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Newsweek: Perils of Being LGBTQ in India

Jameela Jamil Comes Out

India Supreme Court Overthrows Sodomy Ban

Quora Blog: What It's Like to Be Gay and Indian

Huff Post: Homosexuality No Longer a Crime in India

Lilly Singh: Bisexual Indian Comedian and New Late Night Host

Vice: Secret Lives of India's LGBTQ Youth

Guardian: Indian Americans Balance Family with LGBTQ Identity

Sikhism and Sexual Orientation

CNN: India's Top Court Decriminalizes Homosexuality

Dutee Chand: India's First Openly Gay Athlete

Comedian: Being Gay and Indian in America

India Declares: Freedom of Sexual Orientation is Fundamental Right

Sikh Coming Out Story


Homosexuality No Longer a Crime in India
 

In September 2018, India’s top court on struck down a colonial-era law that made homosexual acts punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a landmark victory for gay rights in the world’s largest democracy. In a unanimous decision, five Supreme Court justices ruled that the law was a weapon used to harass members of India’s gay community and resulted in discrimination. After the ruling, opponents of the law danced and waved flags outside the court. “We feel as equal citizens now,” activist Shashi Bhushan said. “What happens in our bedroom is left to us.”

 



The law (known as Section 377) held that intercourse between members of the same sex was against the order of nature. The five petitioners who challenged the law said it was discriminatory and led to gays living in fear of being harassed and prosecuted by police. Arvind Datar, the attorney for the petitioners, argued in the court that the penal provision was unconstitutional because it provides for the prosecution and sentencing of consenting adults.

[Source: Huffington Post, September 2018]

 

India Supreme Court Overthrows Sodomy Ban

Video: LGBTQ Rights in India

Huff Post: Homosexuality No Longer a Crime in India

Bollywood Star Praises India's Gay Rights Victory

 

Hindu Views of LGBTQ Issues
 

Hindu views of homosexuality and, in general, LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) issues, are diverse and different Hindu groups have distinct views. Homosexuality is regarded as one of the possible expressions of human desire. Although some Hindu dharmic texts contain injunctions against homosexuality, a number of Hindu mythic stories have portrayed homosexual experience as natural and joyful. There are several Hindu temples which have carvings that depict both men and women engaging in homosexual sex.

 

Same-sex relations and gender variance have been represented within Hinduism from Vedic times through to the present day, in rituals, law books, religious or so-called mythical narratives, commentaries, paintings, and sculpture. The extent to which these representations embrace or reject homosexuality has been disputed within the religion as well as outside of it. In 2009, The United Kingdom Hindu Council issued a statement that 'Hinduism does not condemn homosexuality', subsequent to the decision of the Delhi High Court to legalize homosexuality in India.

 

Delhi's First LGBTQ Flash Mob

LGBTQ Pride March in Mumbai

Independence Day: I Free Myself

India/Pakistan Lesbian Wedding

Lilly Singh: Let's Talk About LGBTQ Issues

Video Story: I Can Be Gay and Muslim

Huge Jain Gay Wedding

Newsweek: Perils of Being LGBTQ in India

Neil Singh and Eli Pew: Gay Hindu American Wedding

Video Talk: Sikh Man Comes Out to Himself and Family

Hijra: India's Transgender Community

 

India's LGBTQ Activists Raise Their Voices
 

When, as a teenager Ankita Mehra realized she was attracted to other women, she says she felt trapped. Given India’s deeply conservative society, Mehra feared she would be disowned if her family found out.

The first counselor she visited told her that for 15,000 Indian rupees (about $200) he would “fix” her. But after a second counselor advised her to come out, Mehra says she wrote a six-page letter to her father, which included pleas that he not throw her out of the house. She says her father cried as he read the letter, and afterward hugged her with acceptance.

Now 23, Mehra says she wants corporate India and mainstream society to more fully accept the country’s LGBTQ community. In November 2019, she helped organize New Delhi’s first career fair meant for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or LGBTQ community. “We are talented enough to get a job but we are looking for a safe and inclusive place,” she says. Mehra is part of a growing number of activists advocating for India’s lesbian and gay community, which has grown bolder in the past year. In September 2018, India’s Supreme Court repealed a colonial-era law that made same-sex intercourse a crime, punishable with up to 10 years in jail. India’s move energized movements in other former British colonies, such as Singapore and Myanmar, to throw out similar laws.

 

In India, young adults such as Mehra are demanding their civil rights. They want employment where they won’t be judged for how they talk or dress, they want medical and other benefits for their partners, and eventually the right to be able to marry and adopt children. Pleas for some of these demands have been filed in local courts.

