Gay India News & Reports Sep-Dec 2009

1 Indian govt to accept gay sex ruling: report 9/09

2 Job training opens window to a new life for massage men 9/09

3 Suspected gay couple hangs to death 10/09

4 Urban Poor Stand UP for Transgenders 10/09

5 Gay prince sets up India’s first old age home for gay men and women 10/09

6 Poster boy prince 10/09

7 ‘Docs worst informed about homosexuality’ 10/09

8 Indian voters allowed ‘third gender’ option 11/09

9 Indian prince creating change 11/09

10 A Room of One’s Own: Transsexuals in Indian Society 11/09

11 Bollywood’s first gay love scene 12/09

12 India hosts its first ever transsexual beauty pageant 12/09

13 Condoms ‘too big’ for Indian men 12/09

14 The Law Breaker 12/09

September 2, 2009 – Google

Indian govt to accept gay sex ruling: report

New Delhi (AFP) – India’s government is set to accept a landmark court ruling that decriminalises gay sex between consenting adults, a report said Wednesday. The July verdict by the Delhi High Court was non-binding outside the Indian capital, meaning the government had the choice to appeal to the Supreme Court or repeal the law nationwide. A note from the cabinet, reproduced by the CNN-IBN television network, recommended that the government should accept the court ruling while letting the Supreme Court rule on appeals by some religious groups.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to make a final decision this week, but CNN-IBN said he was in favour of following the advice in the cabinet note. Homosexuality has been illegal in India since 1860 under a statute introduced by British colonial rulers that banned "carnal intercourse against the order of nature." Conviction carried a fine and maximum 10-year jail sentence.

The Indian government had previously offered mixed messages on the issue, with some ministers in favour of the colonial-era statute and others against. Several religious groups have challenged the court verdict and are expected to present their cases to the Supreme Court later this month. The ruling in July was hailed by gay activists as a milestone in their struggle for equal rights in socially conservative India. Although prosecutions were rare, gay activists said police used the law to harass and intimidate members of their community.

September 29, 2009 – Express India

Job training opens window to a new life for massage men

by Sukanya Shetty
Mumbai Omprakash is 27 and has spent nearly 12 years in Mumbai as a masseur, a garb under which thousands of male sex workers work in and around the city. Today he seeks izzat, a word that has been drilled deep into the minds of several like Omprakash, who will soon be taking vocational training with a city-based NGO, Samabhavana.

“I have worked in Mumbai for a very long time. My job pays well; my parents in Mathura don’t know what I do here and are happy with the money I send. But I am scared I will catch an infection; I want to leave this job,” says Omprakash, a school dropout, who along with his colleagues had assembled in Byculla for an induction lecture on the training they will soon participate in. “They have informed us about a mobile repair course. I am aware it will not earn me enough. But it will surely be a better life. I want to earn my self-respect back,” he said.

Omprakash’s tone was echoed by the 50-odd male sex workers who had gathered to learn of several courses that will soon be started for the group. Samabhavana, which works on the issues of gay rights, began its work with thousands of Mumbai’s “masseurs” in early 2000. “Most of these men came in search of jobs and landed in the sex trade, but back home no one knows. Over 9,000 sex workers are registered in Mumbai. We are trying to help them earn a better living,” said convener Jasmir Thakur.

Aged between 17 and 40, they will get training in mobile repair, electronics, appliance repair and plumbing. According to a study conducted by the organisation, 17 per cent of the masseurs have tested HIV positive. “It’s alarming to see boys as young as 14-15 get dragged into the sex trade. Boys indulge in sexual activities with both men and women and are not aware of the need of contraceptives. We realised that even if we counsel these boys out of the profession, they need an alternative. They are illiterate,” said Jasmir.

Although this is a pilot project, Samabhavana in the past had managed to help a lot of boys who came to them seeking help. One of them is today working with a famous city-based make-up artist. “I was just 14 when my friend got me to Mumbai. In a year I wanted to leave this work, approached Samabhavana and soon took up training under a make-up artist. Today I am earning 10,000 and am able to send some money to my family in Agra. I also plan to marry my childhood sweet heart soon,” says 23- year old Lucky (name changed).

