law, the government said last year society was not ready to accept legalised homosexual behaviour.

Pink News

14 Feburary 2006

Indian gay ban may be reversed
— Activists also believe changing the legal status of same-sex relations would make it easier for gays and lesbians to think about coming out

by Marc Shoffman – As you cuddle up to your partner for Valentines night this evening, spare a thought for Indian gay couples in New Delhi who face arrest for declaring their love. Gay sex has been banned in India since colonial times. The Supreme Court told the Delhi High Court to take another look at a petition, which has pleased sexual rights groups. Anjali Gopalan, director of sexual rights group, the Naz Foundation, told the Agence France Presse, "The very fact that the Supreme Court didn’t throw this out says a lot,"

" I think there is a change and I’m hoping it gets reflected in our judicial system." Critics don’t expect the law to be abolished completely as it is also used to prosecute child sex crimes. Activists also believe changing the legal status of same-sex relations would make it easier for gays and lesbians to think about coming out to their families and resist the overwhelming pressure to get married. Rahul Singh, who runs the outreach programs for Naz said: "Parents say it’s a passing phase and once (my son) is married it will pass. They say I don’t want him to be criminalized. Many of them end up living a dual life." Opponents of a law change say India is not ready to accept homosexuality. This concern has also been echoed by the government. But Mr Singh said: "Change in a society takes time, but the law has to take the first step."

Hindu rightwingers in the country have threatened to target even straight couples celebrating Valentines Day which forces gay couples to be even more secretive.

Times of India

March 08, 2006

Cops track down eloped lesbian couple–held in hospital for medical exams

Vadodara, India – As the world celebrates International Women’s Day on Wednesday, two women will be forced to stay in police custody, because they are in love with each other. The lesbian couple of Sonu Avtar Singh (21) and Rekha Marwadi (18), wanting to start a new life, had eloped from Halol town in Panchmahals to a village in Punjab on January 1. However, on Monday, they were forced to return to Halol in police custody after Rekha’s parents filed a complaint against Sonu, accusing the latter to have kidnapped Rekha. The case took a strange turn as both the girls on returning, admitted before Panchmahals’ collector Dinesh Brahmbhatt that they want to live together and that no kidnapping had taken place.

Sonu, who dresses in shirt and trousers, told the collector that she wanted to live like a man and that the two were happy together. In their complaint, Rekha’s parents had alleged that Sonu was actually a boy dressed as a girl. The two have been kept at the Halol referral hospital and are set to undergo medical examination by a gynaecologist. They will then be presented before the local court,which will be asked to take "appropriate action"." We can not accuse Sonu of kidnapping under section 365 of the Indian Penal Code.We cannot invoke section 377 of the IPC either which prohibits what is called unnatural sex," said Panchmahals’ deputy superintendent of police, J K Bhatt. He adds, "To invoke section 377, one has to prove penetration. We have conducted a medical examination which proved that Sonu is a woman."

March 16, 2006

Tamil Nadu District’s first homosexual society

by A Ganesh Nadar in Chennai
The Men Community Development Society is a milestone in Chennai, a city definitely not known for its liberalism. The Society is for homosexuals. Started on Wednesday by the anti-AIDS non-governmental organisation Indian Community Welfare Organisation, the Society was formed to address violations of homosexual men’s human rights, help them get help from the government, to provide them support in times of need, and to help them form more such organisations in other districts of Tamil Nadu.

At the inauguration, most of those present complained of regular police harassment. One member related how the police suspected them to be prostitutes just because they carried condoms. " On one hand the government advertises on radio, TV and newspapers to use condoms and on the other hand the cops arrest us for carrying them," he said. Some of them had been thrown out of their jobs when their colleagues learnt of their sexual preference. One man said his family had accepted his homosexuality, but not society. Another narrated how he got married just to satisfy his family and still went out looking for love.

The event’s chief guest, Dr Jaya Shreedhar, said homosexuals are born with their sexual preference; it is innate and cannot be ‘changed.’ Homosexuality is not ‘abnormal,’ she stressed. Gays are accepted in Western countries but not here, she said. In fact, a Bill is being mooted to make homosexuality legal, she pointed out. The Society — which has started off with 300 members and has identified more than 7,000 future members in the city — will educate its members about sexually transmitted diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS, help them become financially independent, encourage them to save and provide them medical help.

The members of the Society said they would help others like themselves. They would stop them from becoming prostitutes, make them health conscious and train them to make money without resorting to commercial sex. To address the common grievance of doctors treating homosexuals with disdain, the Society has its own doctor and clinic. It will have computers, driving, tailoring, beautician and folk art courses for its members. The ICWO, which was formed in 1992, has been working with homosexuals for the last six years in its efforts to combat HIV/AIDS . The Men Community Development Society can be contacted at: 044-2618 4392 and 044-55515742.

22 March 2006

India’s celebrities speak up for gay rights

by Katherine Knowles
With the recent official founding of gay group the Men’s Community Development Society (MCDS), Indian celebrities have been moved to speak out about attitudes towards gay people in the popular paper Hindustan Times.
Male supermodel Dino Morea kicked off the debate noting: “when I entered the modelling world after completing my graduation, I had loads of stories about homosexuals forcibly making you enter into an act with them. In fact, I used to be very scared of them initially and always used to maintain a safe distance but then slowly I realized that my all such notions were wrong.” The model, who was famously photographed semi naked apart from a flower garland concluded: “On many occasions gays can make great friends”.

The actor Zayed Khan suggested: “gay people follow their natural instinct and are not fake”. His liberal attitude delighted members of the MCDS when he noted, “who are we to judge whether they are right or wrong? In my view sexuality of a person hardly matters. I believe that we should accept it like many other aspects of life and treat it as normal”.

Given that homosexuality is illegal in India, this liberalism might seem surprising. Although, as the travel guide Gay India suggests, homosexuality is as common as in any other country; an “unspoken, unquestioned, and unlabeled way of life integrated into family and village customs”. Academic Shivanada Khan argues that, “the debate on sexualities may even at times be perceived as a form of neo-colonialism whereby Western sexual ideologies have "invaded" Indian discourses on sexuality and identity by professionals, laypersons, "straights" or "gays," and whereby indigenous histories and cultures become invisible.”

It is clear that the terms of the debate have changed, with groups such as the MCDS demanding and recognition and legitimacy, and with discrimination towards openly gay people a sad fact of modern Indian life. The film star Koena Mitra offered her opinion to the debate: “I think Indian society needs to change its attitude towards gays and lesbians. Why should they be treated any different from others?” It’s a point of view that the MCDS, a group which grew out of the Indian Community Welfare Organisation offering AIDS and HIV education and care, appreciates. A care worker, Mr Jaya said: “homosexuals suffer police harassment, people don’t employ them in good jobs, and they are marginalized.”

“I don’t understand why there should be so much apprehension about the issue,” concluded Ms Mitra in her statement which gay rights supporters hope will be influential in changing attitudes, particularly among her young fan base. “Everyone has the right to live life as they see fit and make their own choices. There should be no discrimination on the basis of sexual preferences.” India’s courts are reviewing laws that make consensual gay sex an offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The Tmies of India

March 31, 2006

Court unites lesbian couple–huge implications for the gay movement in India

by Robin David
Vadodara – The order of a magistrate’s court in small town Halol may have huge implications for the gay movement in India. On March 8 ”International Women’s Day” Judge A. H. Parikh allowed a lesbian couple to live together after they told the court that they were two consenting adults and that the kidnapping charge against one of them was fabricated.

