Gay India News & Reports Jun-Aug 2009

Gay Bombay Yahoo Group:

1 Young, Royal & Gay: the Life of an Indian Prince 6/09

2 How Bill Gates Blew $258 million in India’s HIV Corridor 6/09

3 Anti-gay protesters pitch to Pope, Imam and Shankaracharya 6/09

4 City prepares for gay pride march 6/09

5 Moily signals rethink on anti-gay law 6/09

6 India: ‘Sodomy’ Laws Perpetuate Colonial Prejudices 6/09

7 India woos gay tourists 6/09

8 Chennai (Madras) Pride 09 – Out and Proud 6/09

9 Gay Indian prince opens Pride parade 6/09

10 Gay community fights for dignity 6/09

11 Gay parade in Delhi for decriminalisation of homosexuality 6/09

11a Straight talk 6/09

12 Delhi Pride was Hot and Happening 6/09

13 Chennai (Madras) Turns up to Support Gay March 6/09

14 Gay sex decriminalised in India 7/09

15 Indian Court Overturns Gay Sex Ban 7/09

16 Ancient India didn’t think homosexuality was against nature 7/09

17 The long road of the S. 377 case 7/09

17a State sees steady rise in HIV among gays 7/09

18 Gay In India 7/09

19 A ‘Common Front’ for The Marginalized in India 7/09

20 Homosexuality not a taboo in Jharkhand tribe 7/09

21 Gay community turns assertive in workplace 7/09

22 Sex Sells, Sexuality Doesn’t: Bollywood and Alternative Sexuality 7/09

23 Indian Supreme Court refuses to stay verdict on gay sex 7/09

24 Gay movement no longer limited to metros, big cities 7/09

25 An Indian model of queerness 7/09

26 AIDS chief stresses importance of positive media for LGBT Indians 8/09

27 TimeOut Mumbai’s LGBT issue now online 8/09

28 Thousands march in 2nd Mumbai gay pride parade 8/09

29 Marching for LGBT rights in India 8/09

29a The lawyer Who Fought the 377 Law and Won: Anand Grover 8/09

30 Double Lives 8/09

31 In the pink of wealth 8/09

June 3, 2009 – ABC News

Young, Royal & Gay: the Life of an Indian Prince

What Is It Like Being Gay in a Land Where the Language Has No Word for ‘Gay’?

by Karen Russo
Rajpipla, India – He types awkwardly, his fingers scrunched on the keyboard, back hunched over and elbows bent outward. I’m guessing he’s rarely done it.
"Never mind typing, I’ve never had to bathe myself," he says, turning his attention back to a gay men’s Web site. Such is the life of a prince. Literally, it’s the life of Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, who was raised in a pink-colored palace located at the bottom of long driveway dotted with purple flowers. His upbringing was so formal he felt more affection toward his nanny than his mother. His closest friends were his servants.

Now, though, some of his closest friends are the ones he’s met in "pen pal" ads in gay newspapers. Men from around the world e-mail him, often seeking his advice on homosexuality. If it’s not obvious, the Prince is a gay man, which makes life rather complicated in a country where being gay is illegal. Article 377 criminalizes the act of homosexuality between men.

India’s attitude toward homosexuality is a combination of homophobia and ignorance. Sometimes, homosexuality is flat-out ignored. Walk past any black-and-yellow taxi at midnight, and you’re just as likely to see two men spooning in the front seat as a flashing-neon Ganesha on the dashboard. India’s attitude toward sex, in general, seems hypocritical. After all, it’s the birthplace of the Kama Sutra, and some of its famed temples offer graphic murals and sculptures depicting sex, including same-sex sex behavior. It’s a country where men can walk down the street, holding hands, arms wrapped around each other, but young men and women must cower in parks to sneak a kiss away from their families.

What’s a person to think? It’s confusing for most people, but particularly a prince, who never even knew what it meant to be "gay." It took a year of an unconsummated marriage, a subsequent divorce and a nervous breakdown to give him some perspective. "Being brought up in such a protected atmosphere, there’s nobody to share your thoughts, your feelings with anyone. I was confused whether I’m getting attracted toward the same sex. Is it a kind of disease? Is it a mental disorder? Am I the only one suffering for this mental disorder? I was totally confused about myself," he said.

How to Translate the Word ‘Gay’ in India
India doesn’t make it easy for gay men. Ashok Row Kavi, considered India’s first openly gay man, explains that India doesn’t even have a translation for the term "gay."

"’Gay’" is a Western word," said Kavi, 62. So what do you call it?

"We don’t," he said. "There’s no word here."

The closest term is "masti," which means "mischief." So when two men have sex, it’s nothing more than "mischief."

"It’s a problematic situation that’s not taken seriously," said Powkavi.

Wearing a traditional orange tunic with a matching scarf tossed over his shoulder, the tall and slender prince said he was 30 years old, when he finally understood who he was sexually. Now, at 42, he’s considered something of an expert. He’s openly gay and has founded, Lakshya Trust, a nonprofit organization dedicated to gay men and HIV/AIDS education. At one of the three Lakshya centers in Baroda, Gujarat, a dozen men chat casually in a large office dotted with Hindi language posters and a photograph of two men kissing. Two small offices for counseling sessions are off to one corner.

"Being a gay in India is very, very, very difficult," said Siddhi Pandya, a counselor at Lakshya. Pandya attributed most of the problems to lack of education about homosexuality and a national obsession with marriage. "They have constant marriage pressures if the guy is of the age 22 or 24," she said. "They do not have a very strong reason to say why they don’t want to get married. They stay in constant anxiety, depression."

Much of Pandya’s work is to offer support and guidance through their often tempestuous relationships with other men. On occasion, she has the opportunity to educate families of the gay men who come to the center. Slowly, she is making a change. One 20-something man in her office said he had pressure on him because he is the only man in the family. But with Pandya’s support, he was able to speak with his family who, it turns out, knew he was gay all along. "Earlier I was much more depressed," he said. But now, he’s like the prince. "I’m proud of myself."

June 5, 2009 –

How Bill Gates Blew $258 million in India’s HIV Corridor
…The purpose was noble, the money generous. But the software mogul’s charity for HIV prevention in India has failed to make a lasting impact

by Elizabeth Flock
On a humid afternoon, former sex worker Fathima (name changed) welcomes a group of illiterate women — still in the trade and needing protection from HIV — into the Mukta clinic in Pune. As a “peer educator,” it’s her job to convey to them the message of safety. But the visitors shuffle tentatively as expensive-looking posters in English paper the walls around them. Why would a clinic serving illiterate visitors use more English than Indian languages?
The answer lies in where that money comes from. The Pune clinic is part of a network one hundred-plus non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working under the umbrella of Avahan, India’s largest HIV prevention initiative. Avahan, or “call to action,” is a brain child of the world’s largest philanthropist: Bill Gates.

Gates had announced the 10-year, $100-million initiative to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in India during his much heralded visit to the country in November 2002. This was to be the largest of its kind for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The timing couldn’t have been more appropriate. After nearly two decades of piecemeal efforts to counter HIV, India was hurtling towards an AIDS epidemic. Millions of poor people exposed themselves to the dreaded virus due to a lack of awareness. Government agencies and NGOs didn’t have the money to preach safety or treat the infected. Gates showed his seriousness by later raising the budget to $258 million.

Seven years later, back at the Pune clinic, Fathima has counselled the women, given them the sheaths of safety and sent them back. It is time to worry about the future. The bad news is Avahan is ready to pack and go; and Fathima is set to lose her income. She doesn’t want to slip back into prostitution. At the age of 45, she doesn’t have much of a career there anyway. When it started on the ground in 2003, Avahan set for itself three goals: Arrest the spread of HIV/AIDS in India, expand the programme from the initial six states to across the nation, and develop a model that the government can adopt and sustain so that the project could be passed on to it. More than five years later, Avahan hasn’t achieved any of these goals. Doubtless, the initiative has made a dent into the HIV/AIDS problem, but the impact is marginal for a bill of $258 million. And now Avahan is leaving, handing over the reins to the government-run National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), which doesn’t want to inherit it. It is too expensive for the budget-starved establishment that is as nimble as a sloth. If NACO takes over, it will try to prune the costs of the programme. Salaries for peer educators will go.

A Five-Star Initiative
When Gates Foundation got down to work in India, the priority was clear. It decided to hire the best minds in business to run its initiatives using sound principles of management. Avahan was ready to spend what it takes to get the best bosses and started its search at McKinsey, the consulting powerhouse. The recruiters zeroed in on Ashok Alexander, who had spent 17 years turning Indian businesses into global challengers. “They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Alexander recalls, sitting at his plush office in New Delhi. “I liked the ambitious arch of the HIV/AIDS programme and it was a chance for me to do something new.”
Soon, the 15-member team was in place. Ten of them had come from a private-sector background. The team members tackled HIV/AIDS much as they would a problem at McKinsey. Alexander’s office is papered with data and maps containing hundreds of coloured dots plotting the disease across the country. The argot is sheer B-school: Avahan is a “venture,” its HIV/AIDS prevention programme a “franchise,” the sex worker the “consumer.”

The classical business principles helped Avahan start on a big scale in six states simultaneously. But the lack of public health experience also led to a compromise on quality. Tejaswi Sevekari, director at Saheli, a sex workers’ collective for HIV/AIDS in Pune, remembers observing the kinks during her stint at Pathfinder International, an NGO that works with Avahan. Data collection and reporting were entirely in English and had no pictures. Five years later, the scene is the same; the project hasn’t fully given up on English though no “consumer” understands the language. Avahan operated in a pyramid, with Alexander and his team overseeing the work of more than 100 NGOs. The lack of practical experience at the top manifested itself in different ways. When Avahan introduced sleek mobile vans to bring clinics directly to the brothels, the expensive-looking vehicles were sometimes met with intense suspicion. At the Mukta clinic, Dr. Laxmi Mali says sex workers initially thought the van was from the police or the government. They refused help.

2009 June 09 – Mid Day

Anti-gay protesters pitch to Pope, Imam and Shankaracharya

by Anshuman G Dutta
The gays in the country are preparing for the year’s biggest event for the community and those opposed to their way of life are planning to pitch in religion, law and politics together to stop them from doing so.
In an open letter to the Pope, the Shahi Imam of New Delhi’s Jama Masjid and the Shankaracharya, the Youth Unity for Vibrant Action (YUVA) has called for their support to "send a message to the practitioners of homosexuality that they won’t be allowed to destroy the social capital".