Samabhavna has just begun electrical courses. “We will wait and see what the response is like. Once we are confident, we will start more courses. It’s just a beginning,” said Jasmir.

11 October 2009 – The Times of India

Suspected gay couple hangs to death

Ahmedabad – Two youth in their 20s, suspected to be gays, committed suicide by hanging from a tree in Gandhinagar, fearing separation, after one of them got engaged to be married. The branch from which they hung on Friday night broke and their bodies were picked up by the families. Shailesh Raval, 21 and Ashok Valmik, 20 two paint contractors and residents of sector 21 in Gandhinagar were friends since 10 years. On Friday evening, they told their families that they had got a contract that would keep them engaged all night. They did not return on Saturday morning but the families were not worried, thinking they were at work.

"At 6.30 am, Jijibai, a resident of sector 23, saw the two hanging from two ends of a sari, off the main road of Sector 21. She informed the families. By the time family members reached the spot, the branch had broken with their weight. They released the bodies and brought them home, telling neighbours that the two died after drinking spurious liquor," said HK Zala, sub-inspector of Sector 21 police station. Police investigations showed that they were not drunk. Jijibai described how she had found them hanging from a tree. On being questioned, Raval’s family spilled the beans. They told police that six months ago, Raval had got engaged. He was disturbed and used to tell the family that his friendship would break when he would get married. The two began to stay together for longer period of time.

Police has sent the two bodies for post mortem and also plans to conduct medical tests to find out if they had physical relations.

October 12, 2009 – Times of India

Urban Poor Stand UP for Transgenders

Bangalore – It’s not the usual `roti-kapada-makaan’ demand. This time, the urban poor of Bangalore want something different. They have taken up the cause of transgenders who are HIV positive. A manifesto drafted by the urban poor for the ensuing BBMP elections has this much-ignored section of society topping the agenda. The demand is this: identify and treat such persons as `poor’, and provide facilities that the poor are entitled to.

The manifesto was released to political parties on Tuesday. Presenting the 49-point document, Lakshapathy of APSA stressed on the need for a suitable parameter to classify people as poor, provide basic amenities in slums, facilities for women and regularization of slums. Former mayor P R Ramesh took the government to task for hyping the infrastructure plan worth Rs 22,000 crore as a novel concept, as it is `no different from the JNNURM proposal’. "The JNNURM concept plan for the same amount was planned a few years ago. Even as the projects are gathering dust, the government has announced a new capital plan with the same outlay," Ramesh explained.

The interaction was organized by Civic Bangalore. Ramakanth from Loksatta and Prakash from CPI participated.

16 October 2009 – Fridae

Gay prince sets up India’s first old age home for gay men and women

by News Editor
The project – which is possibly the first in Asia – hopes to accommodate 50 elderly gay men and women by the end of the year. Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil of Rajpipla who made the world headlines after coming out as gay in 2006 has set up India’s first old age home for gay men and women. The scion of the Rajpipla royal family from Gujarat appeared as a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show in an episode in her “Gay around the world” episode in 2007. He was disowned after coming out as gay in 2006 but has since reconciled with his family, and is the only known person of royal lineage in modern India to have publicly revealed he is gay.

The project is developed by the prince through the auspices of Lakshya Trust, a community-based organisation he founded to provide support and promote HIV/AIDS prevention among men who have sex with men (MSMs). The organisation runs three centres where men can go to get information and counseling services.

"The heterosexual world doesn’t understand our issues that well as yet because of existing stigma and discrimination in our society," the 44-year-old prince said in a television interview. The home is slated to open at the end of this year and will also house HIV+ patients.

