Gay India News & Reports 2007 Jul-Dec

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Islam and Homosexuality
Gay Bombay Yahoo Group:

1 Lesbian marriage breaks up, girl slits wrist in court 7/07

2 Gay husband drives Bengal woman to suicide 7/07

3 Gay. So what? 7/07

4 Prince of Rajpipla Could Become First Openly Gay Indian Royal 7/07

5 My life: a true story of life and love despite great obstacles 7/07

6 ‘Asia must overcome HIV stigma’ 7/07

7 Response from member of AmmanRainbow (Jordan) 8/07

8 Transgender fights all odds to become ‘top grade’ artiste 8/07

9 Bold Bollywood gay film – ’68 Pages’ 8/07

10 Homosexuality And The Indian 8/07

11 Comment: Despite the fanfare, freedom still eludes gay Indians 8/07

12 The current situation with the Section 377 (anti-homosexual statute) 8/07

13 Gay friend’s offer prompts youth to murder 9/07

14 Hundreds Celebrate Gay Prince’s Birthday 10/07

14a Imagine a world without gays, says gay Indian prince 10/07

15 Prince Gohil interviewed on Oprah Winfrey TV show 10/07

16 Singapore’s Decision 10/07

17 Two Sabbavaram women tie the knot 10/07

18 Transgender to host TV show 10/07

19 Transsexual host breaks TV taboo 11/07

20 New Asia Pacific Statistics Reveal an Alarming Incidence of HIV in MSM 11/07

21 Asia-Pacific must do more to tackle gay AIDS crisis-group 11/07

22 Hijras on Haj:`We Are Neither Men Nor Women, but Muslims Like Anyone Else’ 12/07

Times of India

5 July 2007

Lesbian marriage breaks up, girl slits wrist in court

Batala (Punjab): One of the two Sikh girls who entered into a lesbian marriage here last month slit her wrist in a court complex after their relationship "broke up" and has been arrested for attempting suicide. Twenty-one-year-old Baljit Kaur, the ‘husband’, took the step in the court of Judicial Magistrate Dimple Walia after Rajwant Kaur, 20, gave a statement that she did not want to continue the relationship, Senior Superintendent of Police R N Dhoke said. He said Baljit was immediately arrested and the court remanded her in judicial custody till July 19. Dhoke alleged that the marriage "broke up" as Baljit was having affairs with several boys.

Hailing from Jat Sikh families in Hassanpur Khurd and neighbouringassanpur Kalan villages in Gurdaspur district, the two girls made news on June 15 by announcing their "marriage", the second single sex union in Punjab after ‘Raju’ and Mala of Amritsar. Baljit and Rajwant had run away from their homes on June 3, wedded at Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and reportedly vowed to fight religion and society to make the marriage a success. The couple had been staying at a women’s home in Patiala and were traced by their parents late on Tuesday night. They lodged a complaint with Sadar police station that Baljit lured their daughter by claiming to take her to Canada after which the girls were detained by the police.

Times of India News Network

July 4, 2007

Gay husband drives Bengal woman to suicide

Kolkata: On Monday, Preeti Verma could have celebrated her fifth marriage anniversary. But she ended her life a day before that, on Sunday night, unable to bear the fact that her husband was gay. A few hours before she hanged herself at her flat in Kaikhali, on the northern fringes of the city, Preeti wrote a suicide note, saying her husband and in-laws had mentally and physically tortured her. On Monday, police arrested the 30-year-old houswife’s husband and brother Manoj. Locals alleged that Sanjoy, a jeweller, was gay and that Preeti was physically and mentally tortured by her husband and in-laws for raising a voice against her husband’s alleged physical relationship with his cousin brother.

“Munna, one of Sanjay’s cousins, used to live in the same house. Locals are alleging that Sanjoy had a physical relationship with him and that Preeti was tortured for protesting. We are probing all allegations,” said an airport police station officer. The body has been sent for post-mortem. The police are questioning all family members to get more information on the case.

Preeti, who hailed from Ranchi, married Sanjoy five years ago. According to Preeti’s relatives, she first came to know about Sanjoy’s alleged homosexual traits after going on a tour to Gangtok the year after her marriage. Munna allegedly used to have physical contact with Sanjoy in front of Preeti. Preeti used to protest but in return was allegedly tortured by her husband. “There was a constant friction between Preeti and Sanjoy over this issue. Preeti was made to go in for an abortion three times for protesting against her husband’s homosexual leanings,” alleged a local. However, Preeti’s father-inlaw S K Verma dismissed the allegation about abortion, saying that Preeti was depressed for quite some time as she recently had a miscarriage. “We had noticed that she had become depressed after her miscarriage,” he said.

July 6 2007

Gay. So what?

by Priya M Menon
In June 2007, Baljit Kaur and Rajwinder Kaur of Amritsar made headlines when they tied the knot despite violent opposition from their families. “We love each other and will die for each other,” the women declared. They’ve threatened to run away to Canada if the families continued to be difficult and in the meanwhile, plan to start a family of their own — by adopting a child.
Baljit and Rajwinder are yet another example of a lesbian couple who have dared to defy social norms and a legal system that criminalises homosexuality. In 2006, Wetka Polang (30) and Melka Nilsa (22) of Orissa actually managed to get their union blessed by their community. Wetka and Melka, day labourers who belong to the Kandha tribe, got married in a traditional ceremony presided over by a Kandha priest after paying a fine — a barrel of country liquor, a pair of oxen, a sack of rice — and hosted a family feast.

“They 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. These are rare yet defining instances of defiance in a society which still hesitates to talk about sex and where homosexuality is a crime, courtesy Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. In a social setting where same sex love often leads to social ostracisation, police harassment and even suicide, members of this hitherto silent community are now making their voice heard. Last year, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil of Rajpipla, Gujarat, drew international media attention when he publicly declared himself to be a homosexual. “I wanted to open a Pandora’s box,” says Manvendra. “That could have happened if only there is some controversy. I thought an Indian prince openly talking about his sexuality would make news.” And it did. His effigy was burnt and the royal family threatened to disinherit him. Though it was legally impossible, the resulting controversy triggered national debate on homosexuals and their rights.

Interestingly, it is the emergence of AIDS in India that has enabled public discussion about homosexuality. "The HIV/AIDS issue has flushed homosexuality out of the closet," says Sunil Menon, founder member of Sahodaran, an organisation in Chennai that works with MSM (men having sex with men). Aditya Bondopadhyay, legal advisor to Naz Foundation International (NFI), a London-based NGO that helps set up and support community-based NGO’s working with MSM, agrees. “It was recognised by the state that HIV is a problem and MSM are a high-risk group,” he says. “Groups initially started low-key, just spreading awareness, but soon realised that they cannot do it without addressing rights issues. For instance, if someone wanted to visit a drop-in centre, they had to be confident that police would not haul them up.”

This does not mean that there has been no backlash. In July 2001, four HIV/ AIDS prevention workers from Naz Foundation and Bharosa Trust, Lucknow, who work with MSM groups were arrested by the Lucknow police, sparking off a controversy. "In a way it is a milestone that helped the movement in India as it motivated all groups in India to come out and protest; it proved that Section 377 is a law that needs to go," says Aditya. The Internet is another factor that has helped fuel change. “There are e-groups and discussion forums,” says Aditya. "Gay Bombay, a yahoo group, is now the largest group with over 16,000 members from India. This helps rope in professionals like doctors and lawyers from within the community.” Today, all over India, there are a number of groups that offer support, counselling and also focus on rights issues. But “coming out” is still a sensitive issue which can have far-reaching consequences.

First of all, you have to come to terms with your own sexuality. “You need to have access to information and interact with other people with similar feelings and behaviour,” says Sunil. “Most people know they are gay but suppress it for they will not get any support from the family.” The burden of living a lie can take its toll. “I did get married,” says Prince Manvendra. “I thought I could become straight, that was my understanding of my sexuality in those days.” The marriage didn’t last and they divorced soon after. In 1997, he established the Lakshya Trust, a community-based organisation, which has been working in the HIV/AIDS sector since 2001. In 2002, Manvendra suffered a nervous breakdown. “The burden of lying to everyone was too much,” says Manvendra. “I was hospitalised and first spoke about my sexuality to my psychiatrist who told my parents."

Coming out publicly can change your life forever. For Dr Hoshang Merchant, who teaches at the Hyderabad Central University (HCU), it was loss of his inheritance. “But I got my freedom,” he says. His open sexual orientation got him “kicked out of 17 houses in 11 months.” “I was also kicked out of my job as a Reader at Pune University when they realised I am gay; in seven years I changed 11 jobs,” says Hoshang, editor of Yaraana, the first anothology of Gay Indian Literature published by Penguin in 1999. That’s why coming out is advisable only if you are independent, especially financially. All the more so if you are a woman. “Where is a girl to go if she is disowned by her family?” asks Malobika, founder-member of Sappho, which was established in 1999 as an emotional support provider group for lesbians. “Coming out is still a very big deal.” In West Bengal, a young girl was tonsured recently for displaying “man-like” behaviour. Sappho, which runs helplines from 10 am to 9 pm, has more than 200 members now. “Many of the spouses of women who contact us have no idea of their dual life,” she says. “Some of them just want our help and stay in touch over the phone or by mail as they say their husbands are wonderful and don’t want to leave them.”

“In India it is fine to be gay or lesbian as long as you don’t ask for identity, validation and legitimacy,” says leading gay activist Ashok Row Kavi. “It is ok to be a gay man as long as it doesn’t threaten the family.” He established the Humsafar Trust in Mumbai in April 1994 to reach out to the gay population. He also published the Bombay Dost, one of the oldest gay publications in Mumbai, to serve as a platform for sexual minorities. Though it wound up a few years ago, Kavi is thinking of reviving it, maybe make it web-based with an annual print edition. According to Sylvester Merchant of Lakshya Trust, even today, discrimination is largely due to ignorance. “For instance, many people think all homosexuals are pedophiles,” he says.

But attitudes to sex and sexuality are changing. Kavi cites the example of a young boy who likes to dress up like a girl. “It is really admirable how his mother is handling it,” says Kavi. “She has explained his behaviour to the school which is also sensitised and learning to cope.” Even on the professional front, policies are becoming more liberal. “With MNCs coming to India and Indian companies becoming multinationals, today discrimination cannot be made on grounds of sexuality,” says Aditya. Hoshang teaches a pioneering gay literature course in HCU, the second such course in India. The First Annual LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) film festival organised recently in Kolkata by Sappho for Equality and Pratyay Gender Trust, was a huge success. Says Malobika: “We got an irate father-in-law who was very upset about his daughter-in-law being a lesbian. Though he was a doctor, he thought it was a disease. We counselled him, and when he left two and a half hours later, it was after donating Rs 200. The woman continues to stay with her in-laws.”

A thorn in the flesh
Section 377 of the IPC states that: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature, with any man, woman, or animal shall be punishable with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine.” This law, which was first passed in England in the 16th century to criminalise homosexuality, was adopted by the British for India, when the Indian Penal Code was enacted in 1860. It was repealed in England in 1967 but is still in effect in India though it there is an ongoing campaign to repeal it. The Law Commission of India, in its 172nd report (on review of rape laws), recommended its repeal.

In September 2006, more than 100 celebrities like Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen, Booker prizewinner Arundhati Roy and writer Vikram Seth signed an open letter protesting against Section 377. The letter said the law had been used to “systematically persecute, blackmail, arrest and terrorise sexual minorities.”

ABC News

July 2, 2007

Prince’s Secret Tears Royal Family Apart, Shocks His Nation
Prince of Rajpipla Could Become First Openly Gay Indian Royal

by Elizabeth Joseph and Michelle Smawley
Manvendra Singh Gohil grew up in a bubble of prestige and privilege, surrounded by hangers-on who treated him so reverentially that he was 15 years old before he crossed a street by himself.

"I was born with a golden spoon," Singh Gohil, who is now 41 years old, said. "A very luxurious lifestyle&at one point we had almost 22 servants for us. Even for a sip from a glass of water, it was the servants who got it for me." Singh Gohil was leading a life of luxury, but he was also living a lie — hiding a secret so taboo that it caused riots in the streets of India. Singh Gohil is a prince, the son of the maharajah — Indian royalty from a dynasty that is more than 600 years old. Today, though India is a democracy, the Singh Gohils are still honored as if they ruled the land. In fact, the day ABC News met with the king and the prince, they were attending a town ceremony honoring their family.