The gay community is getting ready for the annual Gay Pride Parade in the capital on June 28. Such parades are organised by the queer community to commemorate the Stonewall riots in the USA back in 1969, when there was a spontaneous riot against persecution of homosexuals at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. YUVA’s national convener Binay Kumar Singh told MiD DAY that they will invite gay rights activist for a debate. "Gays are the most vulnerable group for contracting infections like STDs and HIV. Moreover this parade is anti-social and illegal by nature," he said.

The youth organisation, which gained notoriety for throwing a slipper at author-activist Arundhati Roy and later auctioning it off, has threatened the Delhi Police commissioner too. The organisation has said it will complain against him in the High Court for allowing an "illegal activity." In a letter to the police commissioner, YUVA said: "If permission is granted for the parade, a case will be filed against you for contempt of court before the Hon’ble Delhi High Court, as the decision on the Section 377 IPC is still pending."

YUVA is also planning to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Delhi High Court to "appraise the legal fraternity about how this entire issue is against the provisions of the IPC," said Singh. Apart from inviting youth from all over the country for the protest, YUVA is planning to rope in doctors, lawyers and teachers too. "We will wait till June 26 for the Delhi police to reply and if they don’t, we will assure the parade doesn’t begin," said Singh.

We are against activists too
In the letter to the police commissioner, YUVA has asked the police to initiate action against gay right activists Celina Jaitely and Ashok Row Kavi. The organisation complained that while promoting homosexuality, these people were condemning the institution of marriage.

11 June 2009 – The Times of India

City prepares for gay pride march

by Priya M Menon, TNN
Chennai – They’re a section that’s often invisible in a society that still disapproves of alternative sexual choices and even criminalises homosexuality. But, for the first time, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the city are making their voice heard by celebrating LGBT Pride Month, with a host of events and possibly even a Pride March on June 28.
Across the world, June is celebrated as Pride Month to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall riots of 1969, when members of the LGBT community in New York fought against police harassment. The riots marked the start of the gay rights movement in the US and the rest of the world. In India, gay pride celebrations and marches have been held in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata in the past, but for Chennai, it will be a first.

“We are still working out the logistics of the march in Chennai and will be applying to the police for permission in the next few days,” says Aniruddhan Vasudevan of Shakti Center, a collective that aims to create public dialogue on gender and sexuality in Chennai. Shiva Kumar of Sangama, a Bangalore-based sexuality minorities rights organisation, who is in charge of organising the march, is optimistic about getting police permission. “Many progressive policies have been instituted by the present government for the welfare of transgenders and we hope they will support our efforts,” he says. Though people like to believe that Chennai is a conservative city, he pointed out that the TN government’s policies had been favourable to transgenders and sexual minorities.

Incidentally, Chennai Pride 2009 has already kicked off with events ranging from bharatanatyam performances and book exhibitions to panel discussions.

12 June 2009 – Times of India

Moily signals rethink on anti-gay law

New Delhi – Even as the Delhi High Court is close to giving its verdict on a 19th century colonial law that treats homosexual activity as a crime, here’s a shot in the arm for gay rights. In an interview to a television channel on Thursday, law minister Veerappa Moily indicated that the government may do a rethink on the controversial Section 377 of IPC that criminalizes private consensual sex between adults of the same sex.

Moily admitted that some sections of the IPC are outdated and Section 377 may be one of them. Those part of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights movement say a rethink by the government on Section 377 of IPC would be a big step forward. ‘‘It will be the best thing for the national Aids control programme since efforts to curb the spread of HIV and AIDS will no longer be impeded by the law,’’ said Ashok Row Kavi, consultant for UNAIDS and UNDP.

Moily’s statement comes at an interesting juncture as the high court has already finished hearing arguments on the petition filed by New Delhi-based non-profit group Naz Foundation in 2001, seeking a reading down of section 377. While the health ministry had supported the petition, the home and law ministries were against it. If the law ministry is indeed willing to do a rethink, experts say it has two options. It could submit before the court that it had changed its position and ask for hearings to be reopened.

June 15, 2009 – Human Rights Watch

India: ‘Sodomy’ Laws Perpetuate Colonial Prejudices: Courts Should Decriminalize Adult, Consensual Same-Sex Acts

(Delhi) – As the High Court in Delhi prepares to rule on whether adult, consensual homosexual conduct should continue to be illegal in India, the nation’s new government should drop its opposition to law reform, Human Rights Watch said today. The organization today issued the Hindi translation of a report documenting how the majority of the world’s "sodomy laws" are outworn relics of British colonial rule.

The 90-page report, "This Alien Legacy: The Origins of "Sodomy" Laws in British Colonialism," details how Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which criminalizes "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" with up to life imprisonment, was imposed on India by the British as an instrument of social control. Human Rights Watch called on Indian authorities to support reforming the discredited provision. It also called on other governments retaining these archaic laws to move quickly toward their abolition. By criminalizing adult, consensual same-sex acts, Section 377 violates individuals’ fundamental rights to privacy and freedom from non-discrimination.

"Why would a country that prides itself on being the world’s largest democracy keep laws on the books that blatantly violate human rights?" said Dipika Nath, a researcher for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "And why would a nation with a thriving civil society, including a vibrant LGBT human rights movement, hold on to colonial morality codes?" Indian LGBT rights organizations in Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, and Bangalore have organized discussions and events around the report and the High Court case between June 12 and June 25, 2009. The groups organizing the events are: Pratyay Gender Trust and Sappho for Equality in Kolkata; the Shakti Center in Chennai; LABIA in Mumbai; and Alternative Law Forum, Sangama, and LesBiT in Bangalore. The Delhi High Court is expected to deliver its ruling on the case this summer.

The Indian Penal Code was the first comprehensive criminal code Britain drafted for its colonies; it served as a model for similar codes forced on jurisdictions throughout the British Empire. Versions of Section 377 also served as the model for similar laws across Asia and Africa. A majority of the countries that continue to criminalize adult, consensual same-sex relations inherited these laws from their colonizers, though several now claim them as a part of their pre-colonial tradition and national identity. In the Delhi High Court case aimed at decriminalizing homosexual conduct, the Indian government has claimed that sodomy laws defend traditional cultural values. In stark contrast to these assertions, the Human Rights Watch report shows that homophobic laws, not homosexual conduct, are a Western import. Colonial morals laws categorized entire classes of people, such as hijras (working-class, male-to-female transgender individuals), as "criminal tribes" who could be arrested simply for appearing in public.

"Section 377, like its sibling laws in other formerly colonized countries, is a legacy of British rule," Nath said. "It is disturbing that post-colonial democratic states like India treat these undemocratic, discriminatory laws as traditions, not impositions." Moreover, Section 377 and other British-era sodomy laws make no distinction between consensual and non-consensual sex, or between sex among adults and sexual abuse of children. As a result, these surviving laws leave many rape victims and child victims of abuse without effective legal protection.

A 2001 fact-finding report by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties-Karnataka found that police use Section 377 to blackmail gay and bisexual men, to detain individuals illegally, and to intimidate lesbians and other women in same-sex relationships. The petitioners in the ongoing case in the Delhi High Court have also argued that Section 377 is used to harass and abuse HIV/AIDS workers and particularly to target members of already-marginalized communities, such as hijras.

In 1994, the UN Human Rights Committee – which authoritatively interprets the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) – held that sodomy laws violate the rights to privacy and to non-discrimination. "From Malaysia to Uganda, governments use these laws to harass civil society, restrict freedom of speech, discredit political enemies, and destroy lives," Nath said.

Colonies and countries that retain versions of this British sodomy law include:
* In Asia and the Pacific: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Burma, India, Kiribati, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Western Samoa. (Governments that inherited the same British law, but have abolished it since include: Australia, Fiji, Hong Kong, and New Zealand.)
* In Africa: Botswana, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Nigeria, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Swaziland, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Eleven former British colonies in the Caribbean also retain sodomy laws derived from a different British model than the one imposed on India.

June 17, 2009 – Hindustan Times

India woos gay tourists

by Rajesh Ahuja, Hindustan Times
New Delhi – The already throbbing closet may just break open with this piece of news. Enthused by the success of gay nights at pubs, the Queer Pride Parade last year and thematic art festivals across the country, tour agencies are offering custom-made tours for the ultimate gay travel experience.
Indjapink puts together packages for gay men only. The agency, based in Lajpat Nagar, organises gay tours for singles and couples throughout the year. “We have at least 4-5 foreign clients every month, though domestic clients are relatively few,” says the director of the company, identifying himself only as ‘Malhotra’. The firm is taking a gay group to the Himalayas in August.

Prateek Hira of Tornos, a Lucknow-based travel agency, organised trips for 50-60 gay Aussie tourists recently. He points out that more homosexual men than lesbians visit India. The tours, usually lasting close to a week or longer, ensure respectful travel for these tourists, who would otherwise face awkward situations among straight people. Gay-friendly boutique hotels and nightspots are specially chosen. “Besides arranging for gay-friendly drivers and hotels at the places they wish to visit, we pack their itinerary with exciting activities,” says Prakash George Mathen, who runs Travellers Bank. “Some clients want gay parties to be organised during the trip, so that they can meet the local gay community. So we touch base with gay rights activists in the area to organise such a meeting to exchange experiences.” Activities also include spa therapies, yoga sessions and cocktail dinners.

Syed, manager of Online Car Rental India, another company wooing the ‘pink dollar’ — as gay spend is called — tells us about the preferred destinations. “Rajasthan, Goa and Kerala are a hit among foreigners.” Prakash adds, “They usually want secluded beaches and private spaces like houseboats and forest accommodation.” The staff at these places are trained not to intrude on the guests’ privacy. All this comes at pretty affordable prices. According to Malhotra, a gay tour to, say, Ranikhet or Pangot (near Nainital) costs Rs 7,500-8,000 per night for a couple. Prakash recently organised a week-long getaway for a gay couple at Rs 30,000. At least, there is no premium charged for one’s sexuality.

A gay day in Delhi
Breakfast at a gay-friendly boutique hotel (name withheld on request), followed by a spa treatment Shopping at flea markets like Sarojini Nagar or high-end fashion stores at Emporio and Select City Walk malls, depending on the tourists’ taste Shopping could be followed by a rickshaw ride in Old Delhi and visiting a few heritage sites around the Capital Fashion tours, organised by Indjapink, have fashion advisers updating the tourists about the latest trends in India. This could be followed by a makeover
The evenings are for socialising — whether at a private home where the organisers help the tourists meet the local gay community over curry and drinks, or in gay-friendly clubs like Pegs n Pints, Monk (Gurgaon), G Lounge (Noida) and Polka – The Club RA

June 20, 2009 –

Chennai (Madras) Pride 09 – Out and Proud

Please join The Shakti Center and Human Rights Watch for cultural performances and a discussion on colonial origins and everyday impact of sodomy laws.