October 24, 2009 – Business Standard

Poster boy prince

by Neha Bhatt
New Delhi – Manvendra Singh Gohil, crown prince of Rajpipla, overcame tradition and won his independence as a gay man. Now he’s working to provide opportunities and safeguards to other gay men, he tells Neha Bhatt
The news that Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil had signed a Hollywood film travelled quickly across his hometown Rajpipla in Gujarat, the capital of the erstwhile kingdom of the same name. Gohil will begin shooting for the film next year. He will star as himself, a gay prince. The Hollywood drama is said to take off from a real event — his appearance on an Oprah Winfrey Show episode titled “Gay around the World” in late 2007.

Strangely enough, recalls Gohil, the same show was a turning point in his life. After it went on air, Gohil began to receive unprecedented support from all quarters. He had faced much hostility since he publicly declared himself homosexual. Gohil suddenly found himself identified as the “new gay icon”, “India’s celebrity gay prince” and what-not — the first to be so labelled among the blue-blooded.

Labels seem not to ruffle him; unabashedly, he wears his sexuality on his sleeve. If anything, he’s startlingly upfront about it. “People watched me on the show, intently, and thought to themselves that if Oprah had called me all the way to interview me, there must be something to it,” says Gohil. His family instantly became more understanding, and in the years that followed Gohil gathered goodwill from around the world. This enabled him to put into action his long-standing dream — to build an old age home for gays.

At the moment it’s this old age home that has Gohil’s undivided attention. Work on the site, beside the river Narmada in Rajpipla, is well under way. The project was kickstarted by a NRI well-wisher from Canada, who contributed a large plot of land. “The idea of a gay old age home surfaced a decade ago while I sat discussing with a few friends some of the issues we face as a gay community. We resolved to not buckle under the pressure put on us by our families to marry. We started refusing marriage. Subsequently we realised we would need a support system in our old age, in the absence of support from a biological family,” says Gohil.

By the time the blueprint was ready, the crown prince had already been through a messy divorce in the early 1990s, after he was married off to a princess. He says he regretted having agreed to the alliance, which led to expected complications for both the parties involved. In his defence, he explains that he wasn’t quite aware of his sexuality at the time.

Gohil suffered from a nervous breakdown soon after, and that is when his family learnt that he was gay. “As a member of a royal family, I was never exposed to the thought of homosexuality. Later, when I came in touch with the work of leading gay activist Ashok Row Kavi, it opened my mind to homosexuality. I felt guilty at first because of the stigma attached to it. It took me some time to became comfortable with the feeling,” shares Gohil.

While the palace now knew Gohil’s secret, the royal family was not keen to have the news travel beyond the walls. Gohil, however, would have none of that. “It was a difficult two years before I went public. I was tired of lying, and pretending to people outside of the palace that I was not gay,” he says. It prompted him to “create a sensation”, in his own words, and in his private rebellion he went public with the announcement that he was gay.

His father disowned him, briefly, something Gohil says he doesn’t blame him for. Gohil returned to live in the palace after a reconciliation. “It’s because of my family’s ignorance that they couldn’t understand my situation,” he reasons. Gohil’s biggest source of strength and solace was the Lakshya Trust, which he founded in Rajpipla to raise awareness about homosexuality and HIV-AIDS, and to generate employment for gay people, many of whom turn to prostitution. “The old age home and a hospice nearby (for terminally ill AIDS patients) are being designed with the intention of providing viable, alternative employment to young gay men,” he says.

He is particular that the project be strictly eco-friendly and make use of renewable energy. Gohil has contributed a few acres of his own for the hospital, which is now being constructed next to the old age home. He takes pride in his belief that gay men are naturally good at nursing and helping old people cope. “It’s similar to the way creativity flows easily within artists,” he explains. Something of an artist himself, this prince is a patron of classical music. “Things can get so stressful at times. I like to spend my free time listening to music and singing, and organising music festivals,” he says.

Gohil has made unusual choices for an Indian prince, but the 39th direct descendant in the 650-year dynasty of Rajpipla remains a blueblood at heart. “I want to continue this lineage, even though I cannot have biological children.” He announced last year that he would adopt a child when the time came to take over the title from his father. For now, he’s happy to carry out ceremonial duties in Rajpipla, where the royal family is still held in high regard by its former subjects. “I make sure I’m there during all our important festivals,” he says.

