Tag Archive for 'Homosexuality in India'

India: calling gay tourists

Brushed under the carpet for years, homosexuality in India is slowly emerging out of the closet, emboldened by a court decision last year that decriminalised same sex intercourse. Now, new businesses in India believe they can cater to a niche gay travel market, reports Mridu Khullar Relph in the New York Times 

Creative Commons: Merlith's photostream

When Bryan Herb steps into stores on his trips to India, he says, shopkeepers almost always ask whether he is looking for a souvenir for the woman in his life. A ring for his girlfriend, perhaps? What about a beautiful pink scarf for his wife?

“Every single time this happens, I toy with the idea of saying, ‘I have a boyfriend, not a girlfriend.”’ said Mr. Herb, co-owner of Chicago-based Zoom Vacations, which caters to gay tourists. “But I don’t.”

Homosexuality has long been a hidden facet of Indian life and, until recently, an illegal one. But change is afoot. A Delhi High Court ruling last year decriminalized same-sex intercourse, and sensitivity toward gay people and bisexuals is growing in major cities like Mumbai and New Delhi. The Hindustan Times, one of the country’s largest English-language newspapers, recently began a campaign called, “It is time to open our minds,” encouraging Indians to rethink social issues, including equal rights for gay people. more

History in the making: it’s legal to be gay in India

Gay pride parade in New Delhi, 2009
Gay pride parade in New Delhi, 2009

[Updated July 20]

India’s Supreme Court has refused to put on hold a landmark court judgement decriminalising gay sex in the country. That story is on BBC here.

Hearing a public interest litigation, the Delhi High Court has ruled that consensul sex between adults of the same gender is, finally, legal. Read that story on CNN here.

In Kafila, Nivedita Menon says ‘three queers for the Delhi High Court’. That story here.

To download the full text of the 105-page Delhi High Court judgment on pdf click here [courtesy Kafila]

One day before India’s second national Gay Pride parades kicked off in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, the Congress-led UPA government hinted that it might do away with a 150-year-old law, drafted by Lord Macaulay, that makes homosexual acts a criminal offence.

India’s gay and lesbian community has long been asking for the government to decriminalise section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that makes sexual acts ‘against the order of nature’ a crime that carries a punishment of up to 10 years in jail. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and writers like Vikram Seth had, as far back as 2006, issued an open appeal to ask the government to do away with this section. And Naz Foundation, an NGO committed to spreading awareness about HIV/AIDS had in 2002 filed a public interest litigation in the Delhi High Court asking for section 377 to be amended.

During UPA-1, then health minister Anbumani Ramadoss had considered the idea of decriminalising homosexuality, arguing that pushing homosexuals underground only encouraged the spread of HIV. But Ramadoss encountered stiff resistance from the then home minister Shivraj Patil (sacked in the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai terror strike) on the grounds that repealing the act, or even watering it down, would encourage delinquent behaviour.

Now, with UPA-2 picking up reforms with zealous fervour, law minister Veerappa Moily has said that he is in favour of a ‘review’ of the law and that home minister P Chidambaram is also in favour of the idea. The ministers will now call for a formal meeting with health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to find out his views.

Yet, even as the gay and lesbian community rejoiced over the news, there are signs that the Centre will find it very difficult to build a consensus on the issue with religious leaders already rejecting the idea and the BJP Opposition cautioning restraint (read that story here).

Is it time to say bye bye to section 377? What do you think? Do send in your comments.

Meanwhile, read about this developing story here, here and here. Also, what was ancient India’s stand on same-sex relationships? Read Manoj Mitta’s story in the Times of India here.

Being gay in India

While a colonial clause is being argued in court, Nithin Manayath, a lecturer, traces the upbeat and varied journey of India’s gay community in the last decade. From Tehelka:

I am 30 years old, a queer man who teaches in a women’s college in Bangalore. With the Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss and NACO both arguing that Section 377, the law that criminalises homosexuality, should be done away with, it seems like we ought to be looking at the present as a historic moment in the lives of gay and lesbian people in India. The euphoria in the sexuality movement and the day-to-day wartime reporting of proceedings in the Delhi High Court certainly lends itself to momentous events. But I am also uncomfortably aware that in the decade since I first met another gay man, a more complicated and colourful revolution has been underway without courtroom drama.

I was already wading through a series of sexual and romantic relationships before I read anew, at age 14, the word ‘homosexual’. I felt a ripple of identification. In the stodgy marriage manual that I read it in, it only meant a sexual act. It was later, in the mid-1990s, that the word ‘gay’ would suddenly illuminate for me why my schoolboy relationships never transformed into the forever of romantic love: because the other in each instance was never really gay. (I would have to wait till 2001, when an encounter with one of the most enduring figures of the sexuality movement in India would challenge this assumption.)