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Don’t repeal Section 377: Homosexuals August 18, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Online/New Media, Section 377, Times of India.
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Don’t repeal Section 377: Homosexuals – Times of India
1 Aug 2008, 1500 hrs IST, Vasundhara Sanger,TIMESOFINDIA.COM

MUMBAI: While the homosexuals in India have welcomed Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss’ statement seeking the removal of provisions in Section 377of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that classifies sex between two men as a criminal offence, they do not want the repeal of the section to protect the boy child from abuse.

Delhi based NGO Naz Foundation challenged arrests made under Section 377 and the Delhi High Court is hearing a petition by the Foundation.

Says, Nitin Karani, Board of Trustee of Mumbai based Humsafar Trust “Section 377 is applicable even to the heterosexuals, as it prohibits anal sex (even) between husband and wife. We are demanding that consensual sex in private between individuals not be considered illegal. But Section 377 is needed so that children are not abused. Hence, it should be read down but not abolished.”

The health ministry had supported the gay community’s call to remove the law but the home ministry was not in favour of it. “It’s nice to know people at the top level are speaking for us,” said Geeta Kumana of Mumbai based lesbian group Aanchal Trust. She was reacting to Ramadoss’ statement made on Friday at the 17th International Conference on Aids in Mexico City.

The gay and lesbian community is relieved that with immense pressure built over a period of time the government was waking up to the rights of the homosexuals in the country. However, they say the society as a whole is still to accept gays and lesbians in their fold. “When one speaks individually to parents and friends there is a conditional change and acceptance. But, when one starts agitating for rights in front of police, politician etc I find there is a huge homophobia; there is no acceptance,” rues Geeta.

A day after India’s 61st Independence Day on 16 August this year, a Queer Azaadi (Independence) March will be organised by the queer community (homosexuals, lesbians, transgender, bisexual and all those marginalised by society that labels them as ‘strange’) in Mumbai to state that while the rest of India had achieved independence from the British on 15 August1947, queer Indians were still bound by a British Raj law (Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, introduced in 1860) and Victorian puritanism.

The March aims to highlight issues that affect queer communities in India – Like Act that outlaws same-sex intercourse, forced marriage of homosexuals, harassment of queer community by using sec 377 against them etc. The closeted queer community, especially in small towns, hopes to gain visibility for their cause through this rally. Leading gays and lesbian rights group Humsafar Trust and Aanchal Trust are in the forefront of the three hours March that will start from August Kranti Maidan and end at Girgaum Chowpatty in south Mumbai.

In June this year, gays in Delhi, for the first time, marched through the heart of the city proclaiming their sexuality. The homosexual community gradually seems to be coming out in the open in India


Gay activists in India want British apology August 18, 2008

Posted by qmediawatch in English, Gay.
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From The Independent

By Jerome Taylor
Saturday, 16 August 2008

First it was slavery, then it was looting the world’s architectural treasures for our museums. Now it is homophobia.


Activists in India are about to demand another apology from Britain. Sixty-six years after Mahatma Gandhi called on the British to leave India from a park in Mumbai, thousands of gay activists will gather in the same park today to call on the British Government to apologise for introducing anti-sodomy laws that still make homosexuality illegal in India today.

Their call will be issued during the first gay pride march in Mumbai for three years and is part of a wider campaign to abolish Section 377 of the Indian penal code which outlaws “unnatural sexual offences” and theoretically punishes anal or oral sex with up to 10 years in prison. In practice no one has been prosecuted under the law in the past two decades but it has been used by officials to counter the work of HIV activists in some Indian states.

Gay rights campaigners also argue that because Section 377 enshrines homophobia in India’s legal systems it also legitimises the continued repression of gay men and women in wider Indian society.