Unlike many other homosexuals who feel more comfortable away from home, not having to explain their “queerness”, Gohil stayed on and turned, instead, to sensitising the people of the area to homosexuality. And Rajpipla has reciprocated. Had the prince become one of the commoners, stepping out of the stuffy bounds of royal etiquette and the court?

Three years ago, when his coming out made headlines, Gohil didn’t expect a flood of such applause. “The senior citizens’ society of Rajpipla, in a letter penned by a 90-year-old man, sent me a letter of congratulations for speaking the truth,” he recalls. The city police officers congratulated him, and the otherwise conservative chief minister Narendra Modi even offered monetary support towards Gohil’s work. Earlier this year, Gohil joined the public celebrations in Rajpipla which followed the government’s move to decriminalise homosexuality. And now, as the old age home nears completion, another celebration is waiting in the wings. With a touch of royalty.

2009 October 21 – MidDay

‘Docs worst informed about homosexuality’

by Hemal Ashar
As Mumbai gears up for a mammoth conference on sexuality, gay activist Ashok Row Kavi slams sexologists for their ignorance. Hemal Ashar referees a face-off

Ashok Row Kavi
Gay activist

"Doctors are the worst informed about homosexuality. At one talk, stupid questions like, ‘Are there injections to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals’ were thrown at me by docs. I answered with sarcasm.
I told them I know of injections that turn heterosexuals into homosexuals. They must understand human sexuality as a spectrum of different sexualities without being judgmental."

"Sexologist Dr Rajan Bhonsle, for instance, is homophobic. He claims homosexuality is a "choice" when it is a sexual orientation. Bhonsle wrongly equates same sex with anal sex. A large number of gay men I know do NOT have anal sex. Bhonsle induces many homosexuals to go in for aversion therapy. His writings and lectures come in the way of creating a more tolerant and healthy society."

Dr Rajan Bhonsle
Head of the dept of sexual medicine at KEM Hospital

"Kavi calls me homophobic, but has he read my writings or listened to my lectures where I have said that every person of any sexual orientation has equal rights? I have not stated that homosexuality is only a choice, only said that there are certain unknown factors that might make a person veer towards it. I have never stated that all gay men have anal sex and have also said that heterosexuals too have anal sex.

"I do not believe in aversion therapy. Only if an individual, who approaches me, has the right reasons, and a willingness to develop orientation towards the opposite sex, do I help him. I have hundreds of patients who have developed heterosexual orientation following therapy and are now happily married."

Sex mahamela
The 25th National Conference of Sexology by the Council of Sex Education & Parenthood International (CSEPI) in partnership with the Indian Andropause Society (IAS) and Andrology India will be held from October 23 to 25 at the Nehru Centre, Worli. About 200 doctors from across India are expected to attend this event.

Is homosexuality an orientation?
Homosexuality is definitely an orientation. but homosexuals can change their orientation; they can become bisexuals. Also, some medicines, along with psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy, may be used to change their orientation. I would not term homosexuals as abnormal or mentally ill, but I do think their orientation defeats the purpose of human evolution.
– Dr Madhav Pakhare, psychiatrist and sexologist

Homosexuality is an orientation, it is genetic. No medicine can change orientation. Though we do not need to promote homosexuality by saying homosexuals are more creative and all that nonsense, gays need to be accepted and respected. All these medicines and tonics in the market designed to change orientation just exploit the desperate.
– Dr Prakash Kothari founder, professor, dept of sexual medicine, KEM Hospital

November 13, 2009 – PinkNews

Indian voters allowed ‘third gender’ option

by Staff Writer,
The Electoral Commission of India decided to give recognition on voter forms to those who see themselves as neither male or female. Some trans people, known as eunuchs or hijiras in the country, had abstained from voting because they did not have a box to tick.

India allows people to select ‘E’ for eunuch on passports and some government forms but the move gives them legal recognition on electoral forms. They will now be able to choose ‘other’ as their gender when voting.