‘Falling Apart
Singh Gohil’s path in life was typical of the Indian elite: A good student, he was sent to boarding schools, took lavish vacations with his family, and went to college to study business and law. He eventually entered an arranged marriage with a beautiful Indian princess, one that marked the union of two prominent royal Indian families. When asked to describe his marriage, Singh Gohil said, "[It was] the worst decision of my life. It was a total disaster, total failure. I never had any sexual or physical attraction towards her. Nothing worked. The marriage never got consummated. I realized that I had done something very wrong." After 15 disastrous months of matrimony, Singh Gohil divorced his wife and took her parting words to heart.

"The last time when she met me, she told me, ‘I’m giving you a piece of advice. Please don’t spoil another girl’s life,’" he recalled. "That short and sweet thing hit me directly at my heart and I decided I’m not going to get married again." But in keeping with Indian tradition, the king and queen of Rajpipla decided it was time to find their only son another wife. Singh Gohil was reluctant to remarry, but had no one to share his feelings with, and said, "I was suddenly feeling as if I [was] falling apart."

It was the beginning of a complete nervous breakdown. Singh Gohil wound up in the hospital, where he began opening up to a therapist about a lifelong secret he had been harboring since childhood. "[When] I was growing up, I would always get attracted towards males," he said.

Sharing His Secret
"My grandmother had actually sponsored this young boy, who was orphaned at an early age to educate him and be as a companion to me," Singh Gohil said. "We started experimenting with each other. I liked playing with him, playing [with] his body. He also used to play with my body." Singh Gohil was eventually introduced to Ashok Row Kavi, a former reporter who made waves in 1986 by becoming the first openly gay man in India. For many years, he was the only person in the entire country to speak openly about homosexuality. After becoming close friends, Row Kavi convinced Singh Gohil that his sexual orientation was nothing to be ashamed of.

"I told him just live your life as honestly as possible without hurting too many people," he said. "You just live quietly and honestly and do what you think is right." Singh Gohil took his friend’s advice and last March, gave an interview to a local Gujarati newspaper, outing himself as a homosexual. "I knew I was ready to face the worst situation," he said. "They cut out pictures from the newspaper where my interview was published and they put it in the bonfire. They declared me dead."

‘Even a Prince Can Be Gay’

Homosexuality is against the law in India, and can be penalized with ten years to life in jail. Singh Gohil has become both the voice and face of those persecuted for their sexual orientation. Not only has the Prince publicly fallen from grace, but his mother has publicly disowned him, and his place as the next King of Rajpipla was in jeopardy. As the only son of the current King and Queen, Singh Gohil is the only heir to the throne. His father, King Ragubir Gohil Singh said that, "It’s not natural. Anything which is not natural, is not something which you can’t procreate, you can’t have children because it is not something which one is meant for. Otherwise there’ll be no life on this earth." Though his coming out was met with disappointment and outrage, Singh Gohil has adopted a noble cause, educating people about homosexuality and HIV/AIDS prevention.

"I came out in the newspapers openly that I’m gay and basically [because] I wanted to show to the world that even a prince can be gay," he said. "I wanted people to discuss homosexuality, which was always considered a taboo and a stigma& it’s been existing in India but no one talked about it."

Raising Awareness
Gay activists estimate that 80 percent of gay Indian men are married to women, and argue that the widespread denial of homosexuality inhibits education of safe sex practices, resulting in a rise in HIV and AIDS in the gay population. "This is high time we talk about HIV [and] homosexuality," said Singh Gohil. "Unless we talk, there will be no awareness and it will start spreading and it will be too late&it will [get] out control." Singh Gohil created Lakshya, a grassroots gay-outreach organization centered around counseling gay men and teaching safe sex practices. The organization is still in the early stages of development. "There is a lack of awareness," Manvendra explained. "The purpose of my coming out openly is for a cause, for a good cause, for the control of HIV/AIDS." The prince who would be king is now dedicating all of his time and energy into gay activism. His future is uncertain, but Singh Gohil said that if he ever does take his place on the throne, it would be on his own terms, as the first openly gay Indian royal of the 21st century.

Posted by: ‘Arun’

July 20, 2007

"The course of love ne’er did run smooth." Shakespeare

My life…… a true story of life and love despite great obstacles from family, distance and marriage, etc.

To the Gay Bombay readers:
This was and is my life , i am looking in for some serious comments pls be patient read the full past and present of my life and then do the comments ……and help me what should i do in the situation now i am in…..

Distant Past
School days….. I always thought that God was mean to me , by making me like this or cursing me to live like this, but when i started to notice that lots of them are like me i found solace in me that i am not the only one like this. Now when i think back i can clearly vizualize that i was a gay at the very age of 7 or 8years……

from then till 16 years i had holded myself within not letting out my guilt and one day when i met a guy in my class 10th we had lot of common i thought and we started have the big S in the class rooms when everybody was gone that was the first time really he taught me how to master……..

and the feeling when it came was so blissfull and from that day we used to have a lot of fun ,( sometimes i dont like it and he used to force and sometimes i also used to ) so the life went on fr another 2 years happily with the secrect affair and then came the college we both were seperated and lost in our own world. College days …..

I joined college and saw so many (nattu kattai) studs ( according to indian standards) but was not able to intract with the guys because of my shyness…

My second week of the college got a great shock the SAME guy has joined in my college but a different stream so i was kind of happy and the other side of me said i need to taste some differnet guys…so when i was joined in the first year of my college i was a book worm ( that is what guys used to call me) the second year came and i was quite smiling with all the guys ….

And my senses started to wag more hot and hard . So i decided to try the guys whom i was eyeing fr one year their were 40 students in my batch( 30 were in list). As i was good in my education the guys who wanted to roam around and study in the last minute fr the exams were my first target ; one by one they came home and i used to take 1hr tution fr them it gets dividied like this 30 minuts about the subjects and 30 minutes my pranks on them .

Like that one by one i had all the 30 guys . ( But each of them dont know that others had with me) . My mom started to feel fishy why so many guys coming to me and i close the door fr hrs together … but i still managed it and continued my show….

In that one guy was the person i loved the most physically and mentally , but that guy was so straight that he did not want to bed with me, ( I got so emotionally depressed ) where it went to the level i was just crying and was going to quit to write my 2nd year exams…
The professors were also felt the change in me and called my parents and spoke to them . ( I thought i would open to them at least to my mom that i like men ) then came the thought my father was and is a womaniser, and my mom would directly telll my father abou this without any hesitations and they would chuk me out of the house….

So i tried to hide my feelings and continue to concentrate in my studies i finished my college and about to join PG my father opposed and said i need to start working …

So i started to work and fr 3 years al ong gap fr my thoughts….. Around the age of 24 I started jogging and used to jog near the Marina Beach , one fine evening when it was late and i was so tired i sat near the parfit wall and i was feeling somebody was staring at me and that person came so close to me and sat near me and started to touch my back…..

and i just waited what he is going to do , he came to the G spot and started to fiddle it some how i felt good and was so curious and happy that there are people in this world other than the school , my college,

So my world became BIG and i liked the way it was growing big.

Adolesence Stage
When i started to know about the beach had so much to offer me , i started to search fr it and i got a lot ……. ( like the fishermen go in search of the fish in the sea)

My second love was an anglo indian guy , i met him in the beach and we were just talking till 12pm in the night (really u get excited and happy, when u have a catch) we just shared our numbers and nothing happened except talking ( both of us tried to act we were so diplomatic) The next day somehow i wanted to call him and chek out his response…

I called him ( he was working as an telephone operator in a hotel) the telephone operator of the hotel took and answered guess what??? he was in the other side and it is his voice , so i felt little bit shy brought my courage and started to whisper and he also found out that was me ( something was so attractive about him) i asked him weather can i visit him and he also said immediately yes…( because it was already 1am in the morning)

As his hotel is 20 minutes drive from my place went to his hotel and he guided me to his cabin and made me hide behind the chair and talking to me( because they dont allow visitors to come and c and talk to the people who are working in the hotel).. From that day evey moment was so enjoyable fun and frolic he took me to his world and introduced me to his friends and his parents (I was feeling i was in heaven) AS my parents were very strict and they dont allow me to go out other than with them. It was a complete change fr me , the people , the contacts , the place …. disco.. night party…. all were the happiest period of my life….(i thought)..

This affair continued to exsist fr 2 full years before that some small intro about my boy friend he was from another town and was staying with is other friend in chennai. As he intoduced me the other guy i never had any thoughts about him in any other way…

First Betrayal
The first real love hurt , like every body who has a heart would have got hurt, I also got hurt from him… I came to know the person whom he was living was the guy his room mate was also a gay and both these guys were also having fun and that was the reason when ever i used to go to his room the other guy would not talk to me but just be blank…

My heart broke into pieces (i thought) and started to cry all alone i never thought that my luv would end so soon .. some how i managed to make some good friends in the mean time and they would console me that this was a curse fr our community and their is a lot to be taken … ( this was all new to me) so they said nothing to worry and nothing to be taken serious about it.. but still i cannot forget him nor able to face him but my heart was searching fr him every minute that he should come back to me… and just ask a sorry and i would take him back… but nothing that sort happened…

One day i saw him with another guy ( hope u guys understand this he was too close) i was sad and could not concentrate in my work thousands of questions was within me .. Why did he use me ???? for what i have done to him and his family cant he love me more ?????? ( i dont want to disclose what i have done to the family because even i was selfish at that moment that i wanted his love… so i was also knowingly or unknowingly expecting something in return his LOVE)

After 6 months a call came from his friend in the early morning 3 am saying that he is been admitted in the hospital after an attack of fits . I dont know what i felt could not experess in words ( just blinking what to say to my parents and go) I got into my jogs and took the car !! and rushed to the hospital their i saw him lying uncounsiously in bed , i felt so sad… i knew he would not like me to come their …. but i just saw him slipped in some money under the pillow kissed him and left out of that place…

After few days when he came to know through his friends that i came and saw and the way i was feeling he called me and asked me to come their and i went he started to cry…. but i was so happy that he realized his mistake and came to me… ( that was the opportunity i was waiting fr) the days went on fr a week he was in the hospital and my mom used to give me lunch box and i used to c him in the morning before going to office( so i used to give the lunch box to him) poor guy did not have anybody here to make food fr him.

The day of discharge came so that morning i told him i would come in the evening and pick him up from the hospital…. i went in the evening to the hospital they told me he has been discharged 1hr before.. so i went to his room in search of him… he was not their tooo.

My heart started aching . i felt very uncomfortable ( becuse some of my friends advised me not to continue with that guy as i would be the ginny pig) i started from there to the square one place Marina Beach where i went sat their and started to gaze the clouds and the bright full moon which was laughing at me ( at that time i never new it was laughing at me).

Suddenly i saw something which i ( my heart ) could not beleive …. HE WAS HUGGING AND GOING WITH ANOTHER GUY IN THE BIKE… my eyes , ears , heart and hands became chilll… from that moment i learn to start hate that person in my life…( if god only would have taught me How to hate people!).

My friends and acquaintances all of them started to laugh at me and said i made a fool of myself….. i told them only one thing that always what my mother said was " Love everybody, even if they dont return their love back , still love them ,and be happy that god has given u an extra human behaviour that those people dont have and that is LOVING OTHERS " .

Even though i told them so many things i had a big emptyness in me … so from their i started my journey in search of LOVE …
Their used to be a friend who always tell me dont worrry u will get ur man of life….. search within urself and search from ur heart not thru lust ….. IT DID HAPPEN.

The Second Love of my Life–and the Last
Cupid struk me and always i beleive as a gemini person the second or the number 2 plays a significant role on the people who are born in those zodiac…. I am a south indian guy and the guy whom i met was a totaly out of south india as he is an north indian guy..( I was praying to god that i wanted soembody like that only because he should not know anything about the place he lives or once agian in some way they start cruising around and cannot take it….)

I met that smiling guy in the beach once again in a different place , he and his first smile i still remember ( will never forget) met accidently i was traveling in the car and this guy was in the front walking and i was horning to make him annoyed but to my suprise he was smiling ( that smile stole my heart) and i asked him he wants a lift and he accepted ….