A draft copy of the statement seen by The Independent accuses Britain of exporting homophobia during the 19th century when colonial administrators began enforcing Victorian laws and morals on their Indian subjects. It reads: “We call on the British Government to apologise for the immense suffering that has resulted from their imposition of Section 377. And we call on the Indian government to abandon this abhorrent alien legacy of the Raj that should have left our shores when the British did.”

Gay rights activists argue that Hindu, Buddhist and early Muslim cultures on the subcontinent had a long history of tolerance towards same-sex relationships.

Mumbai Pride / Queer Azadi march related links August 18, 2008

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’68 pages’ portraying life, love & hope August 14, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, HIV, Marginalization, Times of India.

’68 pages’ portraying life, love & hope (Times of India)

27 Jul 2008, 0319 hrs IST, Snehlata Shrivastav,TNN

NAGPUR: ” Dard se umeed janam leti hein, aur umeed se pyar, bas yahi sach hein, ek bar phir dard se umeed janam legi “. “Hope blooms from pain and this time too, pain will give birth to a new hope” was the message that the ninety minute film ’68 pages” wanted to convey to the society at large and the HIV positive people in particular.

Yes, the film has managed to convey the message of ‘never lose hope’ to its targeted audience and also to the common man. But life is much beyond the film, which the film probably could not convey. The film appeared too simplistic for ground realities yet could aptly convey the real life stories of five HIV positive people, played by Kiran and Mohit, a gay couple, Payal and Shetty, a commercial sex worker and her customer, Nishit, a drug abuser and his girl friend, and Nathu, a sanitary worker. The heroine of the film, Mansi, a counsellor’, who writes the stories of her clients in a diary in 68 pages and around whom the stories of HIV positive people are intricately woven, has successfully narrated the story.

Since it is also the story of people who the ‘society’ does not recognise as normal, who cannot belong to them, but are very much a part of the society in reality, the film is different from other HIV/AIDS commercial films. It conveys the basic message that HIIV positive people too have right to love – ‘Pyar to sab ko mangtai hein’.

The story begins with ‘Umaro’ a bar dancer who’s earnings support a family of three and goes down to depict lives of all other HIV positive characters simultaneously through a well knit series of events in their lives.

Umrao is playing ‘self’ in the bar, as in reality she feels like a woman but at her home she is Umesh, the lone bread earner ‘man’ of the family and for society is a ‘ kinnar ‘ or a transsexual.

The film depicts the stark realities of life as she lives it in the film. Umrao gets infected with the HIV virus while having sex with a trucker after losing her job as a bar dancer. She is forced to continue earning her living selling her body for her family. The film ends with all the five HIV positive people seeing the counsellor together before she leaves for further studies in US depicting that life does not stop for anyone while the others too continue to live their lives with hope.

With arts and films, Delhi’s gay celebrate Nigah Queer Fest August 10, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, LGBT, Online/New Media.
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With arts and films, Delhi’s gay celebrate Nigah Queer Fest (Yahoo!, IANS story)

Sun, Aug 10 06:43 PM

New Delhi, Aug 10 (IANS) With roses in their hands and banners voicing their angst against the law which makes homosexuality a crime in India, Delhi’s gay community will celebrate the 16th anniversary of its first public protest Monday.

Coming a month after the city’s first gay parade, which was a huge success attracting more than 500 people, the celebration will be part of a 10-day art-film-photography festival, which culminates Aug 17.

The Nigah Queer Fest, as the festival is called, is in its second year and, as activist Gautam Bhan puts it, is ‘bigger and better’ than last year.

‘We had so many entries from around the world for the film screening section that we didn’t know which to reject,’ Bhan told IANS.

Skimming through the entries, the organisers finally zeroed in on 47 films which have been screened over the weekend. And the films, in languages varying from Spanish and German to English and Tamil, are as varied culturally as they can be, but with a common message.

One of the films, ‘Jihad for love’, is a daring documentary filmed in 12 countries and in nine languages. The film explores the complex global intersections between Islam and homosexuality.