This was the first time such a case had come up in any court in the country. The magistrate said they were free to settle anywhere they wished and it was not necessary for them to return to their families. Sonu Avtar Singh, 21, and Rekha Marwadi, 18, had eloped from Halol town in the Panchmahals to a village in Punjab on January 1. They were forced to return to Halol under police custody, after Rekha’s parents filed a kidnapping complaint against Sonu. Judge Parikh said the two women could not be held once the kidnapping charge did not hold.

From: "Prashant Goel" <>

5 April 2006

New Site: Matrimonials for Same-sex Marriages

Dear Friends,
I have developed a site entitled "Matrimonials for Same-sex Marriages (".
You can use this site if you are looking for a same-sex life-partner and you are an Indian or a non-Indian who wants to have an Indian as his life partner. The site has provision for publishing your matrimonial and searching the database depending upon the choice of your partner.

While publishing your matrimonial on the site, you can choose your marital status from the following three options:
1. Un-entangled (Un-married, Widow/Widower, Divorcee, Separated)
2. Entangled in a Hetero-Marriage but can take divorce after getting partner
3. Entangled in a Hetero-Marriage and cannot take divorce, want a family friend.

If you want to know who is a ‘family friend’, please see the following web-page:

Please give as much publicity to this site as possible. Inform all your friends about it. The government and society are giving us extreme pain by continuously refusing us our right to marriage. Let us reduce this pain from the earth as much as possible by arranging marriages even without this right. Please wipe tears from the eternally weeping eyes of crores of Indian men, women, and children. Your suggestions, comments, opinion all are acceptable and solicited. Regards and thanks.

PS: Even if you are not looking for a life partner, kindly visit my site and help in publicizing it by informing all your friends about it. (if the site is down, then please try after some time. Sometimes the web-server may be having excessive traffic. We are taking up the case with our web-space providers.)

Indian Online

June 25, 2006

Family disowns ‘royal’ son for being gay

New Delhi – The son of a former royal family in India said Sunday he has been disinherited for admitting he is gay. Prince Manvendrasinh Gohil belongs to a family which once ruled the princely state of Rajpipla in the western state of Gujarat. "I told my parents I was gay," Gohil told NDTV news channel in an interview. "Initially it was difficult for them to accept it. They tried to convert me to heterosexuality. The doctors told them that was not possible and I guess they could not deal with the stigma," he said of his disinheritance.

The Indian Express newspaper said he was publicly disowned by his parents two days ago after he told a vernacular magazine that he was gay. Before then he led a life away from the public eye at the Rajpipla palace 100km from Vadodara city. Gohil, who heads a HIV and Aids programme for the local government, said he has found support from gay and lesbian groups in India and abroad, NDTV reported. "All I want to do is to ensure there is a discussion and people talk about homosexuality and that we get some sort of social status," he said.

Gohil added he had no regrets revealing his homosexuality and bore no grudge against his parents. Indian laws against homosexuality were originally enacted by British colonial rulers in 1860. They include up to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine, or both, for anyone found guilty of "carnal intercourse against the order of nature." Although the law is rarely enforced, its existence remains a source of irritation and anxiety for gays and lesbians in India. Indian royals were stripped of their titles and kingdoms in the 1970s.

Times of India

August 20, 2006

‘Same-sex visa a tough process

by Radha Sharma
Ahmedabad – The lesbian girl who got a visa to Canada initially wanted to go on a student visa but when the consultant realised she had a lesbian partner in the country, he advised her to try out sexuality as grounds for immigration.

"Applying for immigration on same sex grounds requires lot of expertise as the couple is required to prove the relationship on paper. Application requires details like how many times they had physical intercourse, details of gifts they exchanged, joint property they hold together and lot of other intimate information," immigration consultant Lalit Advani said.

Associated Press

August 26, 2006

Indian Politicians clueless about HIV?

Most legislators in India, the country with the most AIDS infections in the world, remain ignorant about the disease, with many believing it can be spread by sharing food, toilets and offices, an official said on Thursday. The lack of AIDS awareness was revealed in a survey of 250 legislators that was released to Parliament Wednesday, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported in a story confirmed by Manmohan Sharma, who heads the parliamentary committee that wrote the report.

According to the poll, 64 per cent of Indian legislators believe sharing clothes can transmit HIV, the virus that can lead to full-blown AIDS, 56 per cent think that sharing food and utensils spreads the virus, 40 per cent said that contact with a co-worker spreads it, and 22.8 per cent believe that using the same toilet as an infected person can pass the virus to others, the paper reported.

Of perhaps even greater concern is the apparent ignorance among legislators about how to best prevent the spread of AIDS. According to the Hindustan Times, some 25 per cent of those questioned did not know that sex with multiple partners increases the risk of contracting AIDS, and the same number were unaware that using a condom prevents transmission. Some 46 per cent did not know that an infected mother can pass the disease on to her fetus, and 51 per cent were ignorant that a person can get the AIDS virus from blood transfusions, the newspaper reported, citing the study, which was not immediately available. No margin of error was given, but the report’s sample represents nearly a third of the 787 legislators in the lower and upper houses of parliament.

UNAIDS said in May that India’s 5.7 million infections meant the country has the highest number of people in the world living with HIV. But due to its large population – the country is home to more than a billion people – India’s prevalence rate remains less than 1 per cent. The report comes soon after India said it would earmark $200 million US for the financial year 2006-2007 for its AIDS prevention program. The plan aims to accelerate a campaign to promote safe sex, popularise the use of condoms, remove the stigma surrounding the disease, expanding the network of treatment facilities and get more people on anti-retroviral drugs.

After receiving the report, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said it contained "very interesting and provocative material on the perceptions and approach of our elected representatives on a vital area of national policy,” the paper quoted him as saying.??Other legislators called for more discussion of the issue in parliament. On the bright side, the survey found that all those questioned had heard of AIDS, usually from the media.

August 30, 2006

India’s first openly gay royal, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, has announced plans to adopt a child.

The 40-year-old prince was publicly disowned by his family after he came out as homosexual in an Indian newspaper. He has since been stripped of his title and inheritance. According to reports, Manvendra’s decision to adopt comes after his family made efforts to repair relations with him. His father, Raghubir Singh Gohil, recently told The Times of India newspaper that he regretted disowning him out of anger.He said: ‘I did it in anger. I was pressurised by various people. He has been a good son.’

Manvendra has expressed a desire to adopt a teenage child and he plans for the child to be educated abroad. Homosexuality is banned in India and punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Although Manvendra came out to his family in 2002, his family had not expected him to go public about his sexuality. Only two months ago his mother issued a statement stating his sexuality was ‘unsuitable in society.’ Manvendra, who is chairperson of AIDS charity organisation Lakshya Trust, said: ‘I came out as gay to a Gujarati daily because I wanted people to openly discuss homosexuality since it’s a hidden affair, with a lot of stigma attached.’