This time i thought no diplomacy so i took him to a corner and we both had fun… and once again exchanged our numbers…. this time it is different… Next day HE CALLED ME.

I was flying like a new born kite in the sky , he said he wanted to meet me and as my parents are very strict i told him i cannot in the late night….( but my heart said u can do it) So i finished my work and entered the gates of my house and my mom saw that i was coming .. suddenly i saw somebody back of me ALAS!!! SHOCK!!!!! this guy let me call him with a pesudo name RAM.Ram was back of me and called me i never new what to do he begged me to come with him as that time he was living with his friends all of them from the north who have come to study in an computer institute. I told him it was not possible as my mom has already seen me coming inside my house… the next day the week the month went on i took rooms in the night and we both had real exotic fun and in the morning without telling me but just kissing me Ram used to leave(Run) to office . And i managed to tell a lot of lies to my parents that i am having extra work at office.

God gave me everything i asked for….. i am so happy but u know humans are one species that nothing is enough for us… especially under the stomach(moderators u can sensor this line if u want).He introuduced his family and i introduced my family., their family accepted me as a good friend of his , but my family (hipocratic) they dont want him into the scene as they were pretending to be high class. and as if he is from the lowest of the classes.

I started opposing them and i wanted ram to enjoy eveything what south india gives from the food he likes the sambar and idly… we usually say fr fun u north indian guys eat sambar drink sambar…. so he was that kind of a guy lover of food and i am a good cook , ( i found out the secret to tie a man is to mesmorise him with good food) so days went on happily for 3 years.

My parents started to annoye me telling to get married and i was also kind of intrested ( though i like the man hood in me and i enjoy it) to meet a girl and have sex in my life. I was got married and i was 30 at that time and ram was 27 . He came with his sister and brother in law ( as he does not have parents) and his was the first gift i received. In the reception photos still my in laws ask me that i look as if i was looking or searching for someone ( i only know that i was searching for ram in the whole of the reception ) as he came late.

After marriage in the first night — me and my wife got introduced and next day morning –i asked ram to come to our hotel room where we had the last night spent . So he came and i introduced him to my wife saying that he is my life…. from that day she also took him as her brother and she gives me the gap with him. We all three of us understand each other and lived happily…. and in the mean time i was very stubborn that ram also should get married because ( i was afraid that he would start cruising around) he had a project to be done in hongkong …..First time in my life i am going to leave him far away…. fr one year….. but the one year made us more close even though the distance was a bit more.

Every day he used to call me when he reached to office and when he used to have lunch and when he leaves office.I used to tell my mom that he calls me from hongknong she used to be so pessimistic saying how many days let us c…!! BUT he proved to be a different person it continued every day week and months and end of the year!! Time came in that we need to be more close, in the mean time one year i asked about the marrriage , he said what ever i would say he would do , so i told him to send money to me from hong kong where i can search a house for him near my home

.I saw a cute 2 bedroom flat near my home i got that and his sister was ready with some 5 photos of the girls..When he came to india now in chennai he doesent have a place to stay , so first time i asked my mom permission to make him stay with me.. And now my wife , dont know what to tell her so with courage i told her can she move to her mothers place for a month as it would be a change for her also .. ( she understood that i need that time to be with ram) and she happily accepted it.

So mean time he took me to his town in Nagpur and his sister was waiting with the photos and she already selected some of them … but ram took all of them and gave it to me and said: "U decided what ever girl u like let me know i will get married to her ". I selected a girl and the sister never liked it , but he liked the choice and insisting that he want to get married to the girl i chose… The marriage went on well they had the BARAATH he was like a prince in the horse and i was following him in the back with my heart beating so heavily that he is going to be with some one…. thousands of questions within me asking myself that can i take the thought of HE GOING TO BED WITH SOMEONE OTHER THAN ME???

It was so emotional that one way i was feeling secure that he will not have chance to roam around becaue now than one two of us are their fr his pleasure .. one me and one her.. after the marriage fun and frolic i came back to chennai few days before and decorated his new house which He Has Not Seen Himself He came with the girls family menbers and from his side peple came . I made them stay in a hotel and the next day i told them they have a suprise including my luv ram.

Next day came and i took everybody to the new flat which ram had a dream of buying a new house and bringing his wife( as he was from a middle class family came witha single suitcase to chennai). I showed ram the house i got from HIS money i have SAVED for him, the whole family started crying hugging him and me…. evey bit of the house was created for my luv ram and his wife … so i was careful in choosing the best things he deserves..

God Knows what to give and what not to give.
Everything was perfect…. until i found out something was going wrong or is wrong in him and his wife… so i called her and asked her what was the problem with her , as she was also from a middle class family and she has a excellent comforts compared to her house and good husband… She (acted) so close to me and i came to know the real thing was I WAS THE PROBLEM FOR HER… that ram was not giving time for her… So i tried to avoid ram and give them the space… as i wanted him to have the best in life ( and nothing to worry) as this life is short … He undestood that i was trying to help and spoke to his wife about it…( it means how close we were)nothing other than that…
The second phase of the problem.

In between he went to germany fr 1year and when he came back he already told me that he wanted to spend time with me before he meets his wife so he came to chennai i booked him a room we were happy for 3 days without anybodys interference. .. so many things he thought abut me and got it for me .. made me more close and he always says he finds that i am more vigorous(in luv) when ever he comes back from a long gap.

He told me that as we are so long friends and have an such a good undesrstanding lets us make a difference in this world , let us show everybody that what two friends(gay) can do together , so he said he wanted to make my dream come true… (this time) So the project of opening up an resturant started.. he took me to Malaysia and i learned the delicacy of malayisan cooking and came back to chennai and started a pure vegetarian Malaysian resturant .

The resturant was jam packed and we were not able to manage as it was a family run resturant his wife my wife and 3 cooks and 2 attenders; all of it was going on well my idea his money and my place( i have bunglow ) converted it to an resturant.

My Crazy Parents
In the mean time u guys should know this also about my PARENTS..i told u guys they are very strict for stupid reasons… My mother is a miser and my father is a spendthrift… my mom used to save every single penny she finds and my father would spend it with lavishly onto girls and so on…. He invested in shares for 1 core and this without telling any of the family members and he lost evey bit of it and became a poper.

My mom all her savings gave to dad and his creditors and she also became 0 this all happend within a week . The whole family was upside down… My wife even though it was just one year of marriage gave of her jewellery to my dad and helped him with what ever she had and started to go for work.. Now the resturant was the only source for me and my family.

Ram came to our rescue he helped me in everybit of my life and gave me courage to me and my family his wife was a silent viewer ( later i understood she never liked it) .

It was a 5 am to 1am next day job …. for me.. i took it for me and my family slowly my mom started to ask money from me .. as the resturant was running inside a portion of my house where i renovated the whole place and started the resturant. I tld her i would take care of them and it would take time for me to give them money as a rental. They started to quarrel with Ram saying that he should give the money ( because i was sure that the resturant ram invested money should be in his name) so they started saying that ram should give the money i became wild…. i said i cannot give as this was purely from sand to palace i brought it on my own without anybodys help except ram….

My parents were very greedy my wife mean time became pregnant , when we finish our resturnat work and come back home late in the night , my parents would have locked the house…. and we would be in the entrance for hours together dont know what to do,….. even at that time ram would come to our help … he would take us to his home and make us sleep their. Slowly the fight with my parents became explicit and one fine day they issued an eviction notice on their own son and his friend Ram; both of us were shocked, a big blow for me as i dont know anything other than my resturant What is the next move? Where i am going to take my pregnant wife???

The Whole World Seemed To Be Closed. I was at the very bad depression , i cannot go any where and i cannot expect any more help from ram also because of his wife nature .. and i never liked to ask anything…. in this depressive time rams relatives pounced on me back saying that he was into trouble all because of me …( even though it was my parents who did this to us). Every minute was going like a day and my concentration on the resturant was totally out attending cases which my parents have given on me and ram….. as Ram did not have time for all this i attened his case behalf of him. His wife was a major culprit in this ( later we both came to know) she simply got me into a big hot arguement with her inlaws and now i am in their bad books..

I spoke to rams wife saying i dont want anything from ur husband other than his love….. every time i would lecture she would listen like a sheep and later behave like a hardcore lion….it was strange… Ram said Enough is Enough and started talking to his family .. He said still i cannot forget in my life…… He Said Who Ever Finds Fault On Both Of Our Relationships Can Leave Us And Who Ever Wanted To Spport Us CN Be With Us. From that day nobody would dare talk to me including his wife .. he told his wife directly that i was more important than anybody in this world.

Now i am 35 searchng for peace with Ram
Now i am 35 and when i c the hurdles i have come back , i just take a deep breathe and say to myself i have a lot more to go…. One thing we that is Ram and me decided that we wanted peace in our lives, so we all left chennai ( my wife in her mothers place for deliver)and came to Malaysia now he is working in a bank here and i am working in a Energy management company , and both of us living in the same condomonium but in different apartments, and i have been promoted as a father with a girl and he with a boy.

We have come to conclusions that what ever our family is we cannot completely change them , but there is no choice for them to accept us as we are (good loving friends and more). Til this date he does not do anything without my knowledge, and i sometimes cruise around (but definetely telling him) for guys. He tells me that we dont need anyything in our life other than happiness.

His wife–she is the same talks nice to me in fornt and talks all rubbish in the back… but still i c her as my sister and give priority to her first… than my wife because i dont have sisters and the second thing is because she is not important for me ,ram is more important and if i try to hurt her he would get indirectly hurt. I dont want this to happen to him even in my wildest dreams.

And about my ‘loving’ parents–they fought with my brother also ,and they both (mother and father} are living in that huge house all alone and they say that is what they want. And the restaurant (baby) what ram and i build has been given for rentals and the rentals are been enjoyed by my parents.(at least i hope they dont misuse it in their fututre.What i feel only bad is my parents knew where i would get hurt, they told me directly that if we hurt ur friend u would get hurt (and that is what they wanted it seems)

Never one should have such a parents, i pray to god…. what ever my father did to me everything i have forgiven ….from the age of 5 i have seen him having sex with girls , at the age of 10 i have removed the saree which was stuck in his bracelet( when he was getting a B job) done , so many girls so many ladies …. everything i have forgiven him but …. the word he made my mother to tell me was "Tell ur wife not to deliver the kid which she is holding in her womb"

Perfect parents? " Its okay; everything is past now!! I am ready for a new life with Ram and just Ram and my wife supporting me in everythin. I will show all of them that we can and we win in our quest of LUV

They say gay men are more stronger because they know the feelings of an woman and a man
I dont know it is true or false or to be debated but i can live with my head up and prove one day we are successful in our personal life and professional life. With all regards to the GayBombay group and please support every individual who comes to our group in search of solace. every expectation is a new born baby so let us support them than fighting for small things and never underestimate anybody by their looks. Please have the courage to tell the other person what u fel;. either it is bad or good. It goes in that minute and never carried forever.

The Times

July 20, 2007

‘Asia must overcome HIV stigma’

Sydney – Asia has made progress in containing HIV but must remove the stigma associated with the virus to fully consolidate the gains and keep it under control, international research chiefs say. Speaking ahead of an international conference of 5,000 HIV/Aids researchers in Sydney next week, America’s top expert Anthony Fauci and his Australian counterpart David Cooper said HIV remained a major public health risk in Asia. Fauci said predictions HIV would devastate Asia as it had Africa had proved false after local health authorities, which were initially slow to heed warnings, adopted pro-active policies. But he said the potential for an epidemic still existed in a region estimated to have eight million people with HIV, a figure aid agency USAid says could climb to 40 million by 2010.

"The population density in Asia is so great, with countries like India and China that have a billion people each, that infection rates just have to track up a few percentage points and you’re potentially looking at a catastrophe," Fauci told AFP. Cooper, the co-chair of the International Aids Society (IAS) conference, said responding to HIV was complicated by the fact that many suffers existed on the fringe of Asian society and faced discrimination. "We’re not going to have the generalised epidemics in our region that we’ve got in sub-Saharan Africa, we’re going to have explosive smaller epidemics," he said.

"They tend to occur among drug users, also among gay men, sex workers or mobile workers such as truck drivers, fishermen who are more likely to pay for sex. In Asia, they’re stigmatised and discriminated populations. The trick is to get into these vulnerable populations and provide non-judgemental healthcare." Cooper cited China as an example of a country that had overcome its initial denial of an HIV problem but could go further if discrimination ended. "China is responding pretty well, their response has changed, they’re putting treatment in place and doing research," he said. "But people are still very much concerned about the human rights issues and how people with HIV are treated in Chinese society."