India is thought to have around one million hijiras. Although they were traditionally surrounded by superstition and myth from their role of guarding the emperor’s wives, modern society has been less tolerant of them. Many are shunned by their families and struggle to obtain conventional jobs, instead turning to begging and prostitution to earn a living.

18 November 2009 – Southern Star

Indian prince creating change

When Crown Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil of the Indian state of Rajpipla arrived in Australia it marked his first visit to Australia. However, rather than coming to relax or take in the country’s famous landmarks, his trip is purely professional. “I don’t know much about the country. My visit is very work-orientated. My focus is on drawing attention to the needs of sexual minorities and decriminalising homosexuality in countries that have draconian laws. I’m meeting with lots of LGBT groups and gay Indian groups,” the prince said. “In my free time I would like to see the country and visit the beautiful spots.”

Prince Manvendra was famously outed to his parents by his doctors in 2002, while recovering in hospital from a nervous breakdown.
When the knowledge became public several years later, the fallout in his conservative home state was significant. Effigies resembling the prince were burned and his family disowned and disinherited him. They have subsequently reconciled.
In an effort to create change, the prince, dubbed ‘India’s Gay Prince’ by many media outlets, established the Lakshya Trust in 2000. “As a child I had a sort of confusion in my mind about my sexuality. There was nobody to share my feelings. There was no support system,” he said.

“My idea of starting this organisation was to create a safe place where different people can come from around the country. There may not be anybody to solve your problems. But in having a safe place there will always be someone you can to talk to and who will listen to your problems.” Recognising the significant HIV/AIDS phenomenon in India, the Trust has thrown its energies into HIV prevention, efforts which were recognised by the United Nations in 2006. As such, the prince’s visit to Sydney and Melbourne was coordinated by ACON, with assistance from the Burnet Institute. The public formalities include an open community forum and a fundraising dinner.

As co-founder of Trikone Australia, an Indian support and activist organisation, Alan Maurice will attend a special event for gay South Asians living abroad. “Being a prince he has more influence within the decision-making bodies that govern India, including laws, funding, awareness, etc which the GLBT community need. There will definitely be a ripple effect to his coming out and from the contribution he is making to the GLBT community,” Maurice said.

“India needs ‘ambassadors’ to promote that homosexuality is normal. In Indian society a prince coming out will have an influence across many within the caste/class system. It takes a lot of courage to do this and he must be admired and respected for this. Princes and royalty in India are still revered and respected. He is the de facto face of the gay movement in India.”

While in Australia, the prince also hopes to draw attention to the Indian legal situation. On statute, India retains the British colonial law, known as Section 377, which criminalises homosexual acts. In July this year, the Delhi High Court, in a landmark decision, found the law unconstitutional. The prince believes this ruling has wider implications than simply decriminalising homosexuality. It also has implications for changing society’s views on homosexuality.

“Not many people knew about this law before. But when it was read down, there was much media all over the country. It definitely helped make gay issues more mainstream — more visible to the population. It was the talk of the town,” Prince Manvendra told Southern Star.
“The legal challenge also started a debate among intellectual people including medical doctors who debated whether homosexuality is really a disease or an illness. The more arguments and discussions happen, the more people will come to learn the misunderstandings they carry about us. It is a long battle to fight — this is the beginning, because society’s mindset needs to be changed.”

The prince’s strategy to create change is to engage those who directly affect society’s views. “We target those in society who have the power to influence society including the political leaders, the police department, medical staff and spiritual leaders who protest against changing the law. We hold desensitisation workshops and make them aware of the issues. I also talk with students to tell them about homosexuality,” Prince Manvendra said.

“Of course the media are helping also. The media — including television, print, internet — have started saying very positive things about homosexuality.” While the Indian press continue to cover the debate on homosexuality, international media outlets have been particularly interested in Prince Manvendra’s story. Everyone from Oprah to a BBC reality television series has featured the prince. He’s also had requests from documentary makers and film producers to profile his life.