More than 80 countries around the world criminalize consensual homosexual conduct. More than half of these countries have these laws because they were once British colonies. Human Rights Watch’s report, “This Alien Legacy: The Origins of ‘Sodomy’ Laws in British Colonialism,” details the ways in which the British “sodomy” law spread across vast stretches of the erstwhile British empire.. Section 377, integrated into the Indian Penal Code in 1860, was the first colonial sodomy law to be introduced into a penal code. These laws violate individuals’ fundamental human rights, contravene international human rights standards, place individuals at increased risk of violence and discrimination, and often also contradict longstanding cultural attitudes towards homosexuality. Ironically, several postcolonial states have claimed this colonial legacy as reflecting “authentic” national traditions. Join our panelists as they discuss sexual regulation laws in India and their effects on marginalized communities.

For program see

June 22, 2009 – PinkNews

Gay Indian prince opens Pride parade

by Nell Frizzell
An Indian prince who had been disowned by his family because of his sexuality inaugurated the Gay Pride Parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil, earlier this month. Prince Manvendrasinh Gohil, who is from Rajpipla in Gujarat, was the only Indian person to have been formally invited to this year’s event. “Every person present in the crowd was cheering for India the moment they saw me. It was a very special moment for me. People there are curious to know more about India,” said Gohil.

Indian Prince Gohil

The Sao Paulo Pride was held from June 10th -14th and attracted over three million people. "It was unbelievable to see such a huge gathering,” Gohil told the Indian newspaper DNA. “And the parade was not the only thing. I inaugurated an office, an art exhibition and even released a book on homosexuality authored by the mother of a gay son. I was even made to dance with Samba dancers. The experience was terrific."

The 43-year-old prince was denounced in 2006 after publicly announcing his sexuality. Consequently, all his rights as the son and heir to the Rajpipla fortune have been revoked. Homosexuality is still, according to the Indian Penal Code, considered a criminal offence and can carry a life sentence.

“I will study the norms that helped in making homosexuality legal in Brazil. I will try to incorporate them in our efforts to make homosexuality legal in India,” said the prince on his return to India.

June 20, 2009 – The Globe and Mail

Gay community fights for dignity

by Stephanie Nolen
New Delhi – The cop strode up to Rajiv M., gave him a shove and demanded to look in his backpack. Rajiv handed it over and the cop pulled out a condom, and asked why Rajiv had it. “I said it was for sex,” Rajiv recalls, a bold if obvious answer that he knew was going to irritate the cop. But he wasn’t feeling deferential.
The police officer demanded Rajiv’s money, and his cellphone. “I said, ‘Why should I give it to you?’“ The cop grew more menacing: Next he demanded oral sex. Rajiv refused that, too, so the cop hauled the slight 21-year-old to a nearby police station and began the motions of charging him with the crime of homosexuality. When eventually he realized that Rajiv’s dad was also a police officer, he let the young man go.

This nasty little piece of attempted extortion took place not in a gay bar, not in an alleyway late at night, but in the middle of a hot spring afternoon in Delhi last year, when Rajiv was standing at a crowded bus stop. “It’s India,” Rajiv said with a shrug full of bravado. “So he could do something like this in the open.” Rajiv, tousle-haired and deliberately camp, told this story a few weeks ago at a Delhi drop-in centre for gay and transgendered men, where he goes a couple times a week. Everyone had a similar story, except most had gorier endings. All the men had been harassed and detained by police who demanded money and, with no trace of irony, also often wanted sex, with the threat of charging and exposing the victim as a homosexual.

The police invoke Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, the law that criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature,” including homosexual acts between consenting adults, with a possible sentence of life imprisonment. The law is almost never used for actual prosecutions: Men would have to be caught fully engaged in a sex act to hold up a case. No one has been convicted under 377 in 20 years. But few police officers are interested in actually enforcing the law. They prefer it as a blackmail tool. Now, however, a fledgling gay community is waiting on tenterhooks for a verdict from the Delhi High Court, expected soon, on a public-interest litigation aimed at decriminalizing same-sex activity – and ending a plague of state-sanctioned homophobia that has led to rape, extortion, suicide and the spread of HIV-AIDS.

Read Enteir Article

June 28, 2009 – Indian

Gay parade in Delhi for decriminalisation of homosexuality

New Delhi : Joining voice with their community across the globe, hundreds of homosexuals and transgenders marched on the streets of the national capital demanding decriminalisation of homosexuality. Shouting slogans like ‘Down with 377’ and ‘Proud to be homos,’ and dancing to the tunes of drummers, the marchers demanded scrapping of the controversial Section 377 of Indian Penal Code that declares as a criminal offence ‘sex against the order of nature’.

Dressed in colourful attires, the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders, many of them donning masks, started from the Barakhamba road and culminated their march at the Jantar Mantar. The activists for gay rights also welcomed the "positive signals" coming from the government over their demand for the repealing of the law.

"That the government is positively thinking to repeal the outdated law is definitely a positive sign, at a time when we are also waiting for a judgement in a related case at the High Court," said Ponni, a gay rights activist working for a Bangalore-based organisation, and one of the organisers of the event. "While the law and the home ministry have already shown positive signs, we hope the health ministry will also come on board in favour of repealing the law," she said.

28 June 2009 – The Times of India

Straight talk

by Neelam Raaj, TNN
"Straight meet gay”™ it’s pride season. But once the feathery floats have rolled off into the distance and the rainbow flags are put away, will the two worlds ever be able to find common ground? Much of the debate about homosexuality in India has focused on Section 377, which criminalizes same-sex activity. But life goes beyond legal issues. Be it Meerut or Mumbai, people are sorting out more fundamental questions like how to integrate the gay and straight worlds. Everyday life is about confronting stereotypes about one another and testing comfort zones.

The parades on Sunday are definitely a step toward assimilation. "It is about showing people that we aren’t different. We pay our taxes and our bills like everyone else and we should have the same right to fall in love," says Monish Malhotra, a member of the Delhi Queer Pride Committee which is organizing the city’s second march. The marches will not be an exclusive gay, lesbian and transgender event. "Parents, friends, colleagues and siblings of queer people will all show up for support," he says. Even fundraising was both a gay and straight affair this year.

So is there a growing acceptance of homosexuality in the last two decades? An eight-city survey conducted by leading market research agency Synovate exclusively for TOI clearly indicated that the winds of change are blowing across the country. And it is the "Dostana"™ generation that is leading the way, with the survey showing that the younger age group (18-30 years) was more at ease with homosexuality than older people in the 31 to 45 age group.

The response to a question about whether people disapproved of public displays of affection among gays was perhaps the most surprising. Only 43% of all respondents said they found it offensive, 33% said they did not and 23% said they would disapprove only if the display was overtly sexual. In a country that even frowns upon displays of affection among heterosexual couples, the responses suggest a much greater of acceptance of gayness than is generally believed to be the case. Activists say it is math ” each person who comes out of the closet brings at least some of his friends and family over to the pro-gay camp, and this in turn makes it easier for others to live openly.

Two other questions were aimed at finding out whether popular mythologies about homosexuality are losing ground. The responses indicate that they are. The first was a question asking whether gays are promiscuous. Almost two-thirds said they were not. Another asked people whether all homosexuals got infected by AIDS. About 30% said yes they do, 42% said gayness and AIDS were not connected and the remaining 28% pointed out that unprotected sex could lead to AIDS irrespective of whether one is homosexual or heterosexual.

For creative professional Harish Iyer, the gay-straight divide has disappeared in the workplace. His boss, Prateek Kumar, agrees. "Everyone in the office knows he is gay but why should his sexual preferences matter?" Iyer, who has launched an online group called "Friends of Gay"™ to reach out to straight people, says the gay community could also do a bit of soul-searching. “We should not think of ourselves as unique or different. There is no shame or pride in homosexuality," he says.

None of this is to diminish the enduring force of deep-seated cultural and religious prejudice against homosexuality. Even though Indian men are always publicly holding hands or wrapping their arms around each other, they don’t like to be called gay. Even the government had to coin the term MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) in order to promote condom use as the term was disliked.

"We still feel threatened by expressions of love," says Mumbai-based Onir, who is making a short film on the harassment gays face at the hands of police because of Section 377. Later this year, the Delhi High Court will deliver its verdict on Section 377. Whatever the judgment, the community has come out ” and in force. As a slogan coined for Sunday’s pride puts it: I Am Queer, Do You Hear™.

June 29, 2009 – From:

Delhi Pride was Hot and Happening

Posted by: "Vikram"
Like last year I was at Delhi Pride this year – along with quite a contingent of Mumbaikars, I should add. Lets hope Delhites return this compliment and turn up in force for Mumbai’s Queer Azzadi March on August 16th. Before this years’s Delhi march there were the usual rumours about threats from the Sena or a nutty bunch that went under the name Youth United for Vibrant Awakening (I think its main guy came on some TV channels, and showed himself to be really bonkers). But in the event none of these threats manifested itself, but another did – the incredible heat. It was 45 degrees (113 F) the day before and power cuts at night were really agonising. The bf and I were cursing having decided to come to Delhi rather than going for another Pride.

In view of the heat I was told that the decision was taken to advance the start by half an hour. And about an hour before the start something really welcome took place – it suddenly started raining quite hard. It was a pre monsoon shower, and really seemed to have been a good sign because it did bring temperatures down a bit (though increased humidity). Still, by the time everyone landed up at Barakhambha Road there was no sign of opposition and plenty of participation. It was clearly larger than last year and had a really diverse crowd. More parents, more celebrities (top designers), more straight supporters.

But what was perhaps most impressive of all were the organisers. Because unlike with most queer events where its the same people organing each time, this time a whole new bunch was in charge. And many of them were people who first came to Pride last year and were scared and nervous then. But that experience had inspired them so much, that they faced their personal problems and came out openly to organise this year. And rather than feeling threatened about this, as too often is the case with lng term activists, last year’s Pride organisers willingly stepped aside to let the newbies organise things.

That was really amazing to see, and that new spirit of enthusiasm helped people move beyond the terrible weather. The march went off in its usual chaotic and colourful spirit, accompanied by tons of media who, as you will have seen from papers and TV channels, gave full front page coverage to the event. I have only one complaint and one anecdote to add to this. The complaint is this – it was hot, I mean really hot, and everyone was sweating so… why didn’t more guys take their shirts off? Lots of really hot (in the visual sense) guys and yet not one took their shirt off? I call that deplorable!