From "Rajes Kale"

September 1, 2006

Being gay in India had never been easy
, the law is harsh and not giving a lot of space for us. However in the last few months, gays find more and more places where they can express themselves and meet with others safely. The internet has become a virtual space where gays can meet safely, to speak about anything they like without censorship.

A website such as is offering gays in India the opportunity to express themselves in gay forums and blogs, meet thousands of other gays from all over India, and lately even to video chat others. Match making has become the art of where gays are matched according to their interests and personal taste.

This site is being run by Vikram Patel who spent years involved in the gay community issues and an organizer of many protests against the so called "sodomy law". He has dedicated his life for aiding gays in their struggle to be free from the chains of society and prejudice. Since its beginning, the site is visited by thousands each day, due to the hunger and great need for the gays in India to have an opportunity and place to meet easily with others.

"There are still a lot of difficulties in reaching every gay in need, letting him know of this chance to meet new friends easily" says Vikram and requests everyone’s help in promoting this site among those who haven’t been aware yet. Let us hope his call will lead to a stronger united gay community with the power to change the way society thinks and acts.

Hindustan Times,000600010001.htm

September 9, 2006

St Petersburg hot with India’s gays

by Sushmita Bose, New Delhi 
Where is the pink rupee being spent in transit? The wealthier among India’s gay community are thinking “exotic” these days and making a beeline for the Caribbean, the Maldives and Zanzibar, pop icon Freddie Mercury’s birthplace. Ashok Row Kavi, gay activist and chairperson of Humsafar Trust, says St Petersburg has emerged as a hot destination across the community, because “it is cheap and exotic”. Then there is old favourite Amsterdam, and newly popular Dusseldorf and Morocco.

Travel trade analysts say that there is no quantifiable data on gay travel, but, in the domestic circuit, there are at least three destinations that are popular with the community: Goa, Pondicherry and Manali. “There is still a ‘foreign’ connect attached to Goa and Pondicherry, which makes them less judgmental and intrusive,” says an analyst who collects data on outbound and domestic travel trade, who requested anonymity as his work involves confidentiality. Goa, in fact, has an “open gay pub” in Panjim, something not too many “straight travellers” are aware of. Nor are too many people aware that Chandigarh is another emerging destination for gays.

There are websites for all Indian metros to help gay travellers with information and FAQs. In Mumbai, for instance, there is, which claims to help with travel itinerary; it also has a ‘gbcalender’ that lists all gay events being held in and around Mumbai. “Delhi has at least three five-star hotels that give special schemes to gay tourists, but business is conducted strictly via word-of-mouth,” says London-based Arvind Gupte, a frequent traveller to New Delhi. “We usually go to the bigger cities for the fun and the partying. For a vacation we go to Goa or Pondicherry.”

According to Dinesh S, fashion coordinator, there are gays who earn less than Rs 15,000 a month, but who manage to go abroad at least twice a year – usually Bangkok and Pattaya in Thailand, and Sri Lanka, as both these countries are cheap and accessible. "When the Dolce Gabbana came out with its hoarding showing Domenico Dolce posing with designer partner (and former lover) Stefano Gabbana, many people in India were curious why the ad was targeting the ‘niche’ gay community," says Dinesh. "The question was: is there a niche gay community that would spend so much? The answer is yes; even if we don’t qualify as being SEC A, we spend substantial amounts on grooming and the feel-good factor." And feel-good, he feels, is what travel is all about for the gay community.

International Herald Tribune

September 15, 2006

Amid a climate of growing sexual tolerance within urban India

by Amelia Gentleman
New Delhi – Amid a climate of growing sexual tolerance within urban India, a campaign to force the government to decriminalize homosexuality is rapidly gaining momentum. About 150 of India’s most influential figures – from the novelist Vikram Seth to the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen – have joined their voices in a protest letter demanding the repeal of "cruel and discriminatory" legislation banning gay sex.

The letter brings together senior names from India’s traditionally conservative elite – business, civil service and judiciary – alongside the more expected representatives of human rights groups. "Some of India’s most distinguished people have come together to say that this is a fundamental human rights issue which must be addressed," said Siddharth Dube, a writer and senior official of the UN AIDS program, or Unaids.

The signatories called for Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which bans gay sex, to be overturned immediately. The law has been used to "systematically persecute, blackmail, arrest and terrorize sexual minorities," said the letter, which was to be published in Indian newspapers Saturday. Hostility to the law has intensified for two reasons: It is seen as an anachronism from a less tolerant era and health care officials, struggling to contain India’s AIDS epidemic, warn that it hampers their efforts to contact vulnerable groups.

The letter, whose signers include Soli Sorabjee, a former attorney general, and Nitin Desai, a former UN under secretary general, stresses that the law has been "used by homophobic officials to suppress the work of legitimate HIV- prevention groups, leaving gay and bisexual men in India even more defenseless against HIV infection." The letter’s release was timed to anticipate a critical ruling from Delhi’s High Court, expected early next month, on the validity of the legislation. An HIV-AIDS prevention organization, the Naz Foundation, has sued to have Section 377 overturned, but its case was rejected on the grounds that "public morality" should "prevail over the exercise of any private right." The petition is being heard again on appeal.

Unaids said in May that India had the highest number of people in the world living with HIV – about 5.7 million. A few weeks later, the government’s AIDS-prevention body called for the law to be overturned, warning that "Section 377 can adversely contribute to pushing the infection underground." Activists say internal government memos suggest the government is tilting in favor of decriminalization.

The petition seeks to broaden the issue from one of public health to a moral, human rights argument. Activists point out that the legislation was introduced by the British colonial authorities and does not reflect ancient Hindu cultural values. The Hindu epics reveal a tolerant approach to homosexuality, and the stone carvings on the temples of Khajuraho show men having sex with men.

Section 377 brackets gay sex with sex with animals and pedophilia, defining it as an "unnatural" offense, punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment. Although the law is rarely enforced, its presence sends a clear signal to law enforcement bodies, and police harassment of gay men is widespread. Dube, one of the organizers behind the petition, said the fear of being prosecuted in India for being openly gay had caused him to live abroad for most of his adult life.

"People sometimes make the mistake of thinking that because this law is not often prosecuted, that means it is innocuous. It doesn’t take prosecution in a law court to make people terrified. The fear of prosecution lingers," he said. "As a gay Indian, one always feels like an outsider – ostracized. I felt like a criminal all the time."

New York Times

September 16, 2006

Notables Urge India to End 145-Year Ban on Gay Sex

by Somini Sengupta
New Delhi — A British-era relic is facing a new challenge in India, as a growing citizens’ movement rallies against a 145-year-old law still embedded in the Indian penal code that bans gay sex. On Saturday an open letter to the government will be officially unveiled, calling for the repeal of what is known by its official moniker, Section 377, which makes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with man, woman or animal” punishable by 10 years in prison.

The letter is signed by an eclectic list of Indian writers, filmmakers, lawyers and other luminaries, including the author Vikram Seth, the actress Soha Ali Khan and a former attorney general of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, Soli Sorabjee. “In independent India, as earlier, this archaic and brutal law has served no good purpose,” the letter argues. “It has been used to systematically persecute, blackmail, arrest and terrorize sexual minorities. It has spawned public intolerance and abuse, forcing tens of millions of gay and bisexual men and women to live in fear and secrecy, at tragic cost to themselves and their families.”

