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(Mumbai) City treads gently on Rainbow Road May 24, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Gay & Lesbian, Section 377.
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http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?newsid=1166003

Shikha Shah
Friday, May 23, 2008 03:07 IST

For the general public, sexuality is a can of worms best left unopened.

For a long time now, Mumbai has been touted as an open and progressive city. But the reality is a different story — one that is starkly narrow-minded and conservative in its outlook. And no one knows this better than the city’s gay community.

Class and status come into play over here. “It generally depends on the economic status of an individual. These days, gays are accepted in high-profile societies. It is possible for them to lead a double life. Some gays are quite open about their sexuality. But Mumbai is still as ignorant as other cities in the country when it comes to issues like homosexuality,” said Nitin Karani, Trustee of Humsafar Trust, a gay and transgender sexual health, NGO.

Members of the community feel that as Mumbai, being a cosmopolitan city, should lend a patient ear to their views and not discriminate them on the basis of sexuality. “Many filmmakers have made movies based on homosexuality, but they are yet to highlight important issues. They sometimes tend to show our negative qualities, and this affects the outlook of the general public,” says Ganesh Jadhav. “If a lady is raped, timely action will surely be taken against the offender. But if gays are mistreated, who is bothered about it? If two individuals are mature enough, why can’t they be allowed to lead their lives as they wish?” he asks.

While families are willing to discuss homosexuality, they’re usually not so open when a son or daughter comes out of the closet. Mumbai, however, is still the most hospitable among all the metro cities in India.

“Mumbai is quite safe and comfortable for homosexuals, even though the general public is homophobic. But to be fair, I have never felt singled out because of my sexuality,” says Geeta Kumana. “But sometimes I do have to face weird situations. In my earlier job, when my boss realised that I was a homosexual, I felt a change in his behaviour. He started criticising my work without a valid reason; I was finally forced to quit,” she says. But she takes such incidents in her stride.

The question that’s doing the rounds these days is how can loving someone be a criminal act. “I strongly feel that Section 377 of Indian Penal Code should be challenged for criminalising homosexuality. How can the government afford to give a confused response to such issues? Mumbaikars still need to be broadminded when it comes to accepting gays and lesbians,” says Vikram from Gay Bombay. And there is a need, there say, for the government to step in.

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