Then there is an art festival showing a variety of moods of the queer community. Panel discussions on topics such as Visualising Sexuality and performance nights, throwing open ideas on how to use creative mediums like arts or photography to express one’s sexuality, are also part of the parcel.

Monday, however, will be even more special for the community since it is on this day 16 years ago that the city saw the first queer protest out in the open.

Gay rights activists, human rights activists and those working on issues of HIV/AIDS led the protest against police arrests of several gay men walking in the open in the Central Park in Connaught Place in the heart of Delhi.

‘It was our Stonewall,’ said Bhan, referring to the a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations against a police raid that took place in the early morning of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.

The protest marked the first instance in American history when gays and lesbians came out against a government-sponsored system that persecuted homosexuals, and it has become the seminal event marking the gay rights movement in the US and around the world.

‘On this day we will have panel discussions and remember our historical past and have talks,’ Bhan added.

Why gay web designer decided to ‘out’ himself August 10, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Gay, Online/New Media.
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Why gay web designer decided to ‘out’ himself (The Times, Africa)

By Subashni Naidoo, Published:Aug 10, 2008

A Gauteng web designer has decided to break his silence about his homosexuality.

Naufal Khan, 27 of Sandton — the brains behind the Gay Desi section of the Indian lifestyle website http://www.indianspice.co.za — said his decision had been prompted by “overwhelming support” for gay and lesbian people worldwide.

Despite coming out of the closet, Khan says he hasn’t been able to utter the words “I am gay” to his parents.

“I think it would be too much for them to handle. Rather let it be unofficial, like every other Indian family. My mom knows I am gay, but my dad is not very accepting, nor are any of my family members,” he said.

“Being Indian was the first hurdle. The second was being Muslim. I really did not want the mullah factory on my heels, trying to make me see the light that my ‘affliction’ was curable.”

He urged the Muslim community and organisations to be more open-minded and welcoming to homosexuals.

“I find it sad that a few friends that I know are receiving counselling from moulanas about being gay. How about telling them that it’s okay and you will be fine?

“My cousin nearly choked on his meal when I told him I’m gay.”

He said his cousin’s response was: “I don’t agree with it, and Islam doesn’t as well.”

He said he had been inspired to “out” himself after reading Irshad Manji’s book The Trouble with Islam Today.

“I read it and I realised I could make a significant change to my life. I engaged in dialogue through the website, and the outcome was positive.

“In the past, the forced silence among homosexuals has led many to forgo coming out and opt for unhappy marriages instead. But the newer generation have been less silent and more proactive about their identity.”

Khan is in a monogamous relationship with his partner, Michael Rodrigues, who he says has been a pillar of strength through “many persecutions” by the Indian community.

“I still visit the mosque, I attend services at the Melrose temple, and I attend church as well with Michael. My thing is that God does not have a problem with me, so why should anyone else choose to treat me and fellow gay men and women differently.”

Delhi’s gay community celebrates art festival August 10, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Gay & Lesbian, Online/New Media, Sexuality & Gender.
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Delhi’s gay community celebrates art festival

New Delhi: A month after the success of the first ever ‘Gay Pride Parade’ in the Capital, the gay community is all set to begin the second edition of the festival – which is a 10 day celebration of their sexuality.

The festival is a space for the gay community to express themselves through art, and many feel it’s a positive progressive step.

“The parade march was not just about protesting but also celebrating, the fact that we are out there and this city and country belongs to us too,” says gay activist Priya.

“This is a positive way of showcasing homosexuals and bisexuals. The pictures and films about bisexuals, homosexuals showcase them in a positive light, instead of discriminating them,” she adds.

The festival is spread across several venues in Delhi, and it showcases films, art, photography, and weaves it in with parties, talks and community centred workshops.

Also featuring in the festival are 47 films on issues of gender and sexuality in 12 languages from around the world.