China estimated last year that it had 650,000 HIV cases, although United Nations (UN) officials estimate the actual number is now higher. A recent paper in British medical journal The Lancet praised China’s adoption of schemes such as needle exchanges and awareness campaigns among gay men, although the UN said there was still resistance to confronting the problem at a local level.

In India, where the estimated number of HIV cases was this month halved to 2.5 million, the government has set out to target the type of at-risk groups identified by Cooper. "They’re talking about upscaling programmes with marginalised groups," said Anjali Gopalan, head of the Naz Foundation, which works primarily with men. There was quite a bit of silence on them earlier." Indians with HIV are still often treated as social outcasts, with reports of doctors shunning Aids patients and HIV-positive children being barred from attending school with other pupils.

In Cambodia, one of the countries hit hardest by HIV/Aids, the authorities are concerned that discrimination is helping the virus spread. "It is difficult for us since stigma causes infected people not to speak out and this quietly spreads the infection," said Ly Peng Sun, deputy director of the National Centre for HIV/Aids and Dermatology. "Bias can prevent us from fighting the virus successfully."

Vietnam has introduced laws banning discrimination against people with HIV, although locals say it means some employers simply find a pretext to sack infected workers, rather than admitting it is because of their illness. "If this new law is effectively implemented, it will serve not only as a shield for the fundamental rights of people living with HIV…but also as a positive tool for fighting stigma and discrimination," UNAids Vietnam director Eammon Murphy said.

Thailand has adopted a different tack to breaking down the taboos regarding HIV with innovative education campaigns such as traffic police handing out condoms, an initiative dubbed "Cops and Rubbers." The country, which has experienced about half a million Aids deaths and has about the same number of HIV cases, has slashed infection rates since it appointed a cabinet-level anti-Aids co-ordinator to oversee prevention efforts. It is also pushing international drugmakers over access to generic versions of newer and more expensive HIV medications that are needed to treat patients who have become resistant to the old drugs

From: AmmanRainbow@ yahoogroups. com

August 1, 2007

Response to above commentary (#21a) from member of AmmanRainbow (Jordan)

Thanks for sharing. "After all being gay is being twice blessed—once blessed for being a man and second time blessed for being able to love another man." I loved this sentence and thought of highlighting it here! We are twice blessed 🙂 Actually I loved the entire post of this man giving us an account of him becoming aware of his gayness. It is not far from what each single one of us has experienced. For me, it has been the same, I remember how much I used to like other guys while being a little kid. Guys at school, in the neighbourhood. Waiting for a guy to pass by in order for me to check him. Feeling happy when he says hi or talk to me…etc

I have never recognized that what I used to feel means that I am gay. Maybe like the man, I was first intorduced to the word gay in my 8th grade, but in Arabic they say "Looti" in reference to Prophet Loot and his assumed homosexual people! Here the world ‘Looti’ has no attachement to happiness whatsover, it indicate very bad people with bad morals! I, myself, used to think that Looti people are bad ones!
I have never associated myself with the word! and never really realized what it means. I have never imagined myself in an intercourse with another man, the idea itself used to repulse me, and then even when I started connected the dots of the word and me, I have always comforted myself that I can’t be gay because I dont think of intercourse!

Although in the back of my mind, those calls of had became stronger every day, especially at the university time where I fall in love with my straight best friend! I have never imagine him sexually, and whenever such idea crosses my mind, I used to fight it so that I dont feel that I am betraying our friendship. I have always tried to think about it as friendship love and nothing more, but obviously I was in a BIG denial phase. I guess those strong feelings are what helped me realized my sexuality and face my fears. Once I realized it, I instantly accepted myself and knew what the kind of life I want to live. Now I am blessed 3 times. Once for being man, a second time for being able to love another man, and a third time for having the best man ever to be my bf, lover and my life.
Have a nice day.

Hindustan Times 0a818cef26d0&MatchID1=4502&TeamID1=2&TeamI

August 12, 2007

Transgender fights all odds to become ‘top grade’ artiste

by Ajitha Karthikeyan, Press Trust Of India
Chennai – When Bharatnatyam exponent Narthaki Nataraj completes yet another enthralling performance, the audience in the prestigious ‘Narada Gana Sabha’ here give her a standing ovation — not a mean achievement for a transgender ostracised and ridiculed by the society. Winner of the state Government’s ‘Kalaimamani’ title this year and accorded the status of ‘top grade’ artiste by Doordarshan, Nataraj has scripted several success stories but not before overcoming many a hurdle.
Born as a fifth ‘son’ in a lower middle class family at Anupadi in the southern district of Madurai, Nataraj became aware of the femininity in himself at a very young age.

Nataraj’s family came in for a rude shock when the child started dressing up and conducting like a woman. The child, who was thrashed, abused and isolated by family members and neighbours, found solace in the company of a classmate, Sakthi Bhaskar, who was also undergoing a similar transformation. An innate passion for dance in Nataraj was kindled after watching the films of danseus-actors Vyjayanthimala and Padmini in a village theatre. Ever since, it became ‘her’ burning desire to master the art. "I considered dance as a medium to express my femininity. I used to imagine myself as Padmini and imitate her movements. Fearing that people would ridicule me, I used to dance at secluded places with my friend Sakthi being my only audience. I had even practised in a graveyard," she recalls.

With Nataraj’s parents considering her physical condition an affront to the family’s prestige, she walked out of the house at the age of 16. "I was forced to dress and behave like a boy, which I could never come to terms with. I felt like a free bird, the day I came out of the house," Nataraj says. Having come to the streets, life became a day-to-day struggle for Nataraj and Sakthi as they had to fight poverty, isolation and mockery of the society. But, the passion for dance never subsided. It was then she heard about legendary Bharatnatyam teacher KP Kittappa Pillai, a direct descendant of ‘Tanjore quartet brothers’– renowned musicians and dance masters who lived in the 17th century.

When she came to know that Kittappa was the guru of her idol Vyjayanthimala and stars like Hema Malini and Yamini Krishnamurthy, Nataraj had no second thoughts and immediately packed off to Thanjavur, the cradle of Tamil art and culture. "There I was, a humble person belonging to the third gender, knocking at the doors of a huge kingdom of art. I didn’t make any attempt to hide my identity and stood before my guru only as a transgender," she reminisces. Kittappa took her under his wings but not before testing for a year her steadfastedness and love for the art. He also rechristened her as ‘Narthaki’ (dance exponent).

She became a full-time residential student and learnt the original Tanjore style of Bharatnatyam — ‘Nayaki Bhava.’ She stayed with her guru for 15 years until he died in 1999 and learnt everything she could and practised vigorously. She also worked as his assistant in Tanjore Tamil University. It was only after her guru’s death, she came to Chennai to carve out a space for herself in the art domain, that was hitherto dominated by upper-class Brahmins.


Thomas Jackson Gay News Blog

August 2007

Bold Bollywood gay film – ’68 Pages’

‘Doesn’t everyone need love?’ A simple statement, but profound coming from a transsexual bar dancer who is diagnosed HIV+. Person facing
double stigma in search of love? That’s the theme of Sridhar Rangayan’s new film ’68 Pages’. Director Rangayan who earlier made critically acclaimed but highly controversial gay films, returns to home turf with yet another film that could stir up a hornet’s nest ? this time of the medical fraternity in India. He packs in powerhouse characters not seen often in Indian cinema – a transsexual who turns from being a bar dancer to a prostitute at truck stops; a die-for-one- another gay couple faced with betrayal; a female prostitute thrown out of the hospital for being HIV+ and a corporate geek whose company forces him to quit ? all this and more in his new film 68 Pages.

Rather a quaint title? – "The film is about 68 Pages of a counselor’s diary. A counselor often finds it difficult to let off emotional baggage and Mansi is no different. She uses a diary as her worry tree’, Rangayan says. So is the film about the counselors or about HIV+ people? – "Both. It’s about marginalized people. Do you know in India even a counselor who works with HIV+ people is stigmatized? She has her own demons to fight", the directors says he hopes the film can reach a wider audience, both in India and the west.

But films about HIV and AIDS are so pass?! "Not in India, which is still bloody ignorant about the epidemic. Its not just nonchalance,
but complete ignorance. The sexual minorities are so much at risk and no one is doing a damn. They are in fact pushing the issue
underground by stigmatizing them doubly. Being a homosexual and then being positive, the Indian society just shuts them off", Rangayan
says angrily.

The film hopes to sensitize the society about the HIV and the sexual minorities. But if you think this is a boring, preach documentary,
you have another thing coming. In his trademark style, Rangayan combines issues with song and dance (remember his ‘Pink Mirror’?) to
make a mass level entertainer. " This is just about off-Bollywood! " he grins.

Also see flim song clip:

August 17, 2007

Homosexuality And The Indian

by Sudhir Kakar
In India, except for a few people belonging to the English-speaking elite in metropolitan centers, mostly in the higher echelons of advertising, fashion, design, fine and performing arts, men (and women) with same-sex-partners neither identify themselves as homosexuals nor admit their sexual preference, often even to themselves. Many men – some married – have had or continue to have sex with other men; but only a miniscule minority are willing to recognize themselves as homosexual.

The assertion that there are hardly any homosexuals in India and yet there is considerable same-sex-involvement seems contradictory, yet simple to reconcile. Sex between men, especially among friends or within the family during adolescence and youth, is not regarded as sex, but masti, an exciting, erotic playfulness, with overtones of the mast elephant in heat. Outside male friendship, it is a way to satisfy an urgent bodily need or, for some, to make money. Sex, on the other hand, is the serious business of procreation within marriage. Almost all men who have sex with other men will get married even if many continue to have sex with men after marriage. Sexual relations with men are not a source of conflict as long as the person believes he is not a homosexual in the sense of having an exclusive preference for men and does not compromise his masculine identity by not marrying and hrefusing to produce children.

As a recent study (Asthana & Oostvogels) tells us, "Even effeminate men who have a strong desire for receiving penetrative sex are likely to consider their role as husbands and fathers to be more important in their self-identification than their homosexual behavior." The cultural ideology that strongly links sexual identity with the ability to marry and procreate does indeed lessen the conflict around homosexual behavior. Yet for many it also serves the function of masking their sexual orientation, of denying them the possibility of an essential aspect of self knowledge. Those with a genuine homosexual orientation subconsciously feel compelled to maintain an emotional distance in their homosexual encounters and thus struggle against the search for love and intimacy which, besides the press of sexual desire, motivated these encounters in the first place.

The "homosexual denial," as some might call it, is facilitated by Indian culture in many ways. A man’s behavior has to be really flagrant, such as that of the cross-dressing hijras to excite interest or warrant comment. Some find elaborate cultural defenses to deny their homosexual orientation. The gay activist Ashok Row Kavi tells us about the dhurrati panthis, men who have sex with other men because the semen inside them makes them twice as manly and capable of really satisfying their wives. Then there are the komat panthis who like to give oral sex, but will not let themselves be touched.

Some of these men are revered teachers, "gurus," in body building gymnasiums, who believe they will become exceptionally powerful by performing oral sex on younger men. Both will be horrified to be called homosexual. In general, classical Hinduism is significantly silent on the subject of homoeroticism. In contrast to the modern notion of homosexuality, which is defined by a preference for a partner of the same sex, queerness in ancient India was determined by atypical sexual or gender behavior. Some of our contemporary attitudes towards homosexuality go back in time to ancient India, where it was the homosexual (but not homosexual activity) who evoked society’s scorn.

As in several other societies, such as in Middle East and Latin America, the active partner in a homoerotic encounter was not stigmatized as much as the passive partner. It was what you did, whether you were active or passive, and not with whom you did it (man or woman) that defined acceptability. The Kamasutra’s man-about-town who uses the masseur’s mouth for sexual pleasure is thus not considered "queer"; the masseur is.

Actually, in classical India, the disparagement for the homosexual was not devoid of compassion. The homosexual belonged to a deficient class of men called kliba in Sanskrit, deficient because he is unable to produce male offspring. The word (which has traditionally been translated as eunuch, but almost certainly did not mean eunuch) was a catch-all term to include someone who was sterile, impotent, castrated, a transvestite, a man who had oral sex with other men, who had anal sex as a recipient, a man with mutilated or deficient sexual organs, a man who produced only female children, or, finally, a hermaphrodite.