An anecdote was from one of the organisers who had gone to buy candles for the two minute silence for the victims of anti-queer prejudice (really moving, since by then we had reached Jantar Mantar and it was growing darker. And for the two minutes the whole noisy crowd fell silent and people held up little glowing candles in remembrance of so many lost friends). The anecdote was from the organiser who went to buy the candles. He wanted 400, which rather surprised the shopkeeper (I don’t know why, given the power situation in Delhi I would have thought candles were essential commodities) . He said: "Bhai saab aaj to diwali nahin hai, Phir??" The organiser told him about the the pride, and the shopkeeper nodded: "Haan dekha maine akhbaar main..*let there be light*". And he gave another pack of candles free of cost!

29 June 2009 – From:

Chennai (Madras) Turns up to Support Gay March

by Priya Menon, TNN
The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) movement in Chennai hit a new milestone on Sunday with a pride march that some said overturned notions about the city’s conservatism on sexual matters.
Young and old of all nationalities and religions gathered on Marina beach, braving the sweltering heat, united by a desire to influence public opinion in favour of a more tolerant society. While pride marches have been held in Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi, it is the first time Chennai has hosted an event that celebrates alternative sexuality.

About 200 people from the gay community along with their friends and families formed the core group for the march. They included prominent figures from the community such as Kalki, a transgender who runs the Sahodari Foundation and TV chat show host Rose. Scores of others joined in at various points during the evening, holding up placards against Section 377 of the IPC which criminalises homosexuality, or shouting slogans, or just walking along silently to lend support. "While Chennai is generally perceived to be a conservative society, people here are progressive in their thinking," said Aniruddhan Vasudevan, a Bharatanatyam artist and member of Shakti Center, a collective that aims to foster public dialogue on gender and sexuality in Chennai.

Preparations for the march began a few months ago when various rights organisations came together. "The fact that other cities even in India were holding events to mark Pride Month was definitely an impetus, especially since we have a sizeable LGBT population in the city," said Anandaroopa, a documentary film-maker. With support groups for the community growing and LGBT issues being increasingly discussed in public forums, the event managed to draw a response from a wider audience throughout the month during film screenings and panel discussions.

The state’s approach too was encouraging. "The policies of the state government have been favourable to transgenders and the sexual minorities. For instance, we now have a transgender welfare board," says Shiva Kumar of Sangama, a sexual minorities organization. "So we were not apprehensive about getting police permission for the march." A senior police official said the decision to allow the March was taken after a discussion with senior officials. "People from the LGBT community are also human beings who are now coming forward to make their voice heard. And our society has also become more accepting of them," he

2 July 2009 – BBC News

Gay sex decriminalised in India

A court in the Indian capital, Delhi, has ruled that homosexual intercourse between consenting adults is not a criminal act. The ruling overturns a 148-year-old colonial law which describes a same-sex relationship as an "unnatural offence". Homosexual acts were punishable by a 10-year prison sentence. Many people in India regard same-sex relationships as illegitimate. Rights groups have long argued that the law contravened human rights. The court said that a statute in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which defines homosexual acts as "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" and made them illegal, was an "antithesis of the right to equality".

‘India’s Stonewall’
The ruling is historic in a country where homosexuals face discrimination and persecution on a daily basis but it is likely to be challenged, says the BBC’s Soutik Biswas in Delhi. It also promises to change the discourse on sexuality in a largely conservative country, where even talking about sex is largely taboo, our correspondent says. Gay rights activists all over the country welcomed the ruling and said it was "India’s Stonewall".

New York’s Stonewall riot in 1969 is credited with launching the gay rights movement. "It [the ruling] is India’s Stonewall. We are elated. I think what now happens is that a lot of our fundamental rights and civic rights which were denied to us can now be reclaimed by us," activist and lawyer Aditya Bandopadhyay told the BBC. "It is a fabulously written judgement, and it restores our faith in the judiciary," he said.

Leading gay rights activist and the editor of India’s first gay magazine Ashok Row Kavi welcomed the judgement but said the stigma against homosexuals will persist. "The social stigma will remain. It is [still] a long struggle. But the ruling will help in HIV prevention. Gay men can now visit doctors and talk about their problems. It will help in preventing harassment at police stations," Mr Kavi told the BBC.

But the decision was greeted with unease by other groups. Father Dominic Emanuel of India’s Catholic Bishop Council said the church did not "approve" of homosexual behaviour. "Our stand has always been very clear. The church has no serious objection to decriminalising homosexuality between consenting adults, the church has never considered homosexuals as criminals," said Father Emanuel. "But the church does not approve of this behaviour. It doesn’t consider it natural, ethical, or moral," he said.

The head cleric of Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque, criticised the ruling. "This is absolutely wrong. We will not accept any such law," Ahmed Bukhari told the AFP news agency.

In 2004, the Indian government opposed a legal petition that sought to legalise homosexuality – a petition the high court in Delhi dismissed. But rights groups and the Indian government’s HIV/Aids control body have demanded that homosexuality be legalised. The National Aids Control Organisation (Naco) has said that infected people were being driven underground and efforts to curb the virus were being hampered.

According to one estimate, more than 8% of homosexual men in India were infected with HIV, compared to fewer than 1% in the general population.

July 3, 2009 – The New York Times

Indian Court Overturns Gay Sex Ban

by Heather Timmons and Hari Kumar
New Delhi —In a landmark ruling Thursday that could usher in an era of greater freedom for gay men and lesbians in India, New Delhi’s highest court decriminalized homosexuality.
“The inclusiveness that Indian society traditionally displayed, literally in every aspect of life, is manifest in recognizing a role in society for everyone,” judges of the Delhi High Court wrote in a 105-page decision, India’s first to directly address rights for gay men and lesbians. “Those perceived by the majority as ‘deviants’ or ‘different’ are not on that score excluded or ostracized,” the decision said.

Homosexuality has been illegal in India since 1861, when British rulers codified a law prohibiting “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal.” The law, known as Section 377 of India’s penal code, has long been viewed as an archaic holdover from colonialism by its detractors. “Clearly, we are all thrilled,” said Anjali Gopalan, the executive director and founder of the Naz Foundation, an AIDS awareness group that sued to have Section 377 changed. “It is a first major step,” Ms. Gopalan said during a news conference in Delhi, but “there are many more battles.”

Thursday’s decision applies only in the territory of India’s capital city, but it is likely to force India’s government either to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, or change the law nationwide, lawyers and advocates said. Outside the hall where the Naz Foundation news conference was held, dozens of young men and women gathered to celebrate, along with a group of hijras, men who dress and act like women who classify themselves as belonging to neither gender. “It is a victory of human rights, not just of gay rights,” said one 22-year-old man who only identified himself as Manish.

Gay men and women have rarely been prosecuted under Section 377 in India in modern times, but it has been used to harass, blackmail and jail people. Britain legalized homosexuality in England and Wales in 1967, but many of its former colonies, including Singapore, Zimbabwe and Malaysia, still retain strict laws against same-sex relations. India’s society is generally unwelcoming of homosexuality except in the most cosmopolitan circles. It is not uncommon for gay men and women to marry heterosexuals and have families, while carrying on secret relationships with members of the same sex.

In their decision, Chief Justice A. P. Shah and Justice S. Muralidhar declared Section 377, as it pertains to consensual sex among people above the age of 18, in violation of important parts of India’s Constitution. “Consensual sex amongst adults is legal, which includes even gay sex and sex among the same sexes,” they said. The old law violates Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees all people “equality before the law;” Article 15, which prohibits discrimination “on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth;” and Article 21, which guarantees “protection of life and personal liberty,” the judges said.

Acceptance of homosexuality has thawed somewhat in recent years in some urban areas. Gay pride parades in Indian cities last weekend attracted thousands of marchers, and several recent Bollywood movies, like “Dostana,” have included gay themes and characters, often played by Bollywood’s biggest heterosexual stars. Still, the decision was condemned from many corners in India. “This is wrong,” said Maulana Abdul Khaliq Madrasi, a vice chancellor of Dar ul-Uloom, the main university for Islamic education in India. The decision to bring Western culture to India, he said, will “corrupt Indian boys and girls.”

The High Court’s decision should be overturned, said Murli Manohar Joshi, the leader of the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. “The High Court cannot decide all things,” he said. The ruling comes after a decade-long, broad-based campaign organized by gay rights advocates, authors, celebrities, lawyers and AIDS awareness groups from around the world. India has one of the world’s largest populations of people with AIDS, and Section 377 was viewed by many advocates as a hurdle to education about safer sex.

Now that the High Court has ruled against Section 377, some say the next step is a change in the way that society views gay people. “The real problem is still the stigma attached,” especially outside big cities, said Ritu Dalmia, one of India’s best-known chefs, who lives with her girlfriend in New Delhi. Change particularly needs to happen in rural India, she said in an e-mail message Thursday afternoon. “I have met women who were forced to sleep with men so that they could be ‘cured’ of homosexuality,” she said.

“Today is a historical moment where at least some tiny steps have been taken, but there is still a very, very long road ahead,” she said.

1 July 2009 – Times of India

Ancient India didn’t think homosexuality was against nature

New Delhi – Was Indian society tolerant of homosexuality before the colonial administration proscribed it in 1860? The government has taken conflicting positions on this within the country and outside. On a petition pending before the Delhi high court seeking to decriminalize homosexuality, the government said in its counter affidavit that that there were “no convincing reports to indicate that homosexuality or other offences against the order of nature mentioned in Section 377 IPC were acceptable in the Indian society prior to colonial rule.” But when it was being reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council last year for the first time ever, India distanced itself from that provision when Sweden, arguably the most gay-friendly country in the world, questioned its record in ensuring equality irrespective of a person’s sexual orientation.

This is how Goolam Vahanvati, who was then solicitor-general and is now attorney-general, tried to save India’s face before the council as part of its official delegation. “Around the early 19th Century, you probably know that in England they frowned on homosexuality, and therefore there are historical reports that various people came to India to take advantage of its more liberal atmosphere with regard to different kinds of sexual conduct. “As a result, in 1860 when we got the Indian Penal Code, which was drafted by Lord Macaulay, they inserted Section 377 which brought in the concept of ‘sexual offences against the order of nature’.

Now in India we didn’t have this concept of something being ‘against the order of nature’. It was essentially a Western concept, which has remained over the years. Now homosexuality as such is not defined in the IPC, and it will be a matter of great argument whether it is ‘against the order of nature’.” Vahanvati’s admission on the international forum that the ban on homosexuality was a western import and its relevance was debatable flies in the face of the government’s unabashed efforts before the Delhi high court to retain Section 377, complete with its colonial baggage and archaic notion of unnatural offences.

Whatever the politics behind this glaring contradiction, there is ample evidence placed before the high court by petitioner Naz Foundation substantiating in effect Vahanvati’s view that in the centuries prior to the enactment of section 377, India was rather accommodating of homosexuals.