The letter comes less than two months after a similar plea from the government AIDS agency. In an affidavit to the Delhi High Court calling for a repeal of the law, the National AIDS Control Agency argued in late July that Section 377 poses a public health risk by driving gay men underground and impeding efforts to prevent the spread of AIDS. With more than five million cases of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, India ranks either first or second, depending on who is measuring, among countries with the largest number of infected people.

The statute is being challenged under a lawsuit brought in 2001 by a gay-rights advocacy group called the Naz Foundation, which argued that the law contravenes rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution, including equality, privacy and freedom of expression. The case was initially thrown out by the Delhi High Court on the grounds that the foundation did not suffer as a result of the law and so had no legal standing to sue. The Supreme Court of India earlier this year tossed the case back, instructing the Delhi court to review the case on its merits. The next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 4.

The campaign to repeal Section 377 reflects a confluence of broad changes sweeping this country, from health concerns and urbanization in India to a growing awareness about India’s place in the world. A preface to the open letter, written by Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate and economist who is now a professor at Harvard, calls the law, codified in 1861, “a colonial-era monstrosity.” “That, as it happens, was the year in which the American Civil War began, which would ultimately abolish the unfreedom of slavery in America,” he wrote. “Today, 145 years later, we surely have urgent reason to abolish in India, with our commitment to democracy and human rights, the unfreedom of arbitrary and unjust criminalization.”

The law is today most often used to prosecute cases of child sexual abuse, and its backers warn that its repeal could jeopardize efforts to arrest offenders. The office of the solicitor general of India declined to comment on the law, on the grounds that it is under litigation. Section 377 is rarely now used to prosecute gay adults engaged in consensual sex, lawyers and activists say, but it remains a whip with which to threaten, blackmail and jail suspected gay men and lesbians where they gather — in parks, bars and even, on occasion, on the Internet. Strictly speaking, the statute makes it illegal to distribute condoms to gay men or in Indian prisons.

As with most things in this country, whatever generalizations one can draw about attitudes towards homosexuality, its opposite is also just as likely to be true. And yet, stigma and scorn prevail. Indian newspapers earlier this year, for instance, carried the story of a woman who attempted suicide after being forcibly separated from her lover, whom she said she had married in a Hindu temple. In western Vadodara, also this year, the police filed kidnapping charges against a woman for running off with another woman; the two told local authorities, according to local news media reports, that they wanted to live together. In June came news that the scion of a former royal family had been disinherited after saying he was gay. The Advocate

September 18, 2006

India’s gay prince has a happy birthday

India’s Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil celebrated his birthday Sunday in his customary fashion — by holding a music and arts festival in his family’s Rajpipla palace — having largely patched up months of family strife sparked when he came out in the media as gay, the Times of India reported. For the past eight years, Manvendra has celebrated his Sept. 17 birthday by organizing the music festival, where several prominent classical singers perform. "The idea is to provide an opportunity to young performers," Manvendra, who turned 41 over the weekend, told the Times.

The festival was organized under the banner of the Lakshya Trust, the local AIDS/HIV nonprofit in Gujarat state of which Manvendra is patron. After announcing the event Wednesday, he politely avoided questions regarding his being disowned by the royal family upon coming out. However, the Times noted, the scenario has improved and the family has largely sorted things out: Manvendra said they would be attending the event.

September 26, 2006

Survey: Young Indians split over whether to scrap sodomy law

by Ashok Sharma, AP
A campaign to repeal an Indian law that makes homosexuality a crime has split young people in New Delhi and Mumbai, with about half of them in favor of scrapping the legislation, according to a survey published Monday.
A campaign to repeal an Indian law that makes homosexuality a crime has split young people in New Delhi and Mumbai, with about half of them in favor of scrapping the legislation, according to a survey published Monday. The support for doing away with the sodomy law was surprisingly strong, and other findings of the poll appear to indicate that once-widespread prejudices against gays and lesbians are slowly disappearing. The poll, published in The Hindustan Times newspaper and conducted by the firm C fore, found that 52% of those surveyed in New Delhi, the capital, believe the sodomy law should be repealed. Another 31% favored keeping the law, while 17% were not sure.

Support for legalizing homosexuality in Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment center, was a bit lower, with 46% of respondents in favor of scrapping the law and 40% against the move. Some 14% of respondents were unsure. Same-sex marriage, however, was opposed by 53% of those surveyed in New Delhi and 63% in Mumbai. The survey polled 415 people between the ages of 15 and 25 and was conducted September 19–22, the newspaper reported. No margin of error was given. Homosexuality has long been taboo in India, and antigay prejudices remain widespread. But, just as is the case in many traditional cultures, there also has long been an underground gay and lesbian culture.

The law makes consensual sex between two adults of the same sex a criminal offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. It was imposed in 1861 by British colonial authorities who ruled India until 1947. While prosecutions are rare, gay activists say police use the law to harass them. In recent years, health workers from the government and private organizations have complained that forcing gays and lesbians underground has hampered efforts to halt the spread of HIV in the gay community. Those complaints, coupled with loosening mores among India’s expanding middle and upper classes, have pushed officials toward getting rid of the sodomy law.

Well-known Indian author Vikram Seth earlier this month joined the fray, penning an open letter that was published in many Indian newspapers urging that the law be scrapped. A gay rights activist from Mumbai, Ashok Row Kavi, said Monday that regardless of the move to legalize homosexuality, gays and lesbians remain underground in New Delhi, long considered among the most strait-laced of India’s major cities. "Gays are in [the] closet in New Delhi," Kavi said of the survey.

September 27, 2006

Why we need to break the chains of India’s gay people

by Ashok Row Kavi
It’s strange how the movement to annul the anti-sodomy laws has been proceeding. The latest being the hue and cry over the open letter by Vikram Seth and over 150 others including Amartya Sen and Arundhati Roy crying for the removal of Section 377 from the Indian Penal Code for being unconstitutional. The backlash against the movement has also started building up and now covers a whole spectrum from lunatic fringe right-wing groups to the equally loony liberals.

Time to dump Article 377? Tell us!
Some of the voices for keeping the sodomy laws are the usual set of culprits with the same old tired arguments confusing same-sex love with pedophilia, equating homosexuality with species suicide, and even a rather funny Shiv Sena argument that if ‘all women became lesbians the population would collapse and India would get de-populated.’ However, what interests me now is the way the political class is appropriating and co-opting the gay movement without looking at the health angle. In fact the only sensible statement till date that I can relate to has been the affidavit from the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) saying that Section 377 has ‘become a hindrance in reaching out to and accessing population on the margins of society like men-having-sex (MSM) in the national effort to prevention and control HIV/AIDS.’

The real success of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) movement in India over the last decade has been to get gay men, hijras and male prostitutes into the inner core of the government’s health programmes. I remember that when I attended my first AIDS Conference in Montreal in 1989 (it was actually the Fifth International AIDS Conference) the Indian health ministry had insisted that there were no homosexuals in India and gays existed only in the ‘decadent and debauched Western world’ (in fact, these were the exact words used by the health official in Montreal).