Veteran activists say that while the Supreme Court ruling spurred many young people to embrace their sexuality, their acceptance within the broader society remains minimal. They continue to face violence and harassment from their families, in schools, on the streets and at the workplace. Many are subjected to “conversion” therapy, forced marriages and “corrective rape.”

“In the first six months after the Supreme Court ruling, we handled about 64 crisis situations,” says Vivek Anand, 58-year-old chief executive officer of The Humsafar Trust, a non-profit that has been advocating for gay rights for 25 years. Anand cited an incident when a gay man from Nagpur, a small town in central India, was accosted by a group of men one evening on the street, and asked to perform sexual acts for them. When he refused, they beat him up brutally to the point where he had to be hospitalized. “The crisis keeps going on,” Anand says. And the situation is more difficult in smaller towns, where people cling to stereotypes and traditional ways. While recognizing that there’s a long way to go in changing mindsets, younger advocates point to what’s working well. They say the community has become more visible since the Supreme Court judgment. More role models are coming out.

 



Dutee Chand, a 23-year-old athlete who is her country’s fastest sprinter, earlier this year became the country’s first athlete to openly come out as lesbian. “I was tired of living in fear,” Chand told Vogue India magazine, which put her on its cover. Chand’s family and village have disowned her.

India’s film industry, Bollywood, which has historically shown queer people for comic relief, released the first mainstream movie in 2019 in which the lead actress was lesbian. Another mainstream movie is in production about a gay romance. “The social markers are definitely pointing in the right direction,” said Ramkrishna Sinha, co-founder of Pride Circle, a “diversity” consulting firm.

Sinha recently quit his job as an engineer at Intel, where he worked for 10 years, to devote himself to bridging the gap between LGBTQ talent and corporate India. In July 2019, Pride Circle organized a career fair in the south Indian city of Bengaluru. Around 300 candidates showed up, including from cities like Hyderabad and Chennai, Sinha says. Thirty-five companies, including Goldman Sachs and Indian conglomerate Godrej Group, came for the event. So far, more than 40 job offers have been extended, Sinha says. “Now LGBTQ people expect an equal opportunity workplace.”

 



A similar career fair was also held earlier in India’s financial capital, Mumbai. On a recent Sunday, more than 250 people gathered at The Lalit, a five-star hotel in the heart of Delhi, for the city’s first career fair dedicated to them. Candidates also came from small towns like Lucknow and Bhopal, says Ankita Mehra, the organizer. For some of them, Mehra and colleagues at her organization Q-rious helped provide free accommodation, she says.

 

Like other such fairs, job candidates didn’t have to pay a fee. There wore badges which allowed attendees to state the best pronoun to address them — “He” or “She”. Journalists were asked not to take photos at the event, to maintain the anonymity of attendees. Executives of companies which had set up stalls at the fair were given a “sensitization” training on how to be around LGBTQ people. The conference included panel discussions on topics like ‘Inclusion in the mainstream employment’ and ‘Corporate engagement with LGBTQ Youth’. But these panels invariably turned into conversations about the struggles for the community and motivational messages. Mehra shared the story of her coming out in a video that left attendees in tears. “They gave me strength to come out to my family,” says Shabnam, a 23-year-old business school student.

[Source: Shefali Anand, US News & World Report, Dec 2019]

 

India's LGBTQ Activists Raise Their Voices

Video Discussion: what it's Like to be Gay in India

A Little Late With Lilly Singh

New Delhi LGBTQ Pride

Quora Blog: What It's Like to Be Gay and Indian

Cute Indian Pakistan Couple: Anjali and Sundas

Indian LGBTQ Channel: Indian Lesbian Film

Anjali and Sufi: A Love Story

Sikhism and Homosexuality

Video Lesson: Brief History of All Things LGBTQ in India

Matt and Harshal: Wedding Ceremony

LGBTQ Hindu Love Gods

 

India Supports LGBTQ Rights

 

India’s Supreme Court has given the country’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer community the freedom to safely express their sexual orientation. In a historic decision on August 24, 2017, the nine-judge panel declared that an individual’s sexual orientation is protected under the country’s Right to Privacy law.

“Sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy,” the decision reads. “Discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual. Equality demands that the sexual orientation of each individual in society must be protected on an even platform.”

Although the Supreme Court did not directly overturn any laws criminalizing same-sex relationships, the language of the court decision offers hope to the LGBTQ community. The judges expressly state sexual orientation falls under an individual’s right to privacy, a constitutional right, and that no individual should be discriminated against based on their orientation.
 