While the penalty imposed by Section 377 goes up to life sentence, there is nothing close to it in Manusmriti, the most popular Hindu law book of medieval and ancient India. “If a man has shed his semen in non-human females, in a man, in a menstruating woman, in something other than a vagina, or in water, he should carry out the ‘painful heating’ vow.” Thus, this peculiar vow, involving application of cow’s urine and dung, was meant not only for homosexuals but also errant heterosexuals. The penalty is even milder if the homosexual belongs to an upper caste. As Manusmriti puts it, “If a twice-born man unites sexually with a man or a woman in a cart pulled by a cow, or in water, or by day, he should bathe with his clothes on.’’

Since Manusmriti was written at a time when bath generally meant taking a dip in a river or a lake with other members of the same gender, the penalty of making a homosexual bathe without taking off his clothes was probably designed to avoid the embarrassment of his being sexually aroused in public.

In another indicator of the liberal Hindu heritage, Kama Sutra, a classic written in the first millennium by Sage Vatsyayana, devotes a whole chapter to homosexual sex saying “it is to be engaged in and enjoyed for its own sake as one of the arts.” Besides providing a detailed description of oral sex between men, Kama Sutra categorizes men who desire other men as “third nature” and refers to long-term unions between men.

July 1, 2009 –

The long road of the S. 377 case

by Rev Rowland Jide Macaulay
On 7th November 2008 Chief Justice A.P.Shah of the Delhi High Court said a few short words that marked a huge step in the struggle to change Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which is used to criminalize homosexuality. The Honourable Chief Justice’s words were: “The Bench reserves judgment.” This may not sound particularly significant or dramatic, but it marked a major turning point in an eight year long battle simply to bring the case on S.377 to the point where a sufficiently senior Bench could consider the case and deliver a verdict.
Note that we are not even talking about what the verdict will be – the Bench’s words simply indicated that the time for arguing about the case in court was over and now it was up to the judges to write their verdict. That can itself take months, and at the time of writing this we still don’t know what the verdict will be. But regardless of the outcome, just getting to that point was a major step. When, almost a decade back, queer rights groups in India first started debating a challenge to the law we knew it would not be easy.

A change in the law seemed unlikely in a country where homosexuality was still seen as embarrassing or taboo. And experiences from around the world have shown that a change in the law can be a long drawn out and difficult prospect. There were essentially two ways in which change could be pursued – through the Legislature or the Judiciary. The first was what activists in the UK had done, fighting a battle in the House of Commons to get the law changed. This, we figured, was almost impossible to do in India. The track record of the Lok Sabha in passing laws of any kind, leave alone controversial ones, is so low, and the level of public support among elected representatives so non-existent, that this route might have taken us forever.

(A variation on the Legislative route is to push the measure through during a time of big Constitutional change, as part of general progressive reforms. This is what South Africa did at the time of the end of apartheid, and is what Nepal is doing now. But this sort of constititutional opportunity is rare, and not likely to come up in a country like India with a well-established constitution. The Law Commission, which was appointed to review laws in India to make them more effective, has recommended scrapping S.377, but nothing much has come of this).

The other route was through the Judiciary, as has been done in many countries, like the US, Australia, and Ireland. Opponents of queer rights attack this route as examples of ‘activist judges’ unfairly imposing laws on majority opinion in their countries. But this ignores one of the essential functions of the Judiciary, which is to review all laws of the country and see if they conform to the spirit of the Constitution that a country is founded on, regardless of what passing public opinion might feel. In doing so the Judiciary guards the basics of the Constitution against meddling by temporary political majorities, and protects minorities from being bullied by the majority. In extending their countries commitment to non-discrimination to sexual minorities, the judges in these countries had been performing their essential function.

Read More

July 4,2009 – Herald

State sees steady rise in HIV among gays

by Herald Reporter
Panjim – While the population of gays in Goa is about 2000, HIV prevalence among this segment (Men having sex with Men — MSM) has been found to be 7.93 per cent. The random sample survey conducted by Goa State AIDS Control Society (GSACS) as part of its sentinel survey 2007, revealed that rate of HIV prevalence was highest among men in the age group of 30-44 with 10.34 per cent. In the age group 20-29, the rate of infection reported was 9.24 per cent while it was as low as 2.33 per cent among MSM below 20 years.

A total of 225 persons were randomly examined in the sample survey. The Supreme Court delivering a historical judgment this Tuesday decriminalised consensual sex among adults of the same sex. According to medical experts, MSM are at higher risk of HIV infection. Dr Pradeep Padwal, Director of GSACS speaking to Herald said, because of anal sex, chances of injury among MSM are more. The passive partner rather than active is more prone to HIV infection, he said adding GSACs through its intervention programme, conducts awareness among these people.

Currently, it is implementing three projects through NGOs as targeted intervention. The sample survey also throws light on the trend of infection in this segment. Samples from all types of occupations were picked up for the survey. The 2007 survey revealed that the rate of infection was found to be 22.22 per cent among unemployed and, hotel staff 12.20 per cent whereas, among unskilled workers it was 9.09 per cent and truck and auto drivers 5.71%. In the service sector, it was found to be 8.57 per cent and factory workers 4.55 per cent.

July 06, 2009 – Forbes

Gay In India

by Roy Sinai
"Where the mind is without fear, and the head is held high …" begins a prayer the poet Rabindranath Tagore published in 1910, invoking the almighty to awaken India’s collective consciousness into a "heaven of freedom."
With a radical decision last week, the Delhi High Court decriminalized consensual sex between homosexual adults and swept away a threat that hangs over every Indian who, in the privacy of his or her own bedroom, might engage in sexual activity "against the order of nature."

And by linking its ruling to each citizen’s fundamental right to freedom and protection from discrimination, the court’s verdict rose above the fray of the culture wars around the issue of sexuality in this predominantly orthodox and religiously conservative country. Over the 149 years of its existence, the infamous (if rarely enforced) Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code has remained a psychological threat to India’s sexual minorities. It has resulted in countless instances of misery and harassment, and spawned a thriving blackmail industry.

The psychology of fear that the law begat, by its mere existence, has been lifted with the court’s ruling that it is unconstitutional. In that alone, a great wrong has been righted. For the millions of gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities in India–and with the country’s population of 1.3 billion, we are talking many, many millions–to be able to hold their head high and be who they are, equal before the law, is both a huge psychological boost and an affirmation of their human dignity.

For urban, middle-class homosexuals, being gay in India is akin to being gay in the U.S. in the 1950s. The condition of homosexuals in small towns and rural India is far worse. Most gays in India remain in the closet for cultural and social reasons, irrespective of the law; many still feel that the Delhi court’s ruling will not really impact their day-to-day lives as long as social stigmas remain. I don’t know the non-pejorative word for homosexual in Hindi, but "gandu"–the equivalent of bugger–and the word "homo" are routinely used colloquially as put downs and abuse. Many families have "the gay uncle" who "nobody talks about," a semi-visible personage in the family pantheon.

This "don’t ask, don’t tell" kind of blindness has only further emasculated the image of the gay person by making him invisible. It is not surprising that the law has remained untouched all these years after independence, undisturbed by any political will, cocooned by a culture that turned a blind eye.

A noisy debate is underway, and the media is revving up to cover a grand culture war. The religious groups have been vocal, but recent statements from an archbishop and a senior mullah have restricted themselves to morality and sin–underlining an appropriate separation between church and state. Predictably, they reiterate that homosexuality is a sin in the eyes of God, but also that every sin is not a crime. However, the media storm has brought a number of anti-gay prejudices and beliefs from ordinary people to the fore–revealing the warped images people have of what it means to be gay, fed largely by stereotypical Bollywood portrayals of them as effeminate objects of ridicule.

Coupled with religious orthodoxy, the risk of a prejudiced majority bullying a minority out of its rights runs high when emotions and feelings are aroused from moral outrage. Gay activist groups, which have been at the forefront of the fight for repeal of the law, are being careful not to fall into the trap. It is critical that they keep the framework of the debate where the court has pegged it–as an issue of fundamental rights–and thereby address our changing consciousness and society.

The real opportunity for the gay community in India now, after a favorable court ruling, is to concertedly address these social stigmas. It must also strive to make itself more visible–not in any stereotypical way, but by presenting itself to the public eye as it is, or rather, as it emerges. As more people come out of the closet, if only to strengthen the court’s ruling by standing up and being counted, we also will be acknowledging a reality we have always known. Deep-rooted cultural prejudices do take time to transform, but in this increasingly networked world, ideas–and the dreams they inspire–can move across countries, castes and creeds.

Let us not forget that 60% of India’s population is under the age of 25. The decriminalization of homosexuality is going to impact them as they come of age, develop their increasingly individualistic identities and make choices about how they wish to live. This newly empowered generation of citizens is concerned with securing economic prosperity by engaging with each other, and the rest of the world, in a culture of tolerance and respect. Is this heaven? Far from it. But India, surely, has taken a giant step away from hell.

Roy Sinai is a photographer. He lives in Bangalore, India.

July 6, 2009 – The Washington Post

A ‘Common Front’ for The Marginalized in India

Gay Activist Works to Build Broad-Based Political Party

by Emily Wax, Washington Post Foreign Service
Bangalore, India — Popping out of an auto rickshaw, Manohar Elavarthi unloaded a backpack stuffed with protest posters. Soon he would be rushing to a street demonstration, one that would bring together low-caste Dalit activists, Gandhians, cross-dressers and members of domestic workers unions.
Elavarthi aspires to be the first openly gay man elected to a major political office in India, like Harvey Milk in the United States. Elavarthi is credited with being the first gay figure in India to build a mainstream political coalition across a wide spectrum of historically marginalized groups.

"Our dream for Indian politics is to build a common front of lesbians, untouchables, eunuchs and low-paid workers — people who really need a voice in this country," said Elavarthi, who has received death threats for his views, largely from right-wing religious groups and police. "India — the new India — is really changing. We need to build a party around social justice for minorities. It would be a sign that India is a true secular democracy."

India, a nation of 1.1 billion people, is in the midst of an unprecedented debate over homosexuality, part of a wave of social change led by the younger generation in this traditional society. Modern India’s youths are more economically mobile and independent than any generation before. Across the country, there is growing political pressure from a diverse coalition of college and law students, activists, artists and even mainstream politicians to overturn laws banning homosexuality. In a groundbreaking ruling issued Thursday, the Delhi High Court decriminalized homosexuality. The court decision overturning an 1860 British-era statute applies only to New Delhi, the capital. But activists expect it to influence courts across the country. On Thursday, celebrations were held in the streets of major cities.