The fact that in the year 2006, the budgetary guidelines published by NACO, mention MSM and hijras (eunuchs) as the ‘core population infected and affected by HIV and AIDS’ is the biggest achievement till date for the GLBT community. The recent letter was the icing on the cake which means the gay movement will most probably see the light at the end of the tunnel. As a plenary speaker at the recent Outgames in Montreal where a pre-games human rights conference brought out homosexual issues into brilliant focus on a planetary scale, mine was strangely the only argument to look into the health issues of the emerging gay communities in Asia.
It is no use having our human rights if millions of our communities are decimated by HIV, AIDS and new drug resistant sexually transmitted infections (STIs) now spreading rapidly in the gay ghettoes of San Francisco, New York and Berlin.

In India, the first sentinel surveillance of hijras at Mumbai’s Sion Hospital in 2005 gave a horrendous 49.5 per cent prevalence, which means one out of every two hijras will be dying if we don’t get them medication soon. It has to be understood that the gay movement in China and India are presently poised on a single track engine that really must run on two tracks. One track is the health issues of sexual minorities. By tackling them head on, hijras, gay and lesbian communities can be empowered to take charge of their lives, engage their mental and physical health issues and join the mainstream of national life.

The other track is the human rights one. By removing laws which criminalise same-sex activity, these communities can join the mainstream, demand rights which facilitate access to health facilities and get on with their lives. Today, it is a criminal offence if a doctor does not report a patient with anal STIs because he can be arrested for being an accessory to a crime already committed (anal sex). The ridiculous argument that there have not been many prosecutions under Section 377 is laughable. Ask any gay man how many times he has become a victim of violence, extortion and blackmail with just the subtle threat of a policeman, goonda or even a friend trying to put the soft touch. Every gay man I have met carries at least one sorry tale of violence from police, goondas and assorted anti-socials who thrive on the gay world.

Among lesbians, one of the biggest problems is alcoholism and it needs to be tackled as a mental health problem on a priority scale. This came out along with depression and lack of access to both counseling on sexual rights. Lesbians amazingly have been the first ones who have started fighting heterosexist society by eloping and willfully living together as same-sex couples in Asia. In this they have stolen a march over gay men, a majority of whom are married to women and immediately jump on a bisexual and ‘bi-curious’ bandwagon. The few gay couples I have met are happily stuck in a never-ending rut of partying and liberal mumbo-jumbo.

The fight to remove anti-sodomy laws is much bigger and goes beyond being just a fight for sexual rights. It cannot possibly move forward without a whole gamut of reforms around women’s issues. The anti-rape laws have to be reformed along with Section 377; they are humiliating for women who can be questioned in court over intimate details which need to be heard in camera. Male rape has never been addressed except under Section 377 where even the victim can be jailed for 10 years, which is why it is seldom reported. Rape and molestation of minors needs separate laws on the statute books and needs to be separated so that same-sex relations and pedophilia are not mixed into an unholy cocktail.

In fact, the Lawyers Collective has a whole slew of reforms suggested through consensus from workshops held all over the country. But, of course, the present movement against Section 377 will be the main battle ram to break through this bottleneck in the reform of such laws. I think the next step is going to come from the Women’s Health Movement. I wonder how many have observed that we have no faculty which looks into anything but the reproductive health of women. Women who are post menopausal or old have not a single department in any hospital I know in Mumbai. Obviously the gay movement can be a great ally for women in their fight for their sexual rights.

And though I think Arundhati Roy is an unreadable author who has strayed into magical reality from the world of fiction, she may have an inkling that breaking the chains of gay men, hijras and lesbians in this country would be the first step in finally winning that crucial battle for women.

Ashok Row Kavi is India’s leading gay rights activist.


October 21, 2006

I appreciate GayBombay Yahoo Group

Gay Bombay is an organization that works for the betterment of gays and, creates an healthy and friendly atmosphere for gays to meet and interact with one another.Not only that it also generates a ray of hope in the eyes of every gay who steps here–hope which is the beginning of life.

And I appreciate GayBombay for its good work. As the name suggests gay Bombay is basically for gays and its work would not be useful if a gay dosen’t knows about it.Yes ,this happened to me.There was someone who was the first person who knew both gaybombay and me and who also knew that I am a gay. However I was not made aware of GB which affected my life to a large extent. And I don’t want anybody else to get affected in the way I was affected. Hence I would say, a small bit of help from your end can change or save someone’s life. And that person might further turn out to be a saviour for many others. GB is working in the support of gay community and I appreciate it. Also the gays should support each other. Thank you.

Oct 26, 2006

Hijaras moving up in society to become elected member of Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly

Posted by: Adel
There is a Bollywood film entitled ‘Shabnam Mausi ‘about an ambitious tru life hijra who won a local election defeating a do nothing corrupt & murdering politician. The movie is based on this woman’s life and India’s best male actors portray the Shabnam and the hijara clan. If a former Congress minister and his supporters have their way then the first eunuch Member of the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly Shabnam Mausi would lose her membership of the House. The Congress is upset with her spat with former public works department minister Bisahulal Singh, which saw her at her street-smart thunder clapping best.

Just a day earlier, Shabnam had created a stir in the state secretariat by taking on the president of theShahdol nagar panchayat (town municipality) . A eunuch wave swept the state with the advent of the new millenium. Five of them, now christened as the paanch Pandavas, got elected to various public offices. Kamla Jaan, a stern looking no-nonsense eunuch, captured the Katni mayor’s post, while Meenabai became the president of the Sehora town municipality, the oldest civic body in the state. Heera Bai and Gulshan were elected corporators in Jabalpur and Bina, respectively. However, the topping on the cake came when Shabnam Mausi won the by-election to the Sohagpur constituency, which fell vacant when the sitting MLA died, polling more votes than that polled by the Congress and BJP candidates put together. The voters don’t regret their decision. In less than a year, Shabnam has done more work for them than her predecessors had in an entire term. In the assembly, she has outshone her colleagues with considered and weighty arguments: she was the only one in a house of 320 who opposed the formation of Chhattisgarh on the grounds that it would weaken the social fabric of a state which has remained one for forty years. "She has more native intelligence than most other Members of the Legislative Assembly and her grasping power is the most phenomenal I have seen,” says Speaker Sriniwas Tiwari, a veteran of two terms in the chair.

Shabnam Mausi knows and can converse fluently in 14 languages and has adequate knowledge of the Constitution. At one time, she had a busy career in Bombay acting in bit roles in films starring Amitabh Bachchan (Amar Akbar Anthony) and Rajesh Khanna (Janata Hawaldar). She does not let go of any trick to get her work done. Already, despite being an independent, she has more clout than other legislators. In the corridors of the secretariat, it is well known that none of her requests are ever refused. She has managed to get a 30-bed hospital sanctioned for Dharmpuri in her constituency and has got a new filter plant for the town. "I have won on the ground that I’ll do justice without fear or favour, since I have no one of my own. I hope I am doing that,” Shabnam Mausi says. Chief Minister Digvijay Singh considers her an important ally: "She is a brave, intelligent woman who knows her job. I would rather have her on my side than see her in the opposition.’ ‘ Despite his political acumen, Digvijay Singh has failed to find a method to deal with Shabnam.