“This fest therefore becomes important to initiate those discussions and bring in a forum where people can come together and watch these films,” explains director, Flying inside my body, Rintu Thomas.

Also on display is German photographer, Verena Jaekel’s work titled ‘Queer Families’. Which comes at a time when the debate on gay couples adopting children is still new.

“It’s a start here in India, and I think it’s a pretty good start. It will be great to have a lot of people see the stuff to open their mind and see new things,” says Jaekel.

Meanwhile, as the debate on alternate sexuality rages on, coming out of the closet might still not be an alternative for many in India. However, festivals like these not only provide a platform for people to voice their opinions, but also show a significant shift in India’s urban culture.

Queer Azadi, Mumbai Ishtyle August 10, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Online/New Media, Pride 2008 - Mumbai.
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Queer Azadi, Mumbai Ishtyle (Sakshi Juneja’s blog, ‘To Each Its Own’)

Why didn’t Mumbai have the Pride march when the other three metro cities were having it?

Well, on June 29 Delhi, Calcutta and Bangalore had their Rainbow marches, and as a commentor on my previous post pointed out (Thanks for the info, Sachin), Mumbai is having one too. For those of you who’ve just come in, the Pride is a march taken out by the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual) or, in short, the Queer community to protest their marginalisation in our hetero-centric society.

However, Mumbai did not have the Pride march the same day as it was happening in other cities (a first for Delhi) in India, not to mention across the globe. And I thought to myself:


2.Didn’t this show a disturbing lack of solidarity by the Mumbai queer community for their counterparts in the rest of country?

3.Was it just the lack of organisation?


4.Now that we’re having one, I’m curious, why adopt a different name ‘QueerAzadi’?

I posed these questions to two prominent LGBT activists, Ashok Row Kavi (UNAIDS, Humsafar) and Geeta Kumana (INFOSEM), who are also part of the organising commitee of the upcoming march.

The whole point of having the march on the 16th of August, they said, is to show that even while our country may have got independence from the British, we’re still not free of the laws created and instituted by them- most notably section 377 of the IPC that criminalises homosexuality. That apart, they also wanted to strike a note closer home by connecting queer freedom to our own context, whereas the marches that took place in June followed the tradition of commemorating the Stonewall Riots that took place in New York on June 28, 1969.

Still, what about the show of unity that having the march the same day as the other three cities would have meant?

Kavi called it a case of having one’s cake and eating it too. “Lots of guys from Bombay were at all three marches, so what’s this about us not participating? It’s just that I think we wanted to do this a bit differently. And no, why CAN’T we be different? This way we can have our cake (go for any of the other three marches) and also have our own where other cities can participate. This time we have large contingents coming from Pune, Surat, Baroda, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Kolkata.”

Kumana insisted that it wasn’t an organiser problem at all. As a matter of fact, if you visit Queer Azadi, a detailed coverage of the meeting is available for all to see.

As Kavi pointed out, “Sure there are class, community and other differences. At least Bombay handles it honestly. I know there are diferences in Kolkata, Delhi and Bangalore too and they flare up quite frequently on the Net. Here we sit down and thrash them out across the table. There is a saying in Hindi -when there are so many vessels close together, they do make noise.”

And finally, as for the different name, here’s what he had to say about it. “Come on, Bombay is DIFFERENT! It is the most corporate and business like of all Indian cities. Do you think any other city would have thought of pink Gandhi topis for the march? It also shows India’s pluralism.”

So there, questions answered. Now it’s time to do the do and show some pride.

In case you too are interested in showing support, here’s where you go:

Assembly on August 16 at August Kranti Maidan at 3.30 pm. The march will leave for Girgaum Chowpatty at 4 pm.

Main issues for protest:

*Section 377, anti-sodomy laws: Quit India
*Forced marriages of gays and lesbians
*Constitutional provision to fight sexual and gender discrimination
*End homo- and transphobia, in educational institutions, workplaces, families.