In short, kliba is a term traditional Hindus coined to describe a man who is in their terms sexually dysfunctional (or in ours, sexually challenged). Kliba is not a term that exists any longer, but some of its remnant – the perception of a deficiency, and the combination of pity, dismay and a degree of disdain toward a man who is unable to marry and produce children – continues to cling to the Indian homosexual.

It is instructive that the Kamasutra, the main source of information on ancient sexuality, does not use the term kliba at all. It mentions sodomy in only one passage, and that in the context of heterosexual and not homosexual sex: "The people in the South indulge in "sex below," even anally."(2.6.49). (In general Southerners have a pretty poor reputation in this book composed in the North, and it could be that their geographical position suggested their sexual position in this passage: down under).

In the Kamasutra, fellatio is regarded as the defining male homosexual act. In Same Sex Love in India, Ruth Vanita argues that the relative tolerance, the gray area between simple acceptance and outright rejection of homosexual attraction, can be primarily attributed to the Hindu concept of rebirth. Instead of condemning the couple, others can explain their mutual attraction as involuntary, because it is caused by attachment in a previous birth. This attachment is presumed to have the character of an "unfinished business," which needed to be brought to a resolution in the present birth.

In ancient texts, folktales and in daily conversations, mismatched lovers, generally those with vast differences in status (a fisherman or an untouchable falling in love with a princess), are reluctantly absolved of blame and the union gradually accommodated, because it is viewed as destined from a former birth. When a brave homosexual couple defies all convention by openly living together, its tolerance by the two families and the social surround generally takes place in the framework of the rebirth theory. In 1987, when two policewomen in the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India got "married", a cause celebre in the Indian media, the explanation often heard from those who could no longer regard them as "just good friends sharing living accommodation" was that one of them must have been a man in a previous birth and the couple prematurely separated by a cruel fate.

In ancient India, homosexual activity itself was ignored or stigmatized as inferior, but never actively persecuted. In the dharmashastras, male homoerotic activity is punished, albeit mildly: a ritual bath or the payment of a small fine was often sufficient atonement. This did not change materially in spite of the advent of Islam, which unequivocally condemns homosexuality as a serious crime. Muslim theologians in India held that the Prophet advocated the severest punishment for sodomy. Islamic culture in India, though, also had a Persian cast wherein homoeroticism is celebrated in literature. In Sufi mystical poetry, both in Persian and later in Urdu, the relationship between the divine and humans was expressed in homoerotic metaphors.

Inevitably, the mystical was also enacted at the human level. At least among the upper classes of Muslims, among "men of hrefinement," pederasty became an accepted outlet for a man’s erotic promptings, as long as he continued to fulfill his duties as a married man. Emperor Babur’s autobiography is quite clear on his indifferent love for his wife and his preference for a lad. We also know that until the middle of twentieth century, when the princely states were incorporated into an independent India, there was a strong tradition of homosexuality in many princely courts in north India. The homosexual relationships were much safer than relationships with mistresses whose children could be the source of endless divisive rivalries.

It seems that the contemporary perception of homosexual activity, primarily in images of sodomy, can be traced back to the Muslim period of Indian history. As we saw, the classical Hindu image of homosexual activity is in terms of fellatio. In the Kamasutra, for instance, the fellatio technique of the closeted man of "third nature" (the counterpart of the kliba in other Sanskrit texts) is discussed in considerable sensual detail. I would venture to add that one reason Hindu homosexuals regard sodomy with considerable ambivalence, exciting and repulsive at the same time, has also to do with their strong taboos around issues of purity versus pollution; the mouth is cleaner than the anus. If male homosexuals make themselves invisible, then lesbians simply do not exist in Indian society – or so it seems.

Again, it is not that Indians are unaware of lesbian activity. Yet this activity is never seen as a matter of personal choice, a possibility that is theoretically, if reluctantly, granted to "deficient" men, the men of "third nature" in ancient India. Lesbian activity, on the other hand, is invariably seen as an outcome of the lack of sexual satisfaction in unmarried women, widows or, women stuck in unhappy, sex-less marriages. This is true even in creative depiction of lesbian activity in fiction or movies. In Deepa Mehta’s 1998 movie Fire, which sparked a major controversy, with Hindu activists setting fire to cinema halls because the movie showed two women having an affair, both women turn to each other only because they are deeply unhappy in their marriages.

In ancient India, lesbian activity is described in the Kamasutra at the beginning of the chapter on harems where many women live together in the absence of men. What the queens have is just one king, preoccupied with affairs of state, to go around. Since none of the kings can be the god Krishna, who is reputed to have satisfied each one of his sixteen thousand wives every night, the women use dildos, as well as bulbs, roots or fruits that have the form of the male organ. The implication is that lesbian activity takes place only in the absence of the "real thing."

There are hints on other kinds of lesbian activity in the ancient law books: a woman who corrupts a virgin is to be punished by having two of her fingers cut off – a pointer to what the male author think two women do in bed. The harsh punishment is not for the activity itself but for the "deflowering," the heinous crime of robbing a young girl of her chastity. Not surprisingly, it seems that female homosexuality was punished more severely than homosexuality among men; out of concern for the protection of women’s virginity and sexual purity, traditionalists would say; to exercise control over women’s sexual choice and activity, modern feminists would counter.

In general, then, India has a tradition of "benign neglect" of alternate sexualities, a tradition that is very much a part of the Indian mind. The laws against homosexual activity, such as the act of 1861, are all examples of a repressive Victorian moral code. It is ironical that reactionaries, both Hindu and Muslim, who reject homosexuality as a decadent Western phenomenon subscribe to the same foreign code that is so alien to the Indian tradition. The Indian tradition of indifference or deliberate ignorance is also incompatible with the model of the Western gay movement, which is beginning to make inroads into our metropolises. In its insistence on the politics of a gay identity, of a proud or at least defiant assertion of homosexual identity, this movement is beginning to compel the rest of society to confront the issue publicly.


From GayBombay Yahoo Group

September 27, 2007

Response to Little India Article

I am sorry, I cannot disagree with Sudhir Kakar more when he says that it’s only amongst the English speaking milieu that you find the self-identified homosexuals.

As an outsider, he obviously does not have access to the gay networks that exist in small-town India or for that matter even in the metros.
His only exposure, it would seem, is to the Page 3 variety of homosexuals or those who appear on television chat shows and the outcome is this ludicrous yet confident assertion.

I remember decades ago when in remote parts of India men attended gay `conferences’ , a euphemism for parties for having oodles of sex. Yes, most of those who participated in these sexapades finally got married and fathered children. These marriages of convenience happen even today, in small towns and in the metros and is because it is seen as the best way to survive in a heterosexual society without attracting societal censure – invisibilising their preference allows them to have, as they would like to believe, the best of both worlds. A practical subterfuge, which should not lead us to believe that they ever have any doubts regarding their sexual orientation.

Yes, komat panthis who like to give oral sex, but will not let themselves be touched, are a reality. But the body-building gurus who ingest `young’ semen to fortify themselves is, if at all, an exception ? a stray homosexual akhaada master justifying his quirk – and is more likely than not a lurid fantasy of a fertile mind.

I have great respect for Mr. Sudhir Kakar, but such essays despite their scholastic tone are simply misrepresentative

15th August 2007

Comment: Despite the fanfare, freedom still eludes gay Indians

As India celebrates the 60th anniversary of its independence from Britain, Balaji Ravichandran explains why he feels neither free nor independent. The celebrations started well before I arrived in India six weeks ago. From the moment I switched on the television at home the advertisements, programmes and notices, often painfully jingoistic in their self-congratulation, have constantly greeted me with their patriotic screams. This is not limited to the Indian media, of course; the big international players, including and especially the BBC and CNN, all have an entire series of programmes dedicated to celebrating 60 years of Indian and Pakistani independence.

And why shouldn’t they?
A booming market economy, a rising consumerist middle-class, and a greater prominence on the international stage all mean that every move that the world’s largest democracy makes will be closely watched and scrutinised. Almost all of my friends and relatives consider themselves ‘Indian,’ and are celebrating the 60th anniversary of independence from the erstwhile British Empire today. I hold an Indian passport, and was born and brought up here for the first twenty years of my life. I do not call myself ‘Indian,’ inasmuch as I would not call myself British or American if I was born in the UK or in the US.

That’s just a personal preference.
But, by definition, and by virtue of my passport, my nationality happens to be Indian. Even as an impartial observer, I have reasons to celebrate India’s independence, its vibrant and thriving democracy, and its prominent role in the world economy, even as I mourn its many failures. Despite all this, I consider myself to be neither free nor independent; and no, I’m not celebrating. Why? I am almost a completely open gay man (the exception is my father, who doesn’t yet know), I am still metaphorically imprisoned by the archaic laws which define any form of sexual activity outside heterosexual vaginal intercourse as abnormal, and thereby make them illegal. That is to say, homosexuality, under the definition of ‘unnatural carnal intercourse’ is illegal, and punishable with unlimited fine, and either 10 years in prison, or life imprisonment.

For a nation which is supposedly rid of its colonial past, this medieval law, passed by the British when they ruled India, restricts the freedom of tens of millions (if not hundreds) of Indians on the basis of their sexuality, something that is as innate as gender or race. The common excuse for inaction is that the law is ambiguous, and that it has never been seriously used to imprison homosexuals or other sexual minorities. Intimately tied with this excuse is another, namely that the main targets of this law are not homosexuals or bisexuals, but paedophiles and serial rapists and killers. What nonsense! Implied, and often verbally stated, in these two excuses is the assumption that it is OK to construe sexual plurality and such vices as paedophilia and rape (which, according to Indian law, is a phenomenon confined to women; men, apparently, cannot be raped).

More worrying is the fact that despite its ambiguity, and the relative lack of prosecution, it is used almost on a daily basis by the police to commit serious institutional abuses, including harassment, blackmail, extortion, torture, and even rape or murder. A year ago, police in Lucknow went undercover on a gay dating website, and subsequently arrested several professional men on charges of running a "gay racket." Suffice it to say that their personal and professional fates were sealed then and there. Two years earlier, the offices of the well-known Naz Foundation was ransacked, and its employees arrested, on the charges of "promoting homosexuality" by the same moralistic police.

Technically it is still not illegal if someone were to arrest me just for being gay.
There is yet another common myth which is often touted when poor homosexuals highlight their plight nationally and internationally, namely that things are changing in India for the better. Wishful thinking is all I can say to such misguided activists. True, the plight of sexual minorities has gained some prominence in recent years. But whatever positive light has been thrown on them has been neutralised, if not effaced, by the equally negative, blatant misinformation spread by overenthusiastic filmmakers and media, and more commonly by the India’s moral police, the right-wing political parties.

For every Fire, there is one Girlfriend or Vettaiyadu Vilayadu.
The former portrayed lesbianism in a positive and sensible light; the latter portrayed lesbians and homosexual men as murderous psychopaths. For every editorial in the elite English newspapers urging decriminalisation of homosexuality, there are two editorials in regional and political publications advocating stricter penalties for sexual diversity, often supporting, as Nigeria and Iran do, the death penalty. And while most English-language news channels do talk openly about homosexuality, every English movie channel, and there are almost a dozen in India now, censors any form of intimacy between two men or two women. Even an intimate embrace is often censored, let alone two men or women kissing. There is no use blaming the media or the politicians alone; the Indian mind-set, which historically embraced sexual diversity, is now overwhelmingly against homosexuality. Nor is it fair to allocate blame to the Brits or to the Muslim rulers. The south of India seems, so long as records exist, to have always been homophobic.

The situation probably won’t change for a long time to come.
Sexuality, at large, is a taboo here, let alone alternative sexualities. At the moment, even a simple sex education programme in schools is banned in a dozen different states across India, despite the fact that India has a disproportionately large AIDS burden. To help effect a meaningful change in the average Indian mind-set, the only force that may prove worthwhile is spreading awareness through education. And that’s where the politicians, the media (national or international) and particularly the mute celebrities (who fear their careers) can help. If politicians underestimate the value of political will, the media and celebrities of their influence, and educators of their responsibility, can India really progress in being a truly independent state?