While he keeps her mollified by sanctioning work in her constituency, his actions are being seen as favouritism by his own party legislators. This has led many to believe that eunuchs may be the answer to the shamelessness and greed of the modern day politician. However, despite their success, it will be a long time before main stream parties give them tickets to contest elections.

Times of India
http://timesofindia .indiatimes. com/articleshow/ 322874.cms

November 5, 2006

Two Orissa girls defy norms, get married

by Satyanarayan Pattnaik
Koraput – Two Kondh women from Orissa’s Koraput district have defied all norms of their tribal society to live as ‘man and wife’ after tying the knot recently. Bateka Palang, 30, wed her bride, 25-year-old Maleka Nilsa of Ghumuru village in Bandhugaon block in a traditional ceremony at Dandabadi, a remote village in Narayanpatna block, in the presence of family. The village has given its grudging approval—the elders have asked residents not to talk about it to outsiders for fear of shame—to the relationship that was formalised after all the usual wedding rituals, including dowry changing hands.

Villagers said the women who wed were cousins and their relationship had developed when Bateka used to visit her would-be wife’s home. "About four years ago, I had gone to my cousin’s home and found a nice friend in Maleka. She was caring and loving. Gradually we started spending more time with each other but we had never thought that one day we would get married," Bateka said.

Initially the girls’ parents did not take their relationship seriously, but gradually their family members became suspicious about them. Repeated threats by the families failed to separate them. As community pressure mounted, the girls ran away. "We resisted their marriage because it was against our tradition. But they were in no mood to listen and eloped. They were later caught at a village fair. Finally, we were compelled to get them married according to our tradition. I have accepted Maleka as my daughter-in- law," said Panti, Bateka’s mother.

The phenomenon of same-sex marriages is new in tribal society, said Bhubaneswar- based Tribal Research and Training Centre director A B Hota. "Tribal tradition is totally opposed to same-sex marriages," he added, hinting at the pressure that must have been brought to bear on the girls. According to Kondh tradition, the groom’s family has to give a dowry to the bride’s parents. "We gave a tin of wine and a cow to the girl’s parents before the marriage," Panti added.

"We are happy after getting each other as life partners and are committed to living together. If our community members or families try to separate us, we will run away again," the couple said.

Associated Press

4 December, 2006

Islamic clerics address HIV, but not condoms

by Aijaz Hussain
Public health authorities in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir have found an unexpected ally in their battle against HIV/AIDS in the deeply conservative region. The Jammu-Kashmir state AIDS prevention and control agency has roped in hundreds of Islamic clerics to carry the message of safe sexual practices to Muslim believers and the state’s mosques and seminaries have become the vanguard of an anti-AIDS campaign, officials said on Friday.

Top Muslim cleric Mufti Nazir Ahmed usually weaves his sermons at a mosque in Kashmir around Islamic tenets that urge Muslims to refrain from promiscuity and homosexuality — widely believed to be among the major reasons for the spread of AIDS. "Wherever I deliver a sermon, I talk about AIDS. Methods to prevent AIDS corresponds exactly with the teachings of Islam. If one follows the Islamic way, by no means can one contract AIDS," Ahmed told the Associated Press on Friday.

Jammu and Kashmir AIDS Prevention and Control Society, the state-run HIV/AIDS prevention agency, says it has trained 600 Islamic clerics to spread the message of safe sexual practices. "Islamic scholars have helped us in a big way to spread the anti-AIDS message, and I can proudly say that today 90 percent of the population in Jammu-Kashmir knows about the disease," said Mohammad Amin, a state health official. At least 37 people have died of AIDS in Jammu-Kashmir over the last decade while another 931 people have tested positive for HIV or AIDS, he said. India, with 5.7 million HIV-positive people, has the highest number of HIV cases in the world.

Muneer Ahmed Masoodi, a community health officer, said the participation of religious scholars has brought down AIDS infection rates in Ghana, Senegal and Uganda. "WHO and the United Nations have been convinced by the experiment," Masoodi said. To avoid offence, Islamic preachers avoid references to condoms in their sermons. "Faith plays a great role in modeling the behaviour of a person and we have effectively used it in our campaign against AIDS," said Amin

05 December 2006

India’s Law Criminalizing Homosexuality Hinders HIV Prevention, Violates Human Rights Of MSM, UNAIDS Official Says

India’s law criminalizing homosexuality is undermining the fight against HIV/AIDS and violates the human rights of men who have sex with men, Denis Broun, UNAIDS India coordinator, said on Thursday, Reuters UK reports (Zaheer, Reuters UK, 11/30). The law, enacted in 1861 and known as Section 377, makes "carnal intercourse against the order of nature with man, woman or animal" punishable by up to 10 years in prison and, when strictly interpreted, makes it illegal to distribute condoms to gay men and men in prison. The law — which seldom is used to prosecute gay adults in consensual relationships — is most often used to arrest offenders in cases of sexual abuse of children. Some people warn that if the law is repealed, efforts to prosecute people who commit sexual abuses against children could be negatively affected (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/18).

According to India’s National AIDS Control Organization, there are about 2.5 million MSM in the country. However, UNAIDS says the number could be anywhere between five million and 15 million. "People are being harassed by section 377 and men having sex with men do not come forward and receive adequate prevention information," Broun said. He added that most Indian MSM are bisexual and that they risk transmitting the virus to their female partners. The law "puts gay activists under great pressure in their fight against AIDS," K.K. Abraham, general secretary of the Indian Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS, said, adding, "The government needs a reality check and (has) to do away with this law if it is serious about fighting HIV/AIDS" (Reuters UK, 11/30). The statute is being challenged under a 2001 lawsuit brought by the Naz Foundation India Trust. The Delhi High Court initially threw out the case, but the Supreme Court of India earlier this year instructed the high court to review the case again (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/18).


December 06, 2006

Tribe blesses lesbian ‘marriage’

by Sanjaya Jena
Orissa – An Indian tribe has given its consent to a lesbian ‘marriage’ in the eastern Indian state of Orissa. A priest belonging to the Kandha tribe led the ceremony between Wetka Polang, 30, and Melka Nilsa, 22, in Koraput district recently. Both the women are day labourers and now live together in Dandabadi village. Same-sex relationships are outlawed in India. The 145-year-old colonial Indian Penal Code clearly describes a same sex relationship as an "unnatural offence".
Sociologists say that a community blessing a same-sex ‘marriage’ is unheard of in India. It was not easy for Wetka and Melka to convince their tribe that they wanted to get married and live together – the local community at first fiercely protested at the idea. The two women then eloped to another village to escape the wrath of their neighbours.

After much persuasion by family members, Kandha villagers of Dandabadi finally gave consent to the formal wedding. We love each other very much. We are leading a blissful married life "They [Wetka and Melka] wanted to prove that they can live without the help of men. They also love each other very much. So we decided to forgive them," said village elder Melka Powla. But the two tribal women had to pay fines to their community to get it to bless their union – they offered a barrel of country liquor, a pair of oxen, and a sack of rice and hosted a family feast.
Eventually, last month, Wetka applied vermillion on Melka’s forehead in the tradition of Indian marriage ceremonies before a disari or community priest, said village elder Dalimangi Chexa.