 

Going forward, this can establish a precedent as organizations challenge discriminatory laws in court, and offer protection against discrimination in places such as the workforce.

This could even deliver a death blow to an oppressive and controversial law in the Indian Penal Code. Section 377 is a law that limits a citizen’s right to express their gender identity or sexual orientation in consensual relationships. In 2013, another panel of the Supreme Court upheld Section 377.

India’s traditional culture can make it difficult for people who are LGBTQ to be open about their orientation, but some are still challenging the country’s norms. Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil came out in 2006, making him the country’s first openly gay prince. Since then, he has been fighting for the Indian LGBTQ community.

Prince Manvendra started a grassroots campaign in 2014 called “Free Gay India” to campaign for LGBTQ rights. He has put a spotlight on the oppression as a guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and was recently on an episode of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”

“I knew that my coming out would definitely make a difference,” the prince told the Kardashian family. “When people found out about me, they set up a bonfire and burned my effigies in it.”

 

 

Vice: Secret Lives of India's LGBTQ Youth

Nik Dodani: Gay Indian Stand-Up Comic

LGBTQ Hindu Love Gods

Guardian: Indian Americans Balance Family with LGBTQ Identity

Delhi's First LGBTQ Flash Mob

Video: LGBTQ Rights in India

Hinduism and LGBTQ Topics

Sikh Man Discusses Homosexuality with His Mum

Indian Love Story: Datta and Sri

Video Story: I Can Be Gay and Muslim

LGBTQ Pride March in Mumbai

Hijra: India's Transgender Community

Huge Jain Gay Wedding

Lesbian Wedding Anniversary: Hindu/Muslim India/Pakistan

Video Lesson: Brief History of All Things LGBTQ in India

India/Pakistan Lesbian Wedding

Bollywood Series (Season1):Two Girls in Love at 19

 

South Asian LGBTQ Celebrities
 

Lilly Singh - Actor (A Little Late)

Kalki Subramaniam - Artist, Actor, Writer, Speaker, Entrepreneur

Jameela Jamil - Actor (The Good Place)

Apurva Asrani - Film Maker

Dutee Chand - Olympic Sprinter

Sushant Divgikar - Actor, Model, Mr. Gay India

Ashok Row Kavi - Activist

Ritu Vasu Primlani - Comedian, Environmentalist

Parvez Sharma - Film Maker, Author

Grace Banu - Engineer, Activist

Freddie Mercury - Singer, Songwriter

Santosh Mehrotra - Economist

Ismail Merchant - Film Producer, Director (Merchant Ivory Productions)

Rohit Bal - Fashion Designer

Riyad Vinci Wasia - Film Maker

Rose Venkatesan - Talk Show Host

Harish Iyer - Activist

Madhu Bai Kinnar - Politician

Tharika Banu - Educator

Manabi Bandyopashyay - Professor

Pinki Pramanik - Track & Field Athlete

Atri Kar - Government Worker

 

 

Being LGBTQ and Indian
 

If Kinsey was right, there are anywhere between 50 and 100 million people in India who are LGBTQ. But the number of people who came out to all the Pride marches in India last year? About 5,000. And that includes not only queer people but their allies and supporters.

Beliefs in the Western origins of homosexuality are also widespread and intransigent. Ironically, however, it is tolerance of homosexuality that is beginning to be imported into India. And what is the biggest engine of change? Cinema.

Bollywood is the entertainment of choice for over 1 billion people. That means that, in global terms, it influences the lives and attitudes of a tremendous number of people. And Bollywood stars, too, have a god-like stature, at least in India.

So the question is not if but how and when Bollywood will play a role changing attitudes toward LGBTQ rights in India. The time is ripe for social change. And LGBTQ rights are an issue close to the hearts of many in the Bollywood film industry. The question is one of courage and, of course, the timing of that courage. But change is coming in India.

In fact, it’s already started. At the risk of drawing too many parallels with the history of the gay rights movement in the West, India has already had its first “Stonewall moment.” In 2009 the law criminalizing sodomy was repealed. It was painful, and it made headlines, but it was a transformative change.

Change happens in fits and starts, and sometimes attitudes evolve slowly. And our conversations are part of all our futures. In India today, almost any conversation about homosexuality is a good one. Fortunately, that conversation has started.

[Source: Nish Gera / Writer, Filmmaker / Huffington Post]

 

 

Comedian: Being Gay and Indian in America

India Declares: Freedom of Sexual Orientation is Fundamental Right

Video Discussion: what it's Like to be Gay in India

A Little Late With Lilly Singh

Indian Love Story: Sweety and Kuhu

Video Talk: Sikh Man Comes Out to Himself and Family

What Does it Mean to Be a Queer Hindu?