The issue is glaringly obvious in India’s well-known weaknesses, poverty, starvation, malnutrition, and the generally poor state of public services and health care. As India’s stature in the world rises, can attitudes towards sexuality be left far behind? Here I am, born and brought up in India, gay and single, shunned and ostracised by a large section of the society. I cannot love someone the way my parents love each other, and I cannot express that love physically, mentally, emotionally or legally. If I dared do so, I could face a lifetime in India’s filthy prison, state-sanctioned houses of torture. What use then is India’s independence to me?


The current situation with the Section 377 (anti-homosexual statute)

Aug 23, 2007

Posted by: "Vikram" vgd67
I was wondering whats happening with this section right now, after the petition we signed on the GB website (heard that it failed). So is there any other movement that can be done to remove this section? How do we get there? Sometimes i feel that its almost impossible to do it unless we have masses and masses of LGBT people on the streets making a demonstration against it (chances of which are bleak).I know there might have been discussions about this before but thought of knowing the current situation.

The petition, if you’re referring to the one submitted by Naz in the Delhi High Court, or the supporting petition filed by Voices Against 377 have certainly not failed. They are in the Delhi High Court, waiting to be taken up some day, a sort of legal limbo entirely common to most cases in India, particularly contentious ones. Its possible that lobbying from our end could persuade the Court to take it up earlier, but I think there is a sense that it is best not to do it at the moment since its felt that some of the more senior judges on the Court are not likely to be too sympathetic on this issue, so its better to go slow for a while.

Since judges in India do not have overlong tenures, it might not be a bad idea to wait till younger, more sympathetic judges come along

Anyway, that’s a practical matter for the lawyers who are actually fighting the case. Besides I should point out that even in limbo the case has helped in some ways. People do seem to know there is a case and that the matter is being taken up, so that its not like there is not push for gay rights in India. There was a case in Goa not long back where a foreigner who was being held on VERY dubious grounds related to s.377 was given bail by a judge who said that he knew there was a legal case to change the law so we couldn’t pretend we were living in medieval tumes as far as gay rights goes.

Things are changing, there’s more public awareness and hopefully acceptance. Will there be a big magical moment when everything changes and the law goes? I sure hope so, but till then I don’t mind going in for incremental change when too drastic a change might invite a strong adverse reaction or might require the sort of mobilisation that this community really is not like to be able to pull off. About the petition on the GB website specifically, well I hate to disabuse people, but this was not a formal legal petition and never intended to be one. It was primarily meant to show the depth of feeling behind the desire to overturn s.377, both within the country and outside, and to give people a chance to state this.

But if it has no definite legal purpose, it could certainly be shown to the court or media to prove the strength of the desire to change the law. Its really moving to read what some of the petitioners have written – when we set it up we considered limiting the length of the comments, but I’m glad we didn’t. Take a look if you haven’t read it in a while – over 1700 comments so far: http://www.gaybomba sign.php? list=1

And if you haven’t signed it, sign it now! Here’s the link: http://www.gaybomba protest377.htm

Statesman News Service

September 4, 2007

Gay friend’s offer prompts youth to murder

Bhubaneswar – Debabrata Pani, an upcoming model and his grand mother Bina were found murdered at their house in Unit 8 area here today. The accused Arun Dora, a college student, surrendered at the Khandagiri police station and confessed to his crime. Dora alleged that Debabrata was repeatedly forcing him to a homosexual relationship. “I was depressed and shattered, so I decided to kill him when he called me to his home last night, the culprit said.

Since the old lady saw Arun committing the crime, he murdered her too, said the police sources. Both Debabrata and Arun were friends and they used to move around together. But Arun said that ever since Debabrata forced him to have sex, he became very depressed. Since Arun’s parents had left for Vaishnov Devi, Debabrata had called his friend home last night to celebrate Krishnastami. The accused claimed that he had waited for such an opportunity and planned to kill Debabrata. He had carried a sharp weapon and attacked his model-friend with it. Today he went to the Khandagiri police station and surrendered. Early this morning, when the bodies were found in a pool of blood, the people of the locality gathered together and informed the police.

Also see Prince Gohil interviewed on Oprah Winfrey TV show October 24, 2007:

October 7, 2007

Hundreds Celebrate Gay Prince’s Birthday

by Newscenter Staff
Vadodara, India – Hundreds of people from high and low social stations gathered on the grounds of the royal palace in Gujarat state to celebrate the birthday of India’s openly gay prince. Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil turned 42 on Sunday. A leading figure in India’s small LGBT civil rights movement and a vocal supporter of people living with HIV, Prince Manvendra invited gays and PWAs from all over India to celebrate his birthday at a party that featured gay musicians and artists. It is the 10th birthday that the prince has celebrated this way, brightening the faces of hundreds of people who regularly suffer from discrimination.

Homosexuality is illegal in India, punishable by imprisonment and people living with HIV/AIDS are frequently shunned by their families. For the prince the occasion allows people to interact and be visible. The two day party was extensively covered by the Indian media which usually treats gays with derision. Although Prince Manvendra had been out to his family for years – almost as long as he had quietly been involved in gay and HIV groups – he did not speak publicly about his sexuality until last year. After he granted the Times of India an interview in which he discussed being gay, his family fearing reprisals from the public disowned him. He was stripped of his title, inheritance, and all rights. Manvendra learned of the decision by his father only be reading announcements placed in local newspapers by the Royal Family. (story)

In a follow-up interview with The Times of India the prince said that he was not altogether surprised. He told the paper that he had come out to his family in 2002. "However, they may not have expected that I would go public with the issue." This month his father, one of the richest men in India, softened his stance. (story) "I was in an awkward situation and didn’t know how do deal with it. Relatives from all over the country called me up. Rajpipla is a conservative place. Women still cover their heads with a pallu; sex is a taboo topic to talk about. I was in the line of fire," Raghubir Singh Gohil told the Times.

Manvendra is Raghubir’s only son and within weeks they were reunited and the prince’s titles restored.

Hindustan Times’Imagine+a+world+without+gays

October 09, 2007

Imagine a world without gays, says gay Indian prince

Rajpipla (Reuters) – Pumping the bellows of his harmonium, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil performs with a purpose at the festival, he puts on every year to celebrate homosexuality in India, where it is illegal. "Gays are talented, creative, imagine a world without us," said the flamboyant 42-year-old at the event that promotes gay and bisexual artists and raises awareness about HIV and AIDS. "I was born gay with some talent and skills, this festival is for people like me," he added as guests filled the hall of his pink palace with classical Indian songs.

Oprah Winfrey, the American talk show host, has invited Gohil to appear on her show later this month, where he will discuss his work as a gay rights activist in a country where homosexuality is a crime, punishable by up to 10 years in jail under a vaguely worded law that bans sex "against the order of nature". Outside the more liberal enclaves of wealthy middle-class Delhi and Mumbai, gays are often scorned and persecuted in a country where sculptures in ancient temples, murals and other arts graphically depict gay sex. India’s flourishing film industry has often used gays as characters of humour and ridicule.

Gohil, who descends from the royal rulers of Rajpipla, a small town in Gujarat, was publicly disowned by his family after talking about his sexuality with the media. India abolished princely kingdoms after independence from Britain in 1947, but many formerly royal families continue to lead lavish lives in sprawling palaces and use their old titles. "I had to deal with opposition from my family and locals of Rajpipla who felt I was involved in activities that are unsuitable in society," he said. Rajpipla is a very conservative, sleepy town, where women cover their heads and lower their gaze before men.

India’s anti-homosexuality law, which harks back to the British colonial-era law, is rarely enforced but activists say police use it to harass gays for bribes. Those that don’t pay have been detained, brutally beaten and humiliated. In May, hundreds of gays and lesbians came out at a New Delhi festival they hoped would build on a campaign against the anti-gay law. But the government has so far said that society is not ready to legalise homosexuality. At Gohil’s palace, gays mingled freely with socialites, flirted with potential partners and put on lighthearted shows under the gaze of scores of curious villagers who were invited to the party.

"The festival gave us a break from our lives where everyday we fight people and ourselves to understand our own sexuality," said a gay artist who declined to be named. "For us it is a war on the inside and the outside."

October 24, 2007

Prince Gohil interviewed on Oprah Winfrey TV show

In 2006, a royal Indian prince revealed a secret so taboo it ripped his family apart, stunned a nation and made international headlines.
Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil of Rajpipla was born with a golden spoon in his mouth. "At one time we had almost 22 servants [working] for us. As kids we would call it the 22 man army," he says. He lived a life of royalty, but the prince says he always felt something was wrong inside. Still, he did all that is expected of a future king and entered into an arranged marriage. "It was a total disaster. A total failure," he says. "The marriage never got consummated. I realized I had done something very wrong."

After his marriage ended, the prince says his world began to unravel. "I was suddenly feeling as if I’m falling apart," he says. It was the beginning of a nervous breakdown. In 2002, Prince Manvendra was hospitalized. It was then that he says he finally came to terms with his secret. "As I was growing up I was attracted to the male," he says. "Then I was getting treatment in the hospital by this psychiatrist and while he was treating me, I came out to him through one of the counseling sessions and he was very, very understanding and he said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with you. You should be proud of your sexuality.’ And it was he who actually volunteered to tell my parents about myself. It was through him I came out."

Prince Manvendra knew if he told the world he was gay, it could cost him the throne and his freedom. In India, homosexual acts are illegal and punishable by 10 years to life in prison. Still, the prince was determined to reveal his truth. "Telling the truth, I will never regret," he says. In a 2006 newspaper interview, Prince Manvendra came out to the world. The people in his village were outraged. "It was like an earthquake," he says. "People are so agitated and furious that their prince brought shame to us, to the family, shame to our heritage. Shame to the lineage." Prince Manvendra says his father, the king, refuses to accept that his only son and heir to the throne is gay. "It is not natural. Anything which is not natural is not something which you can’t procreate. We always hope for the better. So, you know, like he has some sort of a change in his mind or his attitude," King Ragubir said in an interview. The queen was livid. "She said, ‘You had done something most wrong so you don’t deserve to be blessed at all,’" Prince Manvendra says. "She thinks I am a criminal and I should be punished for that."

The queen took out an ad in a newspaper to announce she was disowning her son and threatened to hold anyone who referred to the prince as her son in contempt. "I wasn’t shocked. Actually I don’t blame her. I blame her ignorance," Prince Manvendra says. "As most of the Indians do about homosexuality. They are very, very, insensitive and unavailable on the whole issue." Although they live in the same palace, Prince Manvendra says he and his mother live in separate wings. "We do accidentally bump into each other, but she tries to avoid me," he says. "She just will try to turn her face away from me or try to avoid coming down that moment of the time when I am maybe crossing her way."

The prince says he and his mother were never close before he came out, but her behavior still has an effect on him. "Why should there be any discrimination on the basis of one’s sexuality? I mean, what have I done wrong that I should be treated in this manner? Growing up, Prince Manvendra says he always thought he was different. "Being brought up in such a protected environment, I couldn’t talk to anyone, couldn’t share my views to anyone, so I was confused whether I’m the only one like that or are there a lot of other people like me or was it kind of a disease?" The prince says he didn’t come to terms with his sexuality until after his marriage ended, which he says was arranged but not forced. "I was confused about myself. I wasn’t knowing what [I was]," he says. "Am I heterosexual? What is homosexuality? I thought it was a passing phase. I might get over it once I married. And that’s the reason I decided to get married." Prince Manvendra says was never physically attracted to his wife and never wanted to consummate the marriage. On their wedding night, the prince says he told her he was too tired after the long celebrations.

" It was terrible for her because she got married to me, like any other woman, she expected the kind of satisfaction from her husband," he says. "I wasn’t showing any interest so she would get up and start sobbing. I probably thought she was feeling homesick and that’s the reason she’s sobbing away. … I didn’t realize that her anguish is because I am not paying any attention to her." When they separated, Prince Manvendra says she left him with a powerful message. "Just before she left me, she just said that, ‘Well, you tried to spoil the life of somebody like me. I just request you not to do that again,’" he says. "Well, it was totally true. I mean, it was a fact. And I decided there and then that, come what may, I’m not going for a second marriage again."

