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When gays get stalked and robbed in India June 23, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in Crime, English, Gay, Homophobia, Section 377, Times of India.
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From The Times of India

When gays get stalked and robbed…
22 Jun 2008, 0251 hrs IST, Divya A, TNN

NEW DELHI: The homosexual community has been the butt of ridicule for long. Often aliens at home and sidelined outside, they now have another cause for despair – becoming the target of blackmailers and stalkers.

In dark alleys in metros, especially in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, gay stalkers are on the prowl. Since same sex marriages are still banned in India, the gay community has become a soft target. The problem seems to be on an upswing as blackmailers realise the potential it offers.

Gay Bombay, a support group in Mumbai, recently put a warning on its website about a gang of small-time criminals hanging around Churchgate station targeting young gay men looking for one-night stands. And the modus operandi? They pick them up and dupe them into taking them home. Once there, they pretend to be policemen and extort their money and valuables.

Such gangs have a fetish for foreigners as they’re unaware of the gay scene in India and can easily be duped. Canada-based Leander, who recently came to Mumbai on a holiday, tells his story on one such website.

“When walking near the Gateway of India, I was approached by a good-looking guy – 6 ft tall, straight-looking, muscular. We had a drink and after an hour, he expressed a desire to come to my hotel room.

The moment he got there, he said he was a plainclothes policeman and was ‘on duty’ to catch tourists indulging in illegal activities. I got scared and ended up paying him Rs 17,000, my wrist watch and iPod.

“It didn’t end there. Next day, he started calling me up in my hotel and threatened me even more. I feared he would report me to the real cops and put me in trouble. I had to change my hotel to get rid of him.’’ Leander has now issued an advisory of sorts on his blog.

These blackmailers are even tech-savvy. They cruise chat rooms, make contacts, use decoys to fix meetings to exchange porn VCDs and then acting as ‘policemen’, grab the victim and extract what they can from him. Of course, nothing happens to the decoy.

Gay rights activist Ashok R Kavi says, “It’s sad that blackmailers and hustlers are now using people’s sexuality as a means of extortion. The victims are often non-confrontational. Most can’t report their trauma to cops either, as the police pounces on them and harasses them. Section 377 of the IPC criminalises physical relations against the law of nature. But there’s no clarity on how it applies to homosexuals. Such relations can also be there among hetrosexuals and married couples. These attacks emphasise the need to fight against criminalising consensual homosexuality.”

Senior lawyer Anand Grover, of the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS unit, says, “Blackmailers succeed simply because these gay men are too closeted to fight back. It’s this desire for secrecy and fear of being ousted that leaves gays open to grave security risks. The answer is to be more open as you can’t be arrested on the basis of your sexual orientation. Beyond that, there’s little refuge in law unless Section 377 is amended.”

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