"From last night I haven’t been able to sleep. While I sat in court, there were butterflies in my stomach. I just prayed to God," said Pamela Mitra, 28, a transvestite who wore a green-and-white salwar-kameez, the traditional tunic-and-pants ensemble, in New Delhi. "Over the years, my community has faced sexual harassment and blackmail from police. These atrocities are everyday affairs for us. We are humans. Today has affirmed this notion. I feel like crying, dancing, screaming and smiling all at once."

In a major shift, the government recently called a meeting of top officials to talk about the 150-year-old statute, known as Section 377. New Cabinet ministers appointed after the recent elections could bring "new thinking" on the law, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said last week, the Indian Express newspaper reported. Although some ruling party politicians are inclined to overturn the ban, opposition parties argue that decriminalizing gay sex will lead to aberrant behavior.

Read More

July 06, 2009 – Hindustan Times

Homosexuality not a taboo in Jharkhand tribe

by B Vijay Murty, Hindustan Times
Chaibasa (Jharkhand), Homosexuality or consensual sex between two members of the same gender may have been legalised now, but among the Ho tribe of Jharkhand it has always been socially accepted. Homosexual men are called Kothi Panthis in the region. There is no shame attached to being one.
The numbers of Kothi Panthis has been constantly increasing. Some attribute this to the near total absence of women in and around the numerous mines in the area, where a large number of males are at work all day and night.

A survey conducted by Citizen Foundation, an NGO, in a radius of 20 km in and around Chaibasa town in Jharkhand has revealed that the numbers of homosexual men were much higher than elsewhere. There are 10 meeting points at which these men assemble at Chaibasa every evening. There are at least two couples who claim to be married to each other. Homosexuals here embrace all professions: some are farmers, some workers, some businessmen, some even government officials. If they are Hos, they face no social censure. However, in recent years, two of them have died of AIDS, while two others are known to have contracted the disease.

"Observing the alarming rise in their numbers and the rampant practice of unsafe sex, the Jharkhand Government invited us to spread awareness and carry out interventions and treatment programmes among them," Sanjeev Kumar, the project manager of Citizen Foundation, told Hindustan Times. He said that they begun work in April last year in assistance with Jharkhand State Aids Control Society, and explored several unusual facets of the Ho community.

"Most of them had developed relationship with their partners from their childhood," said Kumar. "It’s tough convincing them to stop practicing homosexuality," said Singh. "Tribal society has no hassles accepting gay marriages. It has been happening amongst them since decades."

Citizen Foundation’s outreach workers, Vikash Verma and Anand Tripathi said they conduct monthly meeting of the group members. "The meetings focus primarily on improving health, financial status, and living conditions. We arrange bank loans for them to start business and lead dignified lives," said Verma. Though largely ignorant of the historic Delhi High Court ruling legalizing homosexuality, a group member said, "Now, at least, the police will not harass us."

10 July 2009 – Economic Times

Gay community turns assertive in workplace

by Dibeyendu Ganguly, ET Bureau
Last Thursday, gay men and women across the country were going around their offices with a spring in their step and a grin on their faces. They were constantly on the Net and on the phone, typing endless messages and talking excitedly about parties. Some even parked themselves in front of the office TV, unabashedly switching from business channels covering the Economic Survey to channels reporting on the Delhi High Court judgement de-criminalising homosexuality.

All this surely posed a bit of a dilemma for their colleagues. Were congratulations in order or should one just let the whole thing pass? Did one have to be a close friend to congratulate someone on matters of sexuality? What exactly does one say under such circumstances anyway?

In some offices, however, there was no dilemma. When Parmesh Shahani, Editorial Director of Verve magazine, entered his office late in the morning, he was greeted with a big hurrah. “It was like India had won the World Cup,” he says. “My straight colleagues were as excited by the judgement as my gay colleagues. It became a way for them to show their support.”

Never has it been harder to stay in the closet in India . After Facebook, Dostana, pride parades and television talk shows, the Delhi High Court judgement is the latest in a recent series of opportunities for gay men and women to declare themselves. “This is such a morale booster,” says Shahani , who authored the book Gay Bombay: Globalisation , Love and (Be)longing in Contemporary India last year. “It quite often happens that everyone around you knows you’re gay but they’re just waiting for you to come out and tell them. Now the process has become easier.”

One might say these things are always easier if you’re lucky enough to be working at a fashion magazine, but Shahani actually began his corporate career at staid old Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M ) before Anuradha Mahindra whisked him away to Verve. He still holds the post of head, vision & opportunities, at the parent company and says, “I’ve been out at M&M since I joined. It’s a very warm, accepting group.”

While those in the closet ponder the possible process through which they could come out — start with the boss? Tell colleagues in the immediate team? Spill the beans to the office gossip and wait for him or her to spread the news? — others are making things simpler for themselves by declaring their sexuality during the recruitment process itself.

When Harish Iyer, 30, joined Shobiz five years ago, he made it a point to scratch out the marital status options in the event management company’s standard recruitment form and write ‘gay.’ “It’s a very important part of who I am and I wanted my boss to know right from the beginning ,” he says.

July 15th, 2009 – Sakaal Times

Sex Sells, Sexuality Doesn’t: Bollywood and Alternative Sexuality

by Sandhya Iyer
Bollywood and alternative sexuality
Even as a heated debate rages on about legalising gay rights, most of the emphasis seems to hinge on its social acceptability. And in this respect, one expects popular art mediums — which have always been an index to social trends and attitudes — to play a definitive role in shaping the mindset about alternative sexuality.

In India, it is cinema — largely Bollywood — that has been culturally and socially one of the most potent and influential mediums. So while societal climate impacts the movies, films seem to impact it equally. Which is why, it’s interesting to see where Indian cinema, particularly Bollywood, has gone so far in its portrayal of alternative sexuality and whether it can be expected to have a bearing on popular culture.

Bollywood’s baby steps
The subject of alternative sexuality has been such a closeted, taboo one in the country that it’s no surprise that cinema too has preferred to keep it on the sidelines. Or worse, use it merely as a comic relief, while perpetuating stereotypes. The West, on the other hand, where homosexuals fought a long battle for their rights, has been more open about, if not always advocative of, the issue. Hollywood offerings like Milk and Brokeback Mountain have indeed played a role in sensitising the audience.

Back home, we’ve just had a handful of films made on homosexuality over the years and only a few probably tried to engage with the subject meaningfully. Onir’s My Brother Nikhil and Amol Palekar’s Daayra and Thang (Quest) being among them. There was the much controversial Fire from Deepa Mehta about lesbianism, which created a furore when it released. The film proved to be a whistle-blower of sorts, but actually may have done some disservice to the cause, when you consider how it was largely viewed as ‘provocative’ — one that possibly confuses feminism and lesbianism and assigns it a distinct gender-politics. No filmmaker touched the subject with a barge pole for a long time after that.

It’s strange how the minute a new law is passed, all the social responsibility of propagating it is left at the doorstep of filmmakers. That is not fair – Sachin Kundalkar Interestingly, lesbianism was portrayed as early as in the ’80s by Jabbar Patel in his much-acclaimed Umbartha. Here, two of the inmates of a reformatory womens’ cell operating under protagonist Smita Patil’s charge, are shown in the act of making love. “These women have no outlet and some of them may have a natural leaning towards lesbianism, so it was not something that couldn’t happen. People accepted it because it went with the flow. I never tried to be sympathetic. We showed reality as it existed,” Patel says.

Viewers who saw it then were probably shocked, but a certain middle-class self-consciousness may have prevented any further discussion on it. Also, in the film, Smita Patil defends the two inmates saying “It’s a mental illness….and they need to be understood.” The audience must have agreed, back then. “Yes, this was the ’80s, so that is what she says. Today, Smita — if she played that role — would have said something different,” Patel feels. Talking of relatively recent gay portrayals, we’ve had Pyaar Ka Superhit Formula, Page 3, Honeymoon Travels Pvt ltd — all of which at least acknowledged alternative sexuality as a reality.

Read More

July 20, 2009 – PinkNews

Indian Supreme Court refuses to stay verdict on gay sex

by Jessica Geen
The Indian Supreme Court today decided to reject a petition to put a recent High Court judgement on decriminalising gay sex on hold. The Delhi High Court said the colonial-era ban on gay sex between consenting adults was unconstitutional. The ruling was challenged by Sushil Kumar Kaushal, described as a "Hindu astrologer". He argued that if gay sex is legalised, "tomorrow people might seek permission for having sex with animals".
His petition also claimed that the judgement would result in a further spread of HIV/AIDS.

Another petition against the July 3rd ruling came from a yoga guru who said homosexuality was a "disease" and could be cured by yoga. Swami Baba Ramdev said: "It can be treated like any other congenital defect. Such tendencies can be treated by yoga, pranayama (breathing exercises) and other meditation techniques." The Supreme Court has said it will wait for the government to express its views on the issue in the next two months.

According to the Indian Express, the bench said: "We are not for stay as there is no threat of any consequences. We will hear the government, what is their stand." Deliberations will resume on September 14th.

16 July 2009- Times of India

Gay movement no longer limited to metros, big cities

by Sachin Sharma, TNN
Vadodara – If you thought that the gay movement was limited to metros and big cities, you might be in for a surprise. Influenced by the movement in larger cities, gay men in even smaller cities and states like Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Chhattisgarh are coming together to create awareness on HIV/AIDS as well as their own rights. They are on the verge of forming organizations. Within Gujarat, organizations have come up in Rajkot and Bhavnagar, besides Vadodara and Surat.

At the heart of this development is the fact that more and more gay men are willing to come out with their status and are also keen to work on HIV/AIDS issues. In fact, many governments have also started recognizing the need to work with the community for HIV/AIDS prevention.

Vadodara-based Lakshya Trust, the first organization working with the men having sex with men (MSM) community in the state, has itself encouraged gay and bisexual men to form organisations in J&K, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal. "Many of the persons we helped forming groups came in contact with us during our visits for HIV/AIDS awareness programmes or events in that direction," said Sylvester Merchant of Lakshya.

A case in point is that of gay men in Raipur in Chhattisgarh, who have come together. "I met a gay person during my visit there. The state government there had no clue in how to deal with the MSM community. We helped the government and Raipur will soon have an independent organization," Merchant said.

In J&K, the gay community has already floated a group called Humsafar Kashmir, but it is yet to be registered formally. "Because of the militancy problem there, getting any organization or trust registered is a long-drawn process. The laws in this regard are different in the state," said Merchant. Besides Raipur and J&K, a group was successfully formed in Nagpur four years back. It is now registered. Lakshya also helped create Rishta Kolkata, a group in Kolkata, and played the role of a mentor to the organization.