Indian Comedian Lilly Singh Comes Out as Bisexual

Video: Coming Out to Immigrant Parents

Actor Nik Dodani: Being Gay and Indian

Having Pride in Both My Sikh and Gay Identity

Independence Day: I Free Myself

 

LGBTQ and Contemporary Hindu Society

 

Sexuality is rarely discussed openly in contemporary Hindu society, especially in modern India where homosexuality was illegal until a brief period beginning in 2009, due to colonial British laws. On July 2, 2009 The Delhi High Court in a historic judgement decriminalized homosexuality in India; where the court noted that the existing laws violated fundamental rights to personal liberty (Article 21 of the Indian Constitution) and equality (Article 14) and prohibition of discrimination (Article 15). Even before this judgment, in India homosexuals were very rarely prosecuted despite the existence of such laws in the penal code. However, the Supreme Court of India re-affirmed the penal code provision and overturned the Delhi High Court decision, effectively re-instating the legal ban on homosexuality.

 

Even though Hinduism is never known to exclusively ban homosexuality, certain Hindu nationalist factions are opposed to legalizing homosexuality while certain others choose to remain silent. However, in the last twenty years homosexuality has become increasingly visible in the print and audio-visual media, with many out LGBTQ people, an active LGBTQ movement, and a large Indian LGBTQ presence on the Internet. From the 1990s onward, modern gay and lesbian Hindu organizations have surfaced in India's major cities and in 2004, plausible calls were made for the first time to repeal India's outdated and nontraditional laws against homosexuality.

 

 

Queer Themes in Hindu Mythology

Newsweek: Perils of Being LGBTQ in India

Video Explanation: Homosexuality in Ancient India

Quora Blog: What It's Like to Be Gay and Indian

Vice: Secret Lives of India's LGBTQ Youth

Hijra: India's Transgender Community

Guardian: Indian Americans Balance Family with LGBTQ Identity

Comedian: Being Gay and Indian in America

India Declares: Freedom of Sexual Orientation is Fundamental Right

Video: Coming Out to Immigrant Parents

Kunal Nayyar Talks About India's Decision to Decriminalize Homosexuality

 

Homosexuality in India

 

Homosexuality is mostly a taboo subject in Indian civil society and for the government. There are no official demographics for the LGBTQ population in India, but the government of India submitted figures to the Supreme Court in 2012, according to which, there were about 2.5 million gay people recorded in India. These figures are only based on those individuals who have self declared to the Ministry of Health. There may be much higher statistics for individuals who have concealed their identity, since a number of homosexual Indians are living in the closet due to fear of discrimination.


Homophobia is prevalent in India. Public discussion of homosexuality in India has been inhibited by the fact that sexuality in any form is rarely discussed openly. In recent years, however, attitudes towards homosexuality have shifted slightly. In particular, there have been more depictions and discussions of homosexuality in the Indian news media and in Bollywood films. Several organizations, including the Naz Foundation Trust, the National AIDS Control Organization, Law Commission of India, Union Health Ministry, National Human Rights Commission of India, and the Planning Commission of India have expressed support for decriminalizing homosexuality in India, and pushed for tolerance and social equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. India is among countries with a social element of a third gender. But mental, physical, emotional and economic violence against LGBTQ community in India prevails. Lacking support from family, society or police, many gay rape victims don't report the crimes.

 



Religion has played a role in shaping Indian customs and traditions. While injunctions on homosexuality's morality are not explicitly mentioned in the religious texts central to Hinduism, the largest religion in India, Hinduism has taken various positions, ranging from homosexual characters and themes in its texts to being neutral or antagonistic towards it.

 

In 2005, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, who hails from Rajpipla in the Gujarat, publicly came out as gay. He was quickly anointed by the Indian and the world media as the first openly gay royal. He was disinherited as an immediate reaction by the royal family, though they eventually reconciled. He appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in October 2007, and on BBC Three's Undercover Princes.

 

In 2008, Zoltan Parag, a competitor at the Mr. Gay International contest said that he was apprehensive about returning to India. He said, "Indian media has exposed me so much that now when I call my friends back home, their parents do not let them talk to me".

In June 2008, five Indian cities (Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Indore, Pondicherry) celebrated gay pride parades. About 2,000 people turned out in these nationwide parades. Mumbai held its pride march in August 2008, with Bollywood actress Celina Jaitley flagging off the festivities. In July 2008, the Delhi High Court, while hearing the case to decriminalize homosexuality, opined that there was nothing unusual in holding a gay rally, something which is common outside India.