Despite the initial outcry over his coming out, Prince Manvendra says he has no regrets and feels comfortable walking down the street at home. "I haven’t done anything wrong. I mean, I feel this is very, very natural and normal so why should I worry about it?" The prince says the people of his town still respect him. "Even before I declared myself, I had done a lot of work, social work, for the town of Rajpipla in the field of education, health, giving job opportunities, so I am actually respected because of that," he says. "And it didn’t pose much of a problem to me except a few incidents which happened and now they’re all fine with me."

Prince Manvendra says he isn’t worried about whether he loses the crown. "I will not regret that because I am true to myself and I’m true to the community, the gay community for whom I am working, so I don’t really mind," he says. "If I have to lose the crown, I’m not attached to the materialistic world as well, so I will continue to do my work, what I’m doing at the moment, so I have no regrets for that." Above all, Prince Manvendra says he is happy with his new mission in life. "I’m working for the gay community in India, especially on HIV prevention amongst gay men. And if I could save even one life, I would be the happiest man today."


October 25, 2007

Singapore’s Decision

Singapore has just announced that it will decriminalise oral and anal sex for heterosexuals, but not homosexuals. DNA reported it today, though I didn’t see it reported in a big way anywhere else. It is a depressing decision, though not without some silver linings. But I think its going to be a VERY important decision for us since its the sort of reasoning the Indian government will be comfortable with and can cite as a relevant, specifically Asian, precedent. As such we urgently need to formulate responses in case it gets taken up in the media. I’d suggest everyone reads Sylvia Tan’s reporting on which is pretty comprehensive. Here’s the link, and if it doesn’t work, just go directly to :

Some quick comments from me. First, lets note one difference between the situation in India and Singapore – they at least got a bill into Parliament and got a debate on it. For better or worse we have no bill and no prospect of one, and I think its greatly to the credit of activists in Singapore that they have got this far. And I don’t think it has been without benefits. I admit I tend to look for silver linings, however faintly gleaming, and there do seem a few here. I’m impressed for one that it seems to have been regarded as a debate important enough for the prime minister Lee to attend and speak in, even if what he said swung it against gay rights. Its an acknowledgement of our existence of the kind we still really haven’t received in India. I also think its a benefit that the law legalised oral and anal sex for straight people, even if in doing so it created a discrimination against us. I think any move towards more tolerance and respect for responsible sexual freedom should be welcomed, and will in the end benefit us as well. Straight Singaporeans still can’t chew gum, but can get blow jobs legally and hopefully they’ll see the stupidity of denying the same to gay people!

PM Lee’s speech is also really interesting. In it he seems to go out of his way to be conciliatory towards homosexuals – before regretfully announcing that the law must stay out of respect for those who are vehemently opposed to it. He even comes close to stating that such homophobes are a minority! He says that most people don’t care about the issue either way – which is perhaps the first time I’ve heard any politician saying something so honest.

In his speech PM Lee notes that:

– homosexuality is probably inborn
– that society shouldn’t make it harder for homosexuals
– that the homosexual community includes "people who are responsible, invaluable, highly respected contributing members of society"
– that many people have homosexual relatives
– that they are entitled to their private life
– that gay bars exist in Singapore and don’t have to go underground
– that section377a is not, and will not be, proactively enforced
– that Singapore certainly does not want homosexuals to go away

And just when we’re ready to recommend him for an IGLHRC Felipa Award, he plunges in the knife. He notes that there are a few people passionately opposed to repeal and that Singapore is essentially a conservative society and that even though Section 377a is a mess, its a symbolic mess and better to leave things that way. And as a twister he says he doesn’t feel gays are a minority like religious minorities. (He also notes that the anti-repeal campaign was very well organised. Who was behind it? We better be prepared). Sylvia has reported the debate in full and its worth reading, but essentially its over with the PM’s speech. He’s articulated a position that leaves most people feeling satisfied, since he’s said the law won’t be changed, but it won’t be enforced much either. The only people left unsatisfied are people like us and presumably the nutcases who would want the law strengethened a la Sri Lanka.

And one has to acknowledge that the PM’s position is a superficially attractive one, especially when its come packaged in such a conciliatory way. He’s saying you’re here, you’re queer, just don’t cheer about it too much. I can see it appealing to lots of people, both gay and straight, who see talking about sexuality openly as unnecessary and excessive. Why not just keep living quietly as the PM recommends?

I can definitely see an Indian judge accepting and citing that position. When you’re essentially uncomfortable with the issue, but not deeply opposed, then its the easy way out. But the problem is that there are lots of cracks in it:

– How do you deal with blackmail of closeted gay men, which can still flourish under s.377a?
– How do you deal with intimidation and violence against gay men, when filing a police complaint could still get you convicted? How
– How do you deal with prejudice against two gay men living quietly together?
– How do you deal with intimidation from parents?
– How do you deal with workplace prejudice when the law still technically makes it illegal for companies to include sexuality among their diversity intiatives?

I’m sure we can think of more problems with the decision, and please lets do so. This is clearly something with the potential for major repercussions in India, and something we should try and organise for.

Times Of India Hyderabad;

Oct 31, 2007

Two Sabbavaram women tie the knot

Visakhapatnam – Two women entered into wedlock in Sabbavaram, 40 km from the city a few days ago. K Kumari (19) of Anakapalle and Vara Lakshmi (18) got married in a temple a week ago and later exchanged vows.

Lakshmi’s mother and a friend were witness to the marriage. The two met at Sabbavaram when Kumari came to live with her elder sister after her broken marriage and the death of her parents. Kumari’s fondness for Lakshmi grew while they worked together in a church in the area. Though neighbours and families noticed they were very close, they did not suspect anything amiss. However, when the church people got wind of it, they threw them out following complaints from others. The couple now work in a nursery. While Lakshmi wears the mangalsutram, Kumari is the ‘husband’, locals said.

Transgender to host TV show

Chennai (PTI): A transgender will appear as a host in a talk show on a Tamil satellite channel to discuss various social issues.

The show titled ‘Ippadikku Rose’ (Yours Rose), scheduled to be aired on Vijay TV in December, will discuss a host of issues like child abuse, discrimination, taboos, phobias and syndromes, besides problems of transgenders. "There are thousands of social issues and the problem of transgenders is one among them. All these will be discussed one by one in the programme," Rose told a press conference here on Thursday.

28-year-old Rose, who has got two post graduate degrees in engineering from the US, was quiet confident when she spoke about her vision to become a role model for peers in the third gender. "There are lots of misconceptions about transgenders and unfortunately, the media has also so far concentrated on negative aspects of the third gender," she said. But, given a right opportunity, they will also progress and become productive citizens. "I hope my presence in the media will have a positive impact and change people’s attitude towards people like me," she said.

The Times of London

November 3, 2007

Transsexual host breaks TV taboo

Jeremy Page in Delhi
When Ramesh Venkatesan realised that he wanted to be a woman as a teenager he was too ashamed to tell his family and friends. He even pretended to be in love with a girl at his college in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Today, aged 28, he not only wears a sari and make-up openly in the street, but next month he will become the first transsexual host of an Indian television programme.
Using his female identity, Rose, he will anchor a Saturday evening talk show addressing sexual and other traditionally taboo issues on Star Vijay, a popular Tamil television channel.

“I want to set an example,” Mr Venkatesan, who plans to undergo sex reassignment in Thailand in the next few months, told The Times. “The transgender community here is totally disempowered. It is very closeted and doesn’t integrate at all. I wanted to join mainstream society.” His show, called Ippadiku Rose (Yours Rose), is a sign of how Indian economic growth and integration with the West are slowly breaking down social taboos. Transsexuals have been part of Indian society for hundreds of years and traditionally sing and dance for money at weddings and birthday parties. Though many still perform this way, declining demand and higher living costs have driven them to begging and sex work in recent years.

Mr Venkatesan, who comes from a middle-class family in Madras, said that he had no desire to live such a life. Knowing that his father, a property dealer, would disapprove, he suppressed his identity to complete his education at engineering college. When he went to do a masters degree in the US and his parents started looking for a wife for him, he came out. “My mother broke down in tears and couldn’t handle it for a long time,” he said. When he returned to India in 2004 his father threw him out of the home but eventually allowed him to return. He can now wear women’s trousers, but not saris, at home. Dressed as a man, he found work as an American-accent coach at a call centre but later became a freelance software engineer so that he could work from home in women’s clothes.

Mr Venkatesan’s ambition, however, was to work in the media, and he approached several television stations with his talk-show idea. The first two laughed him off, but the third, Star Vijay, embraced the concept. “We were planning a late-night talk show and Rose just walked into our office. We were really impressed,” Pradeep Milroy Peter, the channel’s head of programming, said. Star Vijay is watched by more than 60 million people in Tamil Nadu and is available all around India as well as in the US and Singapore. “We want to push the envelope, but we don’t want to go overboard,” Mr Peter said. “India is still very conservative. We have cryogenics and space rockets, but are still discussing whether to have sex education in schools.

From APCOM, New Delhi, India

November 30, 2007

New Asia Pacific Statistics Reveal an Alarming Incidence of HIV in MSM
: APCOM Ready to Play a Key Role as Governments and Civil Society in the Region Ponder Urgent Strategies to Tackle the Crisis

New Delhi/Beijing/Bangkok – Today, on World AIDS Day 2007, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men who have sex with men (MSM) will become infected with HIV in cities across the Asia Pacific, becoming the latest statistics in an almost unrecognized but ever-growing crisis that many governments in the region are only just beginning to grapple with. As these efforts take shape, the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM) is offering its partnership to develop and support new strategies aimed at tackling this regional challenge. Paradoxically, it may be more challenging for APCOM to draw attention to the MSM HIV issue. The recent adjustment downwards of global HIV and AIDS figures has been construed in some quarters as an indication that the AIDS crisis has been “exaggerated” all along. However, APCOM and the stakeholders it represents are urging the Asia Pacific region, and indeed the world, not to confuse the true picture.

Most MSM who contract HIV today in city after city in the Asia Pacific region will never know they harbour the virus until they become ill with advanced symptoms. Without that knowledge, they probably will not change the very behaviours that put them, as well as their partners and loved ones, at risk. A recent survey in a major Asian capital suggested as many as 32% of MSM there are HIV positive. In other cities across the region, HIV infection rates for MSM range from estimates anywhere from 5% to 15% or 20% and higher.

“Despite MSM having higher infection rates than the general adult population, the financial investment for HIV prevention, care and support services for this marginalized group across the Asia Pacific is abysmally low in national HIV and AIDS programme planning, usually between zero and four percent,” says Shivananda Khan, APCOM Chairperson and CEO of Naz Foundation International. “Less than one in ten MSM in the region have access to any sort of HIV services, woefully short of the eight in ten that UNAIDS describes as optimal coverage necessary for high-risk groups. Is it any surprise then that we really don’t have a clear picture of the true extent of the HIV crisis affecting men who have sex with men?”

Edmund Settle, HIV/AIDS Programme Manager for UNDP China, concurs. “You’ve got these really alarming statistics of ten, 20, 30 percent HIV infection rates among MSM in some major cities, but when you ask whether this picture holds true across other urban centres, or even in suburban or rural areas, the answer’s not at all simple. It ranges from `Yes, it’s somewhat likely’ to `Well, we’re not really certain.’ Still, we do know more today than just a couple of years ago.”

That growing clarity comes from a recent review of available data, soon to be released by UNAIDS, that describes the epidemiology of HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI), and behaviours of MSM in the Asia Pacific region that put them at considerable risk of HIV and STI. As the paper states: “Severe and established HIV epidemics are found among MSM in some countries while imminent or beginning HIV epidemics were observed in others.” The review also recommends ways to change policy and programming that would confront this challenge and help improve the situation.

“This collection of data in the upcoming review allows us to highlight more accurately than before the extent of the HIV scenario vis-à-vis MSM in our region,” according to Geoff Manthey , Regional Advisor on MSM for Asia Pacific UNAIDS Regional Support Team (RST-AP). “It also comes at a most opportune time, with the recent creation of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health. We hope that the work of APCOM, and its strength in bringing together representatives from governments, the UN system, donors and NGOs side by side with affected communities will finally make the difference in creating a truly regional strategy to address the MSM HIV crisis — and yes, even though it’s an overused word or sounds like a cliché, this is a crisis, make no mistake about that.”