Now the couple say they are happy.
"We are leading a blissful married life. We love each other very much," Wetka told the BBC. Both the women have had unhappy experiences with men in the past. Wetka says she walked out of her marriage to an alcoholic after years of abuse. Melka’s family had arranged her marriage with another local man much against her wishes – she managed to break the engagement by telling the man’s family that he was mentally "not normal". The two women now hope to extend their family by adopting the son of Wetka’s elder brother.

From: "GM"

December 10, 2006

Second Gay Hyderabad Meeting Doubles Attendence

The second meeting of Gay Hyderabad was attended by 11 people. We met at Eat Street at Necklace Road. We had quite a bit to eat and quite a lot of conversation. For a few people in the group it was an eye-opener. “What will you achieve with a Gay Hyderabad group?”, I was asked by A. “A sense of solidarity”, I replied, “someone to talk to when we are feeling lonely. Some one to support us when one of us is being forced to get married to a female”. “These are lofty goals!”, A. quipped, “do you think you will achieve them?”. “Umang had started Gay Bombay in 1998. Who could have imagined that they will now also have a parents meeting?”.

We talked of many things. I urge the other group members to write about this meet. I don’t want it to be just “Deep’s meeting” – Gay Hyderabad is for all of you decent gay guys living in Hyderabad. Please write folks! And please come for these meets. We need your ideas and active participation. I have got emails from folks in Denmark wishing us luck in our endeavor. For some in the group, this Yahoo! group was a thing unknown. They have never been part of this group. Today they are reading your messages for the first time in their lives!

We walked around a bit to burn off our calories. And then some of us went to watch “Superman Returns” at Prasad’s IMAX. It was fun watching the movie in a gay group – we may have watched it with our straight friends before, but this time we could nudge each other and talk about Brandon Routh’s “bulges”! We, each one of us, were free. We could be ourselves and not pretend to be something we were not. We could drop our stifling mask of “straightness”, albeit for a few hours. We encourage other LGBT people to attend. Sometimes, when you have been living with the mask on all your life it is very painful to take it off, but when you do, you feel the exhilarating cool breeze on your cheeks and discover the real you.

Other gay India Yahoo groups:

The Hindu

10 December 2006

Sexuality minorities’ take out rally against `discrimination’

Special Correspondent
They demand equal opportunities in all fields

Mysore: Nearly 300 people who described themselves as "sexuality minorities" organised a rally under the banner of Sangama here on Saturday against what they called "discrimination" they were facing. The rally was taken out as part of International Human Rights Day and they highlighted the "discrimination" they were facing because of their gender identity. They demanded that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code be repealed. The section, they said, criminalised them and gays by terming their sexuality "against the order of nature".

"The law was introduced in India in 1860 by the British and though it has been revoked in that country many decades ago, it continues to be in force in the country. Coupled with this, we are subject to harassment, torture and extortion by the police and anti-social elements," according to members of Sangama. They were also discriminated against in terms of housing, employment, property, marriage, adoption, and insurance as the Indian law did not recognise heterosexuals. Hence, they were deprived of education, housing, health care, ration cards, passports, voters ID cards, etc. In addition, they faced rejection from their families some of whom resorted to unethical and outdated mode of treatments to "cure" them of their preferences, the members said. They called for redrafting the civil law to give them equal opportunities in all fields.

The Hindu

December 10, 2006

`Sexuality minorities’ take out rally against `discrimination’…They demand equal opportunities in all fields

Special Correspondent
Karnataka – Mysore – Nearly 300 people who described themselves as "sexuality minorities" organised a rally under the banner of Sangama here on Saturday against what they called "discrimination" they were facing.
The rally was taken out as part of International Human Rights Day and they highlighted the "discrimination" they were facing because of their gender identity. They demanded that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code be repealed. The section, they said, criminalised them and gays by terming their sexuality "against the order of nature".

"The law was introduced in India in 1860 by the British and though it has been revoked in that country many decades ago, it continues to be in force in the country. Coupled with this, we are subject to harassment, torture and extortion by the police and anti-social elements," according to members of Sangama. They were also discriminated against in terms of housing, employment, property, marriage, adoption, and insurance as the Indian law did not recognise heterosexuals. Hence, they were deprived of education, housing, health care, ration cards, passports, voters ID cards, etc. In addition, they faced rejection from their families some of whom resorted to unethical and outdated mode of treatments to "cure" them of their preferences, the members said. They called for redrafting the civil law to give them equal opportunities in all fields.

IST Times News Network

December 24, 2006

Rape, sodomy equal before law?

by Dhananjay Mahapatra
New Delhi: At a time when Jessica Lall was getting justice and Manu Sharma and his associates were getting convicted, a significant judgment from the trial court on Section 377 of Indian Penal Code went unnoticed. It branded rape and sodomy as similar offences. "There is no reason why the instances of sexual assault on a male child should be treated differently from a similar act committed on a female child," said Delhi’s additional chief metropolitan magistrate (ACMM) Kamini Lau, while sentencing the offender to seven years imprisonment.

The verdict, though from a trial court, has thrown up important questions for the Delhi High Court, which at present is examining a PIL challenging the validity of Section 377 of IPC, which punishes voluntary carnal intercourse terming it as against the order of nature. If gay activists are seeking repeal of Section 377 citing its misuse by police to harass them, the trial court showed the flip side of the argument by bringing up the question: Under what provisions would those sexually abusing children, with or without their consent, be punished?

The ACMM went beyond the scope of Section 377, which makes voluntary carnal intercourse a punishable offence. Realising that it is futile to examine whether a child consented to such an act, she rightly equated the offence with that of rape. Justifying the sentence against the offender, she said: "This court is aware of its obligation to impose a punishment so as to respond to the society’s cry against such criminals who have committed dehumanising acts of unlawful intrusion of the right to privacy and violated the sanctity of a child."

In a similar case, the Supreme Court had last month come down heavily on Kerala High Court for acquitting a person convicted under Section 377 by the trial court for having forcible anal sex with a girl. The high court had said that there was no corroborative evidence to sustain the statement of the victim. The SC had rightly accept the logic provided by the HC. It had said: "The evidence of a victim of sex offence is entitled to great weight, absence of corroboration notwithstanding."

As far as reported cases go, seldom have the police resorted to Section 377 to book gay activists. It could be true that police have intruded the privacy of gay couples and threatened them with action under this provision. But in a majority of the instances, cases are slapped under this section against those caught sexually abusing children. What the additional chief metropolitan magistrate did was to highlight the anomaly that could creep in if Section 377 is done away with completely.

May be, the word ‘voluntarily’ figuring in Section 377 could be substituted with ‘forcibly’ to let gay activists legally keep their preferences, but not those sexually abusing children. The other way out is to change the definition of ‘rape’ to include sexual abuse of male children within its purview. Without either of them being put in place, it would be unwise to repeal Section 377 lock, stock and barrel.