29 July 2009 –

An Indian model of queerness

In the creation of a queer community, India can learn from the ‘west’ while retaining distinct local characteristics

by Yuvraj Joshi
Same-sex relations in Indian society are commonly framed in terms of "western" imports of sexual liberation. This perception needs to questioned, both within India’s debate about legalising homosexuality and beyond it.
Of course, homosexuality is not western; there is ample evidence of homoerotic activity in pre-colonial Indian traditions. But is it appropriate to try and understand same-sex relations in India through a western model of queerness? On the other hand, can we dispense with a western perspective when we talk about them?

The adoption of a western model of queerness, with its self-identification of non-heterosexuality, could have pitfalls within Indian society, where such relations have typically been ambiguous. Same-sex closeness in India is socially acceptable yet "suitably ambivalent". This allows for homoeroticism of a kind seldom found in western settings, where touching is mostly considered sexual.

The word "yaar" in Hindi means an individual with whom one feels a deep, almost intangible connection. It is used interchangeably to denote both a male friend and a female lover. This umbrella term describes relations which, unlike many western identities, are not rigidly gendered, and which neither imply nor preclude the presence of a sexual relationship. Thus, when men walk down the street holding hands, it is difficult to ascertain the nature of their relationship. Such ambiguity creates spaces for sexual exploration and transgression. Dr R Raj Rao, an author, writes: "Yaari continues in the movie halls of Indian cities, literally to gay abandon."

Read More

August 7, 2009 – PinkNews

AIDS chief stresses importance of positive media respresentation of LGBT Indians

by Staff Writer,
The man leading the fight against HIV and AIDS in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has said that the media should reject sensationalist reporting when dealing with lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans issues.
R V Chandravadan, the State AIDS Control Society Project Director, said that more than 500,000 people in the state are infected, a "large number" of them men who have sex with men, but "it is pushed under the carpet."

Last month Delhi High Court decriminalised homosexuality on the grounds that it violated the constitutional rights. The move was met with hostility from the country’s conservative and religious groups and was challenged at the country’s Supreme Court by self-styledHindu astrologer Sushil Kumar Kaushal and yoga guru Swami Baba Ramdev. The Supreme Court refused to give a ruling on the decision and instead left it to the government to decide. No ruling has been given as of yet by the Indian government and the contentious issue has sparked fierce debate within the country.

Mr Chandravadan said that the media should use terms such as men who have sex with men instead of gay, and avoid words like scourge, prostitute or drug user.

"The talk is often about going against the order of nature," he said in a speech at the National Public Relations Education Day, according to "The media has to articulate the concerns of groups that have no voice. I am happy to note that the national media is slowly getting sensitised to the issue of how to report on sexual minorities, but stringers at the district level still use loaded terms in their reportage."

August 10, 2009 – TimeOut

TimeOut Mumbai’s LGBT issue now online

by: "Vikram D"
As promised, TimeOut Mumbai has just put its entire LGBT Special issues, including the great pix of many friends like Kris, Gauri, Praful, Abhijit and others. Here’s the link to the issue

And here’s a request. The editorial staff at mainstream magazines like TimeOut take some real risks in doing slightly different, alternative covers – and that too, not in the sensational way that other publications have done, but sincere attempts to show the community fairly.

The risk is not from people who object, though there are certainly those and they are vocal in writing in, but risks from their managers and advertisers who would much prefer they stick to safe subjects like shopping and travel, and not deal with ‘issues’ like this. And the truth is that covers like this do tend to sell less or get a stronger negative reaction, so the pressure not to do them is high.

I know that TimeOut’s Bangalore Queer issue did get a fairly high negative reaction and that TimeOut Mumbai might well have faced pressure not to do a similar issue. But they went ahead and did it, in the same way they have always supported our community.
So the least we can do, I think, is support TimeOut back by buying the issue if you are in Mumbai – its only Rs30 – and telling all your friends and family to buy it. And also to write in letters of thanks, comment, suggestions to letters@timeoutmumb Even if you aren’t in Mumbai and reading online you can mail your feedback.

Letters like this really help the editorial team . So please do take the time to write in

2008 August 17 –

Pride, no prejudice

by Hemal Ashar
‘I can’t even write straight’…Banner at Mumbai’s first Gay Pride
Mumbai’s first ever gay pride march that took off from the historic August Kranti Maidan yesterday afternoon and wound up at Girgaum Chowpatty in two hours made such a powerful statement for the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender (LGBT) community in the city that even the roar of the South Mumbai traffic could not drown it out.

QAM without qualms
Mumbai’s Gay Pride, dubbed as Queer Azadi March (QAM) came one day after Independence Day, which was symbolic as it gave greater voice to the primary aim â freedom from Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that criminalises homosexuality.

Gay Pride Parade

Rainbow season
The rainbows (a symbol of the gay movement) seemed to have descended to earth yesterday as the Maidan on Gowalia Tank became a hub of shouting colour. Gays and lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders and straight supporters wore rainbow hats and waved rainbow flags as they congregated for the 2 pm start.

Lingo of love
Several participants wore t-shirts that spoke of battling closed attitudes and urging acceptance. One woman had: ‘Behind every brave woman is a whole community telling her she is wrong’ while a young man wore one that read: ‘I speak Gaylic, just another language of love’ .

Legging it
One could feel a sense of pride (pun intended) in the air as people thronged the maidan waiting for actress Celina Jaitley to flag off the march. Even a broken leg could not stop Shobhana, an expatriate who lives in Mumbai from coming to the march. "I hope somebody is present to push my wheelchair," she laughed, adding that the event had surpassed expectations.

Son-shine days
The gay community had a huge support base. A special doff of the rainbow hat, though, goes to a lady called Gaver who was at the march to support her 32-year-old gay son, Harpreet. Harpreet’s sister Geetanjali was present too and what better way to illustrate the brother-sister relationship on raksha bandhan day, one thought. A woman Harwant Kaur was present too to support her gay nephew.

Poster boy prince
After much jostling thanks to Jaitley’s entrance, the marchers were off, with gay prince of Gujarat Manavendra Sinh Gohil who has become a poster boy for the movement, giving a speech that asked the English to apologise for foisting Section 377 on India. Gujarati songs rent the air and the procession set off with the only son and heir to the fortunes of the former Rajpipla principality, saying, "I represent the gay community of Gujarat".

Sobering thoughts
Underneath the carnival, Mardi-Gras like atmosphere, with the costumes sending the cameramen in a tizzy, the homophobia and hate that the group battles daily were sobering thoughts. Some event organisors like Vikram Doctor Geeta Kumana faced these even while seeking permissions for the march from various authorities. Transgender Laxmi did talk about the kind of things the community had to hear while asking for the green light for the march.

Same sex marriage?
As the marchers reached Chowpatty, one realised that while so many countries in the West are debating same-sex marriages, here we are still talking about a law criminalising homosexuality. The overall feeling though was that of triumph. This Pride is a milestone for the gay community here. Slowly and inevitably the walls of opposition will come down. Like a Pride placard said: ‘I am here, I am queer, get used to it’.

20 August 2009 – fridae

Thousands march in 2nd Mumbai gay pride parade

by Gay Bombay
About 2,000 people took to the streets of Mumbai on Sunday for the city’s annual and second Pride parade, the first pride parade held in India after the Delhi High Court in July ruled that outlawing gay sex acts was discriminatory and a "violation of fundamental rights."

The following is a report by Ketan, the moderator of the Gay Bombay egroup: (Founded in 2001 and with a subscription of over 19,000, Gay Bombay describes itself as the largest LGBT Yahoo group in the world. More images can be viewed on and more info on The group is also organises social events for men.)

“How many do you think we are?” asked Anand Grover pointing out to the huge procession at the pride parade yesterday (16 August 09) as they started marching from August Kranti Maidan in Nana Chowk taking the road to Mumbai’s Chowpatty beach. Grover, by the way, is the one who heads Lawyers Collective and is the brain behind the Delhi High Court victory.

“I heard the police say in his wireless 500 people of which he said 100 belong to the tritya jaati ( third sex)”, I told Anand. “500? No way just look properly… may be 5,000”, said Grover, looking distinctly pleased. And then I looked again properly, and realised that it could not be just 500. The riot of colours, placards and slogans were stretching at least half a kilometre long. And I had to revise my earlier estimates of 500. In my reckoning may be around two thousand. And that’s huge. Never mind the muggy sweltering weather… Never mind the swine flu scare, never mind that it was a extended holiday, never mind that Central/Harbour Railway services had virtually shut down and were not moving an inch beyond Wadala and Dadar… both the places pretty far off from the parade venue. Never mind that many from Pune did not come because of the swine flu problem.

The weather was lousy. Yet, the hot and muggy weather did not stop the LGBT and their well wishers in Mumbai (from) taking to (the) street on Aug 16. They turned out in huge numbers. There were celebrities like Celina Jaitely, Alaque Padamsee, Model Carol Gracias, Professor Nandini Sardesai (Rajdeep Sardesai’s mother)… There were many more. It was heartening to see so many non-LGBT persons come out in support of the community. Celina came pretty late, some 45 minutes past 3pm, when the procession was supposed to start at 3pm. But she did make up for it… and gave a nice speech asking gays to march ahead and that she would be there for the LGBT community now and forever. Right to the end till the procession reached Chowpatty, Celina danced, cheered and turned out to be a show stopper .

The LGBT leaders too were out in full force. Ashok Rao Kavi, Prince Manvendra, Vikram Doctor, Dee, Swapan, Dibs — and all leading lights of Gaybombay, Vivek Anand and Nitin Karani of Humsafar, Anand Grover, Laxmi Tripathi… the list goes on. So what did I see? Umm, lots of plunging necklines (as you can see in some of the pictures and no I am not a closeted heterosexual or bisexual), wigs and plumes and feathers of all shape, size and colour, colorful masks, hundreds of placards that had very creative slogans which would have made a copywriter proud. Those who participated had adorned themselves in all kinds of clothes… from traditional Indian clothes to use of saplings and tree branches covering the body parts strategically. Fashion designers must have really worked hard for this parade because some of the dresses on display were the ones that you could only see on the ramp… and may be you and me would not have the courage to wear it outside… but people did and boy they carried it off with a panache!

And oh yes, the dance and merry making… the loud beat of the drums and the swirling figures breaking into impromptu dance every few minutes… with gay abandon… it was proof enough to believe that the gay community is indeed happy and gay or may be vice versa. Even one good looking constable (oh well good looking for me at least) who was trying to guide the procession was breaking into a smile every few minutes even though his boss was yelling at him in Marathi and instructing him not to let the procession stop on the way.

“I am not going to allow this procession next year if you guys stop every few minutes and start dancing”, the senior Inspector scowled in Marathi at me and Anand Grover. But, really who cared? It was our day… the first pride parade in India after we were declared “legal”… oh ok, the love making was declared legal if it was kept private and between two consenting adults by the Delhi High Court in July 09.