 



Days after the July 2009 Delhi High Court verdict legalizing homosexuality, Pink Pages, India's first online LGBTQ magazine was released. In April 2009, India's first gay magazine Bombay Dost originally launched in 1990, was re-launched in Mumbai.
 

In June 2009, Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha, saw its first gay pride parade. A day later, Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily announced that the Union Home Minister has convened a meeting with the Union Law Ministers, Union Health Ministers and Home Ministers of all states to evolve a consensus on decriminalizing homosexuality in India. In June 2009, Delhi and Bangalore held their second gay pride parades, and Chennai, generally considered to be a very conservative city, held its first.

Mumbai has one of its own pride events, like Kashish Mumbai Queer Film Festival which was first held in 2010 and again the next year. It was the first queer film festival in India and is held in a mainstream multiplex theater which screens LGBTQ films from all over the world.

In May 2011, Kolkata Rainbow Pride Festival was formed. The 11th Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk, held in July 2012, was attended by more than 1500 people.  Kolkata hosted South Asia's first pride walk in 1999.  Chandigarh held its first LGBTQ pride parade in March 2013 and it has been held annually ever since.  The first LGBTQ pride parade in Gujarat state was held at Surat in October 2013.

 

Queer Themes in Hindu Mythology

Video: Homosexuality in Ancient Indian

What Does it Mean to Be a Queer Hindu?

Advocate: LGBTQ Hindu Gods

Hinduism and LGBTQ Topics

 

 

What Does it Mean to Be a Queer Hindu?

It means that despite you knowing from a very young age that you were ‘different’ (whether you liked the same sex, or both sexes, or you didn’t identify with the sex you were assigned at birth) none of that matters. Everyone will tell you that you’re just “confused” and you need to be shown that being a cisgender, straight person is the only way to live in our society.

It means living in fear. If your parents or grandparents find out that you’re queer, they could disown you, or try to change you. In India, you can be arrested for having same-sex sex, or be pressured into a mixed orientation marriage to ‘cure’ you. In the US, your employer can still legally fire you and your landlord can legally evict you, just because of your LGBTQ identity, in over half the states in the country. In addition, there will be constantly be debates over whether or not business owners should be allowed to refuse people like you service because of their religious beliefs, because they claim that their religion condemns your “lifestyle”. Politicians will tell you that you should be grateful that you’re even allowed to exist peacefully in this country, because in several countries around the world, homosexuality is a crime punishable by death, or by physical punishments which will likely leave you close to death.

When you go to the temple to worship and associate with other devotees, you will constantly be checking yourself. For example, when you try to befriend another devotee, or really any person you meet, you’re aware there is always a 50% chance that when this person finds out you identify as LGBTQ, they will feel the need to call you sinful and disgusting (or even worse), even if they know nothing else about you. You’re queer. That is enough to condemn you. You’re used to this, because this has been going on your whole life.

You will be constantly asked, “But how do you regulate your sex life?” as if that is the most pressing issue in your life. People will never be interested in protecting your civil rights, because they need to know whether or not you have gay sex. You will never be looked upon as a person. You will always be reduced to the sexual acts you have in the privacy of your own home. You will always be seen as sexual, never as spiritual.

You will be referred to as “garbage” by people who claim to love the same God you do, the same God who has said in the Bhagavad Gita that He hates no one, because He dwells in every being.

 

[Source: Jnana-Dipena: A Queer Sri Vaishnava Seeks the Lamp of Knowledge]

 

Vice: Secret Lives of India's LGBTQ Youth

New Delhi LGBTQ Pride

Video Lesson: Brief History of All Things LGBTQ in India

Nik Dodani: Gay Indian Stand-Up Comic

Matt and Harshal: Wedding Ceremony

Hinduism and LGBTQ Topics

Video Story: I Can Be Gay and Muslim

Sikh Man Discusses Homosexuality with His Mum

Comedian: Being Gay and Indian in America

Love Story: Vaibhav and Parag

Indian Comedian Lilly Singh Comes Out as Bisexual

Actor Nik Dodani: Being Gay and Indian

Having Pride in Both My Sikh and Gay Identity

Video Discussion: what it's Like to be Gay in India

Newsweek: Perils of Being LGBTQ in India

Quora Blog: What It's Like to Be Gay and Indian

Sikhism and Homosexuality

Lilly Singh: Let's Talk About LGBTQ Issues

Huge Jain Gay Wedding

LGBTQ Pride March in Mumbai

Delhi's First LGBTQ Flash Mob

Independence Day: I Free Myself


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