The New York Times

December 31, 2006

India Prosperity Creates Paradox; Many Children Are Fat, Even More Are Famished

by Somini Sengupta
New Delhi — Presenting a confounding portrait of child health in India, new research commissioned by the government finds that despite the economic advances of recent years India’s share of malnourished children remains among the worst in the world. Paradox being pervasive in this country, the new data on child malnutrition comes even as public health officials confront what they call alarming levels of childhood obesity. In short, while new money and new foods transform the eating habits of some of India’s youngest citizens, gnawing destitution continues to plague millions of others. Taken together, it is a picture of plenty and want, each producing its own set of afflictions.

Consider the statistics from Delhi, one of the country’s most prosperous states and the seat of the capital. A recent study conducted by the Delhi Diabetes Research Center among schoolchildren ages 10 to 16 found nearly one in five to be either overweight or clinically obese. At the same time, preliminary figures from the latest National Family Health Survey showed one in three children under the age of 3 to be clinically underweight, the most reliable measure of malnutrition.Most vexing, especially for the government, is that the preliminary findings of the national survey, conducted in 2005-6, suggest that India’s share of malnourished children seems to have declined only modestly since the last national survey seven years ago.

In Delhi, for instance, the share of underweight children dipped to 33 percent from 35 percent in that period. In perhaps the mostdamning indictment of the public health system, the share of Delhi children who were fully immunized actually fell to 63 percent from a level of 70 percent.During that period, the Indian economy soared. “I just want to assure you, government is very aware,” Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission said at a meeting of children’s rights advocates this month. “We must really judge our success in terms of these indicators, not in terms of growth.”

Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, said bluntly at the same gathering, “Our failure here is very extraordinary.”The rampant malnutrition occurs even though India has long had a surplus of food grains, and one of the largest child health and nutrition programs in the world. Public health experts say social practice and government neglect are more to blame. Deprivation starts with mothers: poor women, who are likely to be malnourished to begin with, tend to get insufficient food and rest during pregnancy. They
give birth to underweight babies and often cannot produce enough breast milk.

Millions of families, including their babies, survive on little more than rice, wheat and lentils. Poor sanitation, irregular immunization and a lack of access to primary health care can make already fragile children even more prone to falling ill and losing more weight. The child nutrition program, which is supposed to provide food rations and health counseling to mothers and children, has a checkered record, delivering high-quality meals in some places but dogged elsewhere by charges of corruption and mismanagement.

A government panel this year recommended sweeping changes to the program, including serving cooked food to children and delivering rations at home for pregnant women and babies. In a rare rebuke, the Supreme Court of India this month ordered the government
to expand swiftly the number of nutrition programs in the country. The programs now serve around 46 million children, at least on paper. The repercussions of child malnutrition, particularly in a country where 40 percent of the people are younger than 18, are obvious and far-reaching. It stunts mental and physical development and makes children additionally susceptible to illness.

The World Bank this year put a price on malnutrition, saying that India lost up to $2.5 billion annually because of reduced productivity. The government has so far released data from the latest National Family Health Survey for 22 of the country’s 29 states, and it reveals, like most everything else here, a mixed picture. In India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh in the north, 47 percent of children younger than 3 are clinically underweight. In central Madhya Pradesh, home to many of India’s indigenous tribes, the portion is a staggering 60 percent. In southern Tamil Nadu, the share has steadily dipped over the past decade to 33 percent.

Because not all state information is released, no official figure is available yet on the latest nationwide malnutrition figure. An independent analysis by Jean Dreze, an economist and advocate for the expansion of the national child nutrition program, estimated that the national malnutrition rate was 42 percent, based on the population-weighted average of the 22 states where figures are available. That represents a slight decline from seven years ago when nearly 47 percent of children nationwide were found to be underweight. One morning in a destitute rural district called Barabanki about 300 miles northwest of here, a dozen small children, most of them barefoot, some of them barely clothed, lined up for help at a program known as Integrated Child Development Services.

On this morning, every child received a scoop of dry cereal, a bland mixture of wheat, sugar and soy that is called panjiri in Hindi. Some brought a plastic bag to hold their gift. Others made a bowl with the dirty end of whatever they wore. They sat on the ground and shoveled the food into their mouths. Mothers in this village said the dry ration cereal sometimes made their children sick. No cooked food was available at this center. The center was also supposed to dispense vitamin-fortified oil to the villagers, but they said it rarely came.

Child health workers assigned to the centers in Barabanki were infrequent visitors. One parent said she had not seen a health worker in her village in months, since the last distribution of polio vaccine. Immunization rates in this state are among the lowest anywhere in India. Fewer than one in four children are fully immunized, according to the latest health survey. An independent survey by Mr. Dreze and his team across six states in India concluded that, like the centers in Barabanki, most of the feeding programs had neither kitchens nor toilets. A third of them were described as being in “poor” or “very poor” shape. The best ones, the survey found, like those in southern Tamil Nadu state, served a variety of hot, freshly cooked food. Stubborn social divides in some parts of India meant that low-caste children or those from Muslim families were not served at all.

Around the corner from one center in Barabanki, at the home of a toddler named Asma, who is almost 3, was a typical portrait of want. Asma’s mother, Alia Bano, said she had never had enough breast milk to feed Asma, the youngest of six children. She barely had money to buy milk, and with it, she made a pot of milky tea for the family each morning. The family’s daily meals consisted of lentils, with rice or whole wheat bread, and sometimes a vegetable. Fruit was too expensive. Asma’s mother could not recall when she last bought meat or eggs. The family lived off the earnings of Asma’s father, a day laborer. They owned no land. Asma waddled with a distended belly, a hallmark of malnutrition. Her mother said she frequently suffered from diarrhea and fever.

A portrait of India’s afflictions of plenty is almost equally commonplace. Here in the nation’s capital, on a Saturday afternoon several months ago a teenager named Mansi Arya sat in a nutritionist’s clinic, recalling just how much she had eaten during her last round of school examinations. She would come home from class, persuade her mother to fry spiced bread known as parathas or open a packet of namkeen, the deep-fried spicy snacks that are the Indian equivalent of potato chips. She would plunk down with her books and study until dinner, eat and return to the books. At school, the canteen served all manner of hot fried delicacies, all of which Mansi ate with abandon. At birthday parties, there was the usual array of junk food and cakes. That year, when she was in the 10th grade, Mansi said she had gained close to 22 pounds.

For nearly five months, with the help of nutrition counseling, Mansi dropped pounds. She gave up junk food. Her mother kept fruit on the dinner table. Her parents bought her a treadmill. The family gave up eating white bread and switched to healthful grains. Then, a few months ago, she entered the crunch of college entrance exams, the most serious in an Indian youngster’s life. Mansi confessed last week that her discipline had melted in the face of stress. She said she craves chocolates and spiced potato cutlets. She said she couldn’t remember when she was last on that treadmill. “With this tight schedule and so much of stress, I don’t like all that diet food,” she said. “I feel hungry when I eat that diet food, and I can’t study when I’m hungry.”

A continuing study among Delhi teenagers by Anoop Misra, a doctor at the privately run Fortis Hospital here, found that the ranks of the obese had jumped sharply in the last two years alone, from 16 percent to nearly 29 percent. Mansi, now 16, swears she will get back on the diet after her exams next March. She says she wants to look good when she starts college next year.