One look at the crowd and it was as if hundreds of rainbows had come together. The composition of the crowd was a mini India. And yes, class, creed, colour and religion took a back seat. The divide between the so called upper class gays and the so called lower class kothis [loosely translated to mean men who appear ‘feminine’ and take on the ‘feminine’ role] melted in a show of solidarity.

August 25, 2009 – Socialst

Marching for LGBT rights in India

On August 16, over 1,500 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and straight folks took the streets in Mumbai, both celebrating gay pride in India and demanding an end to political inequality. By all accounts, it was the largest pride march in India to date. As the mainstream media reported, it was a diverse crowd that defied a swine flu scare to march for LGBT rights and recognition. Singing, walking and dancing to drums and loud music, drag queens in fishnet stockings and high heels mixed with men and women in traditional saris and mundus. Same-sex couples, freely walking arm-in-arm, were joined by their relatives, parents and coworkers.

Underlying the carnival atmosphere was a hard, political edge. Every aspect of the march was clearly designed to reinforce the message that LGBT individuals are an integral part of the Indian fabric, that they ought to be treated as equal to all other individuals and that they are organized and ready to win their rights.

In terms of symbolism, the organizers directly linked their calls for democracy and equality to the anti-colonial struggle against the British. The event was dubbed the "Queer Azadi March" by activists ("azadi" or "azaadi" is the Urdu/Hindi word for "freedom"). The annual march takes place on the day after India’s Independence Day (August 15), contrasting the celebration of political freedom with the marginalization of the LGBT community. This year, the route began at the historic August Kranti Maidan, where Mohandas Gandhi called for the British to "quit India" in 1942.

Moreover, Sunday’s march was a celebration of a hard-fought political victory. On July 2, the Delhi High Court struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a holdover from British colonial law of the 1860s that criminalized homosexuality. Leading up to July, Hindu, Muslim and Christian organizations–united at last!–had led a public campaign to defend 377 against the repeal movement that had been growing in strength for a number of years.

As the Times of India reported, veteran gay activist Ashok Row Kavi underlined the importance of the court’s decision at the start of the march: "This is for the first time in India that the LGBT community is marching not as criminals, but as citizens with equal rights." March participants felt the same way. D. Smita told The Indian Express, "It’s liberating that I can come out and stand proudly with my daughter."

Read More

17 August 2009 – legallyindia. com

The lawyer Who Fought the 377 Law and Won: Anand Grover

by Kian Ganz
He was the driving force behind the recent historic judgement that effectively decriminalised homosexuality by ‘reading down’ section 377 last month. But Anand Grover‘s battle has been far older than just that case, starting 20 years ago with a series of painful setbacks, death and a growing obsession.
"Indira [Jaisingh] said I’d gone mad," says Grover, recalling his wife and colleague’s rebukes in the period between 1993 and 1997 when he was doing up to four HIV-related cases per month pro bono.

Spurred by the heady idealism and harsh realities of India’s national emergency in the late 70s, Grover (pictured) and Indira Jaisingh founded The Lawyers Collective in 1981 to help the marginalised and poor. In the same year Grover began studying to become a lawyer after completing a biochemistry degree in England ten years earlier. "We were the new Left, we were the people that believed in democracy," he recalls.

Although Jaisingh was last month appointed as one of India’s additional solicitor generals, back in those early, more conservative days it was also very much a matter of them versus the establishment. Their first case to fight for the rights of Mumbai’s pavement dwellers and hawkers, he says, was "very, very unpopular with the Bombay elite".

HIVs early days
Grover’s first HIV case followed in 1988, fighting the incarceration of HIV-positive activist Dominic D’Souza under Goan public health legislation. Grover lost the case but realised that HIV is as much a legal and human rights issue as a medical and social one. In 1992, shortly before his death, D’Souza extracted a promise from Grover to continue doing legal work for HIV rights. In an open, posthumous letter to D’Souza, Grover wrote: "Dominic, we shall not fail you and will carry on the work that you started with all the strength at our command."

A long uphill struggle – or "obsession" as Grover styles it – continued until 1997 when the Lawyers Collective procured its largest HIV rights victory to that point in the landmark MX v ZY case. The Bombay High Court ruled against discrimination in public sector employment on the basis of HIV status. Momentum in the fight against HIV began to accelerate and in 1998 the Lawyers Collective received a grant from the European Commission to continue its work. At its high point the organisation was regularly taking instructions on around 20 HIV-related cases per quarter on a pro bono basis. In 2001, relates Grover, he then embarked on the long voyage that ultimately resulted in the Supreme Court ‘reading down’ Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code last month.

Chasing ambulances?
Grover was looking for a body or person to bring a public interest litigation (PIL) in Delhi against Section 377, which prohibited homosexual intercourse and, while rarely enforced, effectively gave police a weapon with which to harass the gay community.
Grover met the sexual health group the Naz Foundation and persuaded them to stand in as petitioner to argue on several constitutional grounds that Section 377 made their job of providing sexual health advice to gay men far more difficult. "I wasn’t ambulance chasing," he jokes, "but this is part of public interest work."

Naz Foundation founder and executive director Anjali Gopalan says that it was a fortuitous meeting of minds between them, as her organisation was also looking for a lawyer to help them protect their work from police interference. She speaks in glowing terms of Grover, explaining: "The kind of research that has gone into it and the kind of dedication he’s shown has been tremendous."

To deal with the amount of work necessary, Grover created a sizable team at The Lawyers Collective, which he said included Vivek Divan and Aditya Bandhopadyaya, as well as Sharan Parmar, who drafted the petition. Later Julie George helped out and remained active throughout, drafting the main submissions. In the final leg Shivangi Rai, Tripti Tandon and Mehak Sethi joined in and finalised submissions. They all spent countless hours collecting statutes, case law and domestic and foreign precedents, including an influential South African constitutional case that held that gays and lesbians were entitled to protection under privacy laws. This was something that some in the gay community rejected, as they felt that arguments should be based on rights more fundamental than ‘just’ privacy.

Secondly, there was criticism that the majority of Grover’s arguments were based on HIV and sexual health issues, rather than arguing about (and settling) the more fundamental gay rights question. Grover says that this objection is irrelevant. "Any lawyer worth his salt will tell you never to give up an argument, more so on ideological grounds," he says. "Grounds in law are like tools. You should use them they way you want to."

Ultimately, Grover successfully gunned for Section 377 under articles 21, 14 and 15 of India’s constitution, which respectively protect the right to life and personal liberty, equality before law and prohibit discrimination. The court was highly sympathetic and agreed on all counts in a fascinating and path-breaking judgement. However, the fight is not quite over yet – the clock for appeals to be lodged with the Supreme Court is still ticking until the end of September. Nevertheless, Grover says he is optimistic and does not hold much weight in the potential appeals. In fact, he says the appeal of a disciple of yogi Baba Ramdev is a non-story that was mis-reported and was never actually filed. He also scoffs at the appeal by astrologer Manoj Kumar Kaushal.

"I was always confident from the beginning that we will win this case but it will take time," he insists, adding that the HIV Bill, which The Lawyers Collective co-drafted, is also likely to become law within this legislative session.

Life after 377?
So what does The Lawyers Collective’s future hold? The organisation, which also deals in women’s rights, general health and civil rights, and resistance to tobacco companies and drug patents, has clearly been energised by the charisma and drive of Jaisingh and Grover.
But with Jaisingh now also acting as assistant solicitor general and Grover frequently on the road in his role as a United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Health, is there the risk that the organisation will lose its focus?

Grover doubts it although he does admit there is no set plan for the future or succession. He also adds that recruitment is not easy, in part due to the limited salaries the organisation can offer. All of the The Lawyers Collective work is done pro bono, financed in part through Grover’s general private practice work and external funding, which is hard to procure. "To be very honest," he says, "we are getting very few applications from national law schools – they are all going towards corporate law."

And he has sympathy for their decision. "It’s a lonely furrow. You have to work very hard with little money in it. I’m finding a lot of my colleagues are just able to survive and it’s a very tough thing. And if you’re married and have a kid, you’d rather abandon it." However, Grover himself is unlikely to bail anytime soon – he says that one of the Lawyers Collective’s next big projects will be to look at cleaning up the judicial system, which is a lengthy task if ever there was one. "For at me at least, I love my work. I think we have made a lot of difference in a lot of people’s lives and that’s sufficient reward for me," he reflects. "You must respect your own work and that’s it."

August 18, 2009 – NDTV

Double Lives

by Sutapa Deb, (New Delhi)
Not many people would have paid attention to an item buried in the newspaper…about a murder most foul in the crowded textile city of Kanpur….a murder apparently prompted by a surreptitious relationship.
Rajendra Kumar Dwivedi was 38-years-old and married to Shakuntala for 15 years. The couple had no children. Dwivedi had not held a regular job for some time. Four years ago he struck up an unlikely friendship with a man from a different economic and social background- Deputy Chief Medical officer of Allahabad, Dr K D Raj Srivastava. The doctor was married and had a 28-year-old son.

Dwivedi’s family says it was an adulterous gay relationship, but neither of the men were out of the closet. Dwivedi died of head injuries on July 20 after he was allegedly beaten by the doctor’s son. "It is embarrassing for me to describe their relationship. The doctor would give him allurements of lakhs of rupees. On the days my son would not go to him, he would come to our house. He would mock me, saying you are the father, what can you give him? It can’t match what I can give him. My son’s greed made him go to the doctor’s house. He would drink alcohol there. Later he would be sent home in a rickshaw." said Krishan Kumar Dwivedi.

The doctor and his son are now absconding. The murder pointed to a disturbing and hidden phenomenon of men who engage in sexual activity with other men, regardless of the fact that they are married to women and have children. None of these men are known socially as gays or bisexuals. There is now a supportive and vibrant gay movement in the country….yet only a small population is visible and identified as gay.

Read the entire article here

2009 August 30 – Mid-Day

In the pink of wealth

by Hemal Ashar
Mumbai – Entrepreneurs are tapping into the gay market, realising the power of the pink rupee client. The reading down by the Indian High Court of Section 377 that criminalised homosexuality, is proving to be the proverbial wake-up call for the desi entrepreneur. The Indian businessman may be opening up to the growing power of what Vivek Anand, trustee, Humsafar, who is also on the advisory board of the gay community magazine Bombay Dost, says is the power of the "pink rupee". Adds Vivek, "Gay money power is called the pink dollar in the US and here, it is the pink rupee." Incidentally, even the rainbow is associated with the gay community, with the different colours standing for diversity.

Read the Entire Article