“This story of mine has travelled across the world. People are fascinated and inspired by it. It’s drawing a lot attention with a lot of people interested in documenting it,” he said. When asked whether he has any regrets, the prince responded reflectively that he has no regrets and that the episodes in his life have made him the person he is now. Indeed he is very confident, articulate and very much at ease with his sexuality. He cites his work with the Trust as offering a great deal of personal satisfaction.

Having experienced so much in his life — he’s now 44 — the prince offers this advice to those challenging their sexuality. “I have been telling all my friends to be proud of what you are. Whatever you are, you are born like that. It’s not out of choice. You have to appear proud that you are gay and you should be happy with the situation you are living in,” he said. “I hope society will come to a point where they respect everyone alike, irrespective of sexual orientation. We are all equals, we are all human beings.”

November 23, 2009 – The Hindu Newspaper

A Room of One’s Own: Transsexuals in Indian Society

by Deepa Alexander, The Hindu
Sexual minorities occupy an odd place in the sub-continent’s culture. Though their collective roots are ancient, in most situations, they live in closed societies, banding together to brace against widespread discrimination. After years of humiliating social stigmatisation, abuse and contempt from the wider community, the traditional Indian mindset is beginning to alter and changes are taking place in terms of how this group is being treated and recognised. The latest is the Election Commission’s announcement that transgenders will hereafter be referred to as "others" in electoral rolls. We spoke to activists and members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community on how far they still have to go.

‘Equal Opportunity’
From: Kalki, Founder-Director, Sahodari Foundation, Chennai
Transgenders have been battling the system for long. However, LGBT people have been able assert themselves only in the past seven to eight years. I wish the rights of sexual minorities are recognised. We need bold policymakers, an amendment in the law on transgenders’ right to employment, and more policies aimed at ensuring equal opportunity in private and government employment. We need strong anti-discrimination laws. Equality and dignity for transgenders — that’s the change I’d like to see. Parents are the root cause for transgenders’ miseries. If they had accepted their transgender children, you wouldn’t find these many of them begging and doing sex work. Often, they are school dropouts. When they choose to embrace the new life, the first thing they miss is schooling. And, because of the social stigma, no one gives them a job. Even if they do, the pay is less, and so, many return to sex work and begging.

‘A Head-start’
From: Living Smile Vidya, Writer and Assistant Director, Tamil Film Industry, Chennai
My blog is not only personal, it attempts to represent my community — that of the transgenders. Through it, I attempt to reinvent how mainstream communities look at transgenders, how a better visual representation in films will actually help the community, and how transgenders need their own space to thrive in. Most of our films show transgenders in poor light, either as villains or as objects of derision. The Censor Board should also look at how this community is being represented.

I wish the government, instead of terming us as `others’, comes up with advertisements that highlight the plight of the community. Loans, training and self-employment measures will help take the community from its low-end professions of begging and sex work to better avenues of earning. We want our space, and would like to be treated like other human beings. I ask only that we be given a head-start.

‘The Need for Acceptance’
From: Anjali Gopalan, Executive Director, The Naz Foundation (India) Trust, New Delhi
The Delhi-based Naz Foundation (India) Trust’s programme on the sexual health and rights of MSM and transgenders was initiated in 1994. It helps create a sense of solidarity, besides a space and support network for accessing information and guidance on issues affecting their lives. We conduct outreach programmes in cruising areas, and massage parlours to disseminate information on safer sexual practices, distribute pamphlets, provide telephone and face-to-face counselling, and refer people for HIV testing and treatment and support group meetings. Trainings are conducted with Community-based organizations, students, NGOs, and medical professionals to ensure awareness and advocacy. Legal and social intervention should focus on inclusiveness, equality and acceptance of all forms of sexuality. Our society needs to be more sensitive to them. The acceptance of transgenders as human beings is the need of the hour. Social empowerment will help integrate them within the mainstream.

‘Need for Community Support’
From: Magdalene Jeyarathnam, Counsellor and Director: Center for Counselling, Chennai
Center for Counselling counsels members of the LGBT community. It also runs support group sessions for them in English and Tamil. We also run support groups for parents and siblings of transgenders. We need to treat all people with dignity and respect, irrespective of their gender and sexual orientation. Unfortunately, the majority heterosexual community believes that those who have same-sex relationships are not normal and must, therefore, change. I would like to see transgenders well-qualified, and in good jobs. And, that, as a community, we provide a supportive environment for them to be who they are.