In 2006, a year before APCOM’s creation, JVR Prasada Rao, director of UNAIDS RST-AP, had warned that “data in Asia show that without interventions, male to male sex will become one of the main sources of new HIV infections in the region,” He added, “We are facing a public health crisis, but you would never know it from the region’s almost invisible response so far” — a fact supported by a UNAIDS report published this past August, Men who have sex with men — the missing piece in national responses to AIDS in Asia and the Pacific.

The China Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) recently stated that HIV prevention for MSM was the latest hurdle for the government’s drive to curb a fast-rising AIDS epidemic. In fact, China — the world’s most populous nation — was the first country in the region to issue a specific national framework on MSM and HIV, which calls for urgent efforts to engage civil society in a concerted effort to reach out to men who have sex with men. China recently reported that male to male sexual transmission now accounts for 12.5 percent of new HIV cases in 2007, up from 2.5 percent in 2005.

Reflecting the growing regional awareness for enhanced surveillance that incorporates epidemiology as well as sociocultural awareness, the Center for HIV/AIDS/STI (CHAS) in Laos PDR has conducted the first survey of HIV among MSM in Laos and will soon be releasing the results. As governments and health partners across the Asia Pacific wake up to the realization that national HIV prevention strategies must include a significant MSM component, APCOM and its partners stand ready to support and strengthen such approaches.

“All of these surveys, these papers, these data and statistics represent hope that our region is making a breakthrough,” says Dede Oetomo, who sits on APCOM’s interim governing board and is a noted long-time gay activist in Indonesia , a country with limited but successful and well-documented results in HIV and STI prevention among MSM. “However, the good work that’s emerged in recent times also serves as a warning that the hard work now really begins. With the multisectoral strength that APCOM provides, we are poised to finally reach out to MSM groups in a way that hasn’t been possible before. It’s an important, exciting time — full of challenges, yet full of promise. Let’s go forward now and get the work done.”

Shivananda Khan / New Delhi : +91 98392 21091 (mobile) Paul Causey / Bangkok : +66 81 984 6515 (mobile) Edmund Settle / Beijing : +86 1391 136 3025 (mobile) Geoff Manthey / Bangkok : +66 81 870 2175 (mobile)

APCOM Background

A concept that grew out of the mounting HIV crisis in MSM populations across the Asia Pacific, APCOM was formally launched in July 2007. APCOM is a direct outcome of the Male Sexual Health and HIV in Asia and the Pacific International Consultation held in New Delhi in late 2006. This three-day consultation brought together community members, government officials, policy makers and researchers to provide an opportunity to inform and develop strategic advocacy initiatives on key policy issues concerning MSM and the transgender community.

Opened to regional and sub-regional networks, as well as national networks and individual organizations, APCOM is governed by a 19-member Governing Board comprised of community representatives from 7 Asia Pacific sub-regions: the Pacific (including New Zealand), South Asia (including Mongolia but excluding India), Greater Mekong (GMS), South East Asia (excluding GMS), Developed Asia (Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Australia), China and India. In addition, the board will consist of representatives from the transgender community, government sector, donors and a communication advisor.
UNAIDS, UNDP and UNESCO will support APCOM as technical advisors.

A coalition of governments, UN partners, donors, NGOs and populations that are directly affected by the AIDS epidemic, APCOM’s goals are ambitious but have been meticulously planned. Through increased participation and MSM representation in regional and global bodies and conferences, APCOM will seek to scale up and increase attention to the needs of MSM in general and HIV issues in particular. Forums that APCOM has been, or will be, represented at include ASEAN ministerial meetings, ICAAP-9 and the 2008 International AIDS Conference in Mexico .

By the leveraging of technical assistance, support and mentoring to MSM HIV projects, state and national governments and to existing technical assistance facilities, as well as by identifying and assisting the development of MSM and HIV networks, APCOM will strengthen community work and help partnerships so that work can be shared and improved upon.

With the current vacuum of data on MSM and HIV in Asia (although recent surveys and reports are gradually filling some gaps), a critical role for APCOM is to assess and track — country by country — both the degree and quality of inclusion of MSM and HIV issues, and to report on national AIDS plans. All the while, APCOM will seek to promote the principles of good practice and lessons learnt to policy makers, service providers and MSM based on qualitative research and cost effective studies.

An APCOM website is being developed to serve as a focal point for information and examples of good practice, a repository of research papers with practical applications as well as publications for anyone interested in the issues of HIV and MSM, including academics, policy makers and members of the MSM community itself. The website will also be an online governance tool for APCOM’s trustees and for its members. APCOM will work with UNESCO in the creation of a companion website envisioned to be a clearing house for state-of-the-art information, BCC/IEC materials and research data on MSM and HIV (particularly in the Asia Pacific). The APCOM website, scheduled to be online in early 2008, will be located at

APCOM’s temporary office is based in New Delhi .
Contact information:
Aditya Bondyopadhyay, Secretariat Coordinato


November 30, 2007

Asia-Pacific must do more to tackle gay AIDS crisis-group

by Ben Blanchard
Beijing, Nov 30 (Reuters) – Asia-Pacific countries are not doing enough to tackle a growing AIDS crisis among men who have sex with men, hampered by social stigma and discriminatory laws, according to an advocacy group. Though in some countries such as China the government is now actively involved in reaching out to this community, in others, including Malaysia and India, progress has been much slower, said the Asia-Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health. It is an "almost unrecognised but ever-growing crisis that many governments in the region are only just beginning to grapple with", the group said in a statement ahead of World AIDS Day on Saturday. HIV infection rates in some Asia cities in the men who have sex with men (MSM) community are estimated to be as high as 32 percent, added the group, a coalition of U.N. bodies, governments and non-governmental organisations. "One of the main reasons is stigma around engaging in MSM behaviour, and also identifying as gay, transgender and so on in Asia," Edmund Settle, HIV/AIDS Programme Manager for the UNDP in China, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

That stigma can range from lack of visibility to homophobic violence in places like Nepal.

"There’s also a legislative reason. In a lot of post-colonial countries such as India and Malaysia, engaging in male-to-male sex is illegal, punishable by long prison sentences. So it’s very difficult to talk openly about male-to-male sex if it’s illegal," he added. Another problem is lack of data, though research has now started to take place, and lack of focus on the community in HIV/AIDS prevention work.

"Despite MSM having higher infection rates than the general adult population, the financial investment for HIV prevention, care and support services for this marginalised group across the Asia-Pacific is abysmally low in national HIV and AIDS programme planning, usually between 0 and 4 percent," group chairperson Shivananda Khan said in the statement. "Less than one in 10 MSM in the region have access to any sort of HIV services, woefully short of the six in 10 that UNAIDS describes as minimal coverage necessary for high-risk groups," Khan added. "Is it any surprise then that we really don’t have a clear picture of the true extent of the HIV crisis affecting men who have sex with men?"

Knowledge of safe sex can be pitifully low.

In China, which has an estimated 700,000 HIV cases, only 30 percent of men who have sex with men use condoms, according to a new Chinese government/UN report. And in urban areas, new cases are growing fast in this community. "If you just look at urban cases, in China they are starting to make up a large proportion of HIV infections," Settle said, adding this was also the case in other major cities around the region. "What we don’t know is the second and third tier cities." (Editing by Nick Macfie)

From Arab News:

20 December 2007

Hijras on Haj:`We Are Neither Men Nor Women, but Muslims Like Anyone Else’

by Siraj Wahab, Arab News
Mina – They are neither men nor women. In their devotion to God, however, they are second to none. There are no precise figures as to how many of them are performing Haj this year but according to those who are familiar with them, they have been coming here for years. Since they list themselves as men when applying for Haj visas, there is no definite way of ascertaining their exact number.
They are like a drop in the ocean here and would have gone unnoticed but for their mannerisms and the singsong way of talking. This correspondent bumped into four eunuchs ("Aghawaat" in Arabic) here yesterday. All of them were from Bhopal in India. They were a bit shy initially but were later more than eager to narrate their story of the pilgrimage. One of them, Haji Saleem, identified himself as the group’s leader and he did most of the talking. The others nodded their heads, affirming their leader’s statements. "You are right, we are neither men nor women. `Hamara dono me shumar nahi hota.’ We are born this way," he said. "This is my second Haj. I was here in 1998. That is why I have added the title `Haji’ to my name. I am revered in my community and they look up to me with awe and whatever I say is taken as a command."

Back in India, however, Haji Saleem is actually known by a female name, Salma. The other three gave their names as Abdul Rasheed (better known as Mumtaz), Abdul Shabbir (Sanno) and Haji Zahoor (Zohra). They laugh and grin sheepishly when giving their actual community names. "We are known in Bhopal’s Islampur-Bhudhwara area as Salma, Mumtaz, Sanno and Zohra. Those are our real names," said Haji Saleem. Haji Saleem said they have had no problems during Haj. "Nobody bothered us nor did we bother anybody. In Makkah, however, the four of us were put up in a room with some other people. They were not comfortable with us so they asked the organizers to shift us to some other room. We were then given a separate room. Fair enough," said Haji Saleem. Since they are neither men nor women, who do they pray with? "We respect women. That is why we don’t go into their section. Islam gives us permission to pray alongside people of both sexes. For the sake of practicality and counting, we identify ourselves as men and therefore here at Haj we wear what men wear. Back home, however, we are always in women’s clothing," said Haji Saleem. "Also, when we die we are given the last body wash by men. That is also a key reason for us to be counted among men rather than women." What does Islam say concerning eunuchs and the pilgrimage?

Prominent scholar and Arab News’ Islamic Affairs Editor Adil Salahi said: "If the eunuch is a man who has been castrated, all the rulings concerning men apply to him. If it is a question of a person being created thus, then whatever the person appears to be applies to him. If the eunuch says he is a man, or if he says he is a woman, Islam accepts this from him in things which do not give him material advantage. As far as pilgrimage, the eunuch is required to offer the pilgrimage just as everyone else. If the eunuch’s form suggests he is a man, such as having hair in the face, then he is a man. If the form suggests a woman, such as having breasts, then she is a woman." Eunuchs were once very popular and sought-after in the harems of Eastern kings. They are often mentioned in the tales of The Arabian Nights. And so one comes repeatedly across Khwaja Sara, the major domo, in the harem of the legendary monarch Haroon Al-Rashid. Eunuchs are basically castrated men and are generally considered to be harmless and innocuous with no possibility of violating the modesty of women.

According to Haji Saleem, there are 150 members of his community in Bhopal. "We all live together. We share our joys and sorrows. We are Muslims like anyone else. We pray five times a day. We don’t have separate mosques. We go to the ones that every Muslim goes to. We adopt children, but only baby girls. We don’t adopt baby boys. We take care of these baby girls and then marry them off. Some of them came to see us off at Bombay airport," said Haji Saleem. Haji Saleem said that Hindus in India take good care of them. "They treat us with a lot of respect. We are invited to their homes whenever they are blessed with a baby boy. They even invite us during weddings and to celebrate the season of harvest. Their celebrations are not considered complete without our presence. We sing and dance and make merry. They give us a lot of money. We are sometimes invited to Muslim homes as well, but they treat us with contempt. They forget that we are the way we are because God’s willed it that way.

This is not something that is our choice. Interestingly, all of us in this community of eunuchs in Bhopal are Muslims," said Haji Saleem. All Muslims? "Yes, even those who belong to other faiths and are born like us, when they join our community, we ask them first to embrace Islam. We make them recite the Kalima (Shahada) and they are given Muslim names." After returning home from Haj, will they continue singing and dancing and will their lifestyle change? Haji Saleem had an interesting answer. "Those who perform Haj two times attain the status of a `mukhia’ or a guru. They are not required to wear women’s clothing. They are not allowed to sing and dance. But those who have performed Haj only once will go back to their business but only after a period of two months." Haji Saleem said he had no regrets about life. "’Hame Allah se aur zindagi se koyee shikayat nahi hai.’ We have no complaints. There must be a reason why God created us this way. Science has reached such a stage that people have sex-change operations. Men become women and vice versa. We are happy the way we are." Haji Saleem said they were extremely delighted to be here for Haj. "Of course, we are very happy. We cannot tell you how much.

Yes, there were a lot of fears when we boarded the plane. But once we were here, all our worries vanished. Just the sight of the holy city and Holy Kaaba was enough to make us feel content. Our prayers are with the entire Muslim community. May Allah give every Muslim the opportunity to perform Haj and to see the glorious Kaaba." "Aameen," said the other three eunuchs in unison.