‘Love, Actually, is the Issue’
From: Sonali Gulati, Assistant Professor in Film, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia
I’ve been an activist for LGBT rights for the last 12 years. It’s just that the mass media has taken a long time to recognise the work in this field. Even the lawsuit reading down Section 377 has been going on for many years. First of all, the word sexual minorities. We are not just sexual people. Yes, we do like to have sex with someone of the same gender, but we also love the personal emotionally. What is so wrong with loving? Life is not all about procreation, and there is no need to demonise LGBT people. My film, "I Am" is particularly about parents of gay and lesbian people living in India. The Government’s decision to allow `other’ as an option in electoral rolls is a step in the right direction; however to be clubbed as `other’ is not. What is wrong in just having a category called `transgender’

December 7, 2009 – PinkNews

Bollywood’s first gay love scene

by Staff Writer,
An upcoming Bollywood film will feature what is thought to be the industry’s first gay love scene. I Am Omar, one of four short stories which make up the film I Am, focuses on male sex workers and homophobic police officers. In one scene, actors Rahul Bose and Arjun Mathur are seen embracing in a public place. They are seen by a police officer who begins to harass them.
The film is set in the context of Section 377, the colonial-era law which banned gay sex.

Bose has previously acted in a film which involved a gay gang rape scene. Director Onir told the Mumbai Mirror that he hoped the scene would get past India’s film censors. He said: "Luckily none of my actors had any inhibitions. Rahul and Arjun did the scene which goes much beyond anything seen in Indian cinema. They behaved like thorough professionals.”

Onir added that no stills of the scene had been taken as he did not want them released on the internet. The film will be screened at Rotterdam film festival. Another director, Madhur Bhandarkar had included a gay kissing sequence in his movie Fashion but removed it before censors saw the film.

December 19, 2009 – AP

India hosts its first ever transsexual beauty pageant

Chennai, India — More than 100 hopefuls vied Saturday for the title of India’s most beautiful transsexual at the country’s first such pageant for members of the marginalised community, an organiser said. The event in the southern city of Chennai was unique in a country where transsexuals live on the fringes of society, drawing 120 contenders between the ages of 20 and 35 from across India, A.J. Hariharan told AFP.


Hariharan is founder secretary of the Indian Community Welfare Organisation (ICWO), which put on the contest and works for the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in Chennai. Kareena, a 25-year-old model from the western financial hub Mumbai walked away with top honours, while 23-year-old Romi, a beautician from the northeastern state of Manipur, was second. Local favourite Padmini, 25, a dance instructor, bagged third place.

Besides tiaras for the winners of the overall "Miss India" title, crowns were also handed out to victorious contestants in the "Miss Beautiful Hair," "Miss Beautiful Eyes" and "Miss Beautiful Skin" categories. "We had a meeting of the transgender community some months ago where we discussed various events to bring community members into society," Hariharan said.

After rejecting several proposals including sporting events, "everyone unanimously supported the idea of a national-level beauty pageant," he said. "We thought it would create an opportunity for the transgender community to showcase their skills, create a platform to address the problems they face — discrimination, marginalisation and misconception."

The pageant is the latest in a series of recent attempts to break down barriers. In November, eunuchs — men who have been castrated — claimed victory in a long-standing campaign to be listed as "others," distinct from males and females, on electoral rolls and voter identity cards. And in July, Delhi High Court decriminalised gay sex between consenting adults by declaring a colonial-era ban on homosexuality unconstitutional.

8 December 2006 – BBC News

Condoms ‘too big’ for Indian men

by Damian Grammaticus BBC News, Delhi
A survey of more than 1,000 men in India has concluded that condoms made according to international sizes are too large for a majority of Indian men. The study found that more than half of the men measured had penises that were shorter than international standards for condoms.
It has led to a call for condoms of mixed sizes to be made more widely available in India.

The two-year study was carried out by the Indian Council of Medical Research. Over 1,200 volunteers from the length and breadth of the country had their penises measured precisely, down to the last millimetre. The scientists even checked their sample was representative of India as a whole in terms of class, religion and urban and rural dwellers.

“ It’s not size, it’s what you do with it that matters ” Sunil Mehra
The conclusion of all this scientific endeavour is that about 60% of Indian men have penises which are between three and five centimetres shorter than international standards used in condom manufacture. Doctor Chander Puri, a specialist in reproductive health at the Indian Council of Medical Research, told the BBC there was an obvious need in India for custom-made condoms, as most of those currently on sale are too large.

The issue is serious because about one in every five times a condom is used in India it either falls off or tears, an extremely high failure rate. And the country already has the highest number of HIV infections of any nation.

‘Not a problem’
Mr Puri said that since Indians would be embarrassed about going to a chemist to ask for smaller condoms there should be vending machines dispensing different sizes all around the country. "Smaller condoms are on sale in India. But there is a lack of awareness that different sizes are available. There is anxiety talking about the issue. And normally one feels shy to go to a chemist’s shop and ask for a smaller size condom."

But Indian men need not be concerned about measuring up internationally according to Sunil Mehra, the former editor of the Indian version of the men’s magazine Maxim.

"It’s not size, it’s what you do with it that matters," he said. "From our population, the evidence is Indians are doing pretty well. With apologies to the poet Alexander Pope, you could say, for inches and centimetres, let fools contend."

December 26, 2009 –

The Law Breaker

Anjali Gopalan won the battle against India’s homophobes this year

by Elizabeth Flock
She is: The founder of the Naz Foundation

Work: Has given HIV positive people a chance to live with dignity through Naz

Anjali Gopalan interacts with the adults and children who come to the care home
Image: Madhu kapparath
Anjali Gopalan interacts with the adults and children who come to the care home
Big day: Campaigned for homosexuality to be decriminalised in India. After eight years, she achieved a victory when the court said the law did not extend to consenting sex between adults

Anjali Gopalan has been thrown out of court, out of women’s groups, and out of NGOs for children. She’s been told she’s not gay or lesbian and so homosexual harassment wasn’t her problem; that she was wasting her time working in the fields of HIV and AIDS; and that condoms weren’t necessary. Eight long years were spent challenging the Section 377 of the Indian penal code, which had been used by the police to go after same sex behaviour among consenting adults. As a result, Gopalan received threats from people around the world bearing the same message: You’re destroying the fabric of society.

“Anyone else would have given up. But she has this incredible persistence, and she took up the case on behalf of the organisation,” says Anuradha Mukherjee, who left a 13-year-long stint at the Center for Advocacy and Research to become programme manager at Gopalan’s organisation, the Naz Foundation. “With Anjali, even when what she says goes against what many others say, somehow, eventually everyone finds that they agree,” says Mukherjee.

It was 1994 when a man came into Gopalan’s office in Delhi and abandoned his HIV-infected nephew there, saying there was nothing he could do for him; Gopalan’s response — “Well, this is it, now we start a care home.” And so was born the Naz Foundation, a refuge for those affected by HIV, and the organisation on whose behalf Gopalan petitioned for 377. The care home started with almost no resources. “It was bunk to bunk with desperately ill people, some of them had come from thousands of miles away. No one else would take care of them, but they had heard rumours about a place in Delhi that would love them,” explains actor Richard Gere, who is a supporter of Naz, in an online video.

After her husband’s death from HIV and AIDS, 30-year-old Renu Jain, for example, left everything behind in Nainital, Uttarakhand, to find a place that she had heard about, a place that would look after people like her. “It was horrible in the village. We were ostracised. I didn’t know where to go to seek help. My condition kept getting worse. A woman told me to go to Delhi.” She pauses, and then says, “Anjali madam took me in, no questions asked. They nursed me back to health. They come and shake hands with me. Human contact feels so nice.”

Read Article HERE