Global AIDS prevention gives short shrift to gays August 10, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, HIV.
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Global AIDS prevention gives short shrift to gays – Associated Press


MEXICO CITY (AP) — Jorge Saavedra’s moment of truth came in the middle of an impassioned speech to 5,000 people about the paltry amount of money being spent to stop the spread of AIDS among gay men.

The Mexican federal official paused, then said publicly for the first time that he was gay.

As he held up a photo of himself with his partner, the crowd applauded wildly. Afterward, men from Africa and India congratulated him with tears in their eyes.

“They told me that I was a hero, and that they wished they could do the same in their countries,” said Saavedra, who is infected with HIV and also heads the AIDS prevention program in a country where many gay men live in denial.

Saavedra’s coming out on Tuesday at the International AIDS Conference sent a powerful message to the world: Homophobia must be stamped out if AIDS is to be controlled.

Fewer people are dying from AIDS, but new HIV infections among gay and bisexual men in many countries are rising at alarming rates.

Yet less than 1 percent of the $669 million reported in global prevention spending targets men who have sex with men, according to UNAIDS figures from 2006, the latest available data.

UNAIDS says these men receive the lowest coverage of HIV prevention services of any at-risk population. And experts say discrimination has driven gay and bisexual men in developing nations underground — turning them into one of the epidemic’s hardest groups to reach. From Mexico to India, a surprising number of men who have sex with men insist they are not gay, and in many countries, governments still refuse to admit homosexuality exists.

“It’s very difficult to provide services to men who have sex with men in countries that don’t acknowledge they exist or criminalize them if they do exist,” said Craig McClure, executive director of International AIDS Society, which organized the conference.

In 86 nations, homosexual sex is considered a crime, and in seven countries it is punishable by death, according to the Foundation for AIDS Research, known as Amfar.

During the conference’s inauguration, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged nations “to follow Mexico’s bold example and pass laws against homophobia.”

In 2003, Mexico banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, and it has opened what it calls homophobic-free health clinics. The government has a national campaign that includes radio spots with mothers accepting their gay sons. Saavedra’s program has earmarked 10 percent of its $12 million budget toward prevention among gay and bisexual men.

Worldwide, few developing nations check the rates of HIV infection among men who have sex with men, but researchers who have surveyed some of these countries say they are finding the rates are nearly twice that of the general adult population.

“This fight needs to be driven by epidemiologists” who urge making this high-risk group a priority, not only for the human rights argument, but for the public health argument, said Chris Beyrer, director of the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at Johns Hopkins University. “It’s a virus so you need to put the money where the virus is.”

Gay and bisexual men are 19 times more likely to become infected with HIV than the general adult population, according to Amfar, which collected data on these men in 128 countries. In Mexico, this group is 109 times more likely to acquire HIV. To date, 57 percent of the HIV diagnoses in Mexico are from unprotected sex between men.

Thailand is seeing “an emerging epidemic of really unbelievable proportions” among its gay and bisexual men after being held up as an example for its success with a massive condom campaign that curbed HIV’s spread among sex workers, drug users and migrants, said Kevin Frost, Amfar’s chief executive officer.

Prevalence of HIV among gay and bisexual Thai men was more than 15 percent this year compared to 1.4 percent for the general adult population, according to Amfar. Frost said the country’s prevention programs ignored one of its most vulnerable groups.

“These men believed they were not at risk because they were not having sex with sex workers or women, which is what the campaign focused on,” Frost said. “That scenario is being played out across the developing world.”

Complicating matters is that in countries from Latin America to Southeast Asia, many men who have sex with men, insist they are not gay. More than 30 percent of Latin American men who reported having sex with men said they also had unprotected sex with women, according to UNAIDS. Many are married.

“Everybody knows somebody like that,” Saavedra, 48, said. “Instead of saying they are gay, it’s easier for them to justify their behavior. They say they were drunk and they were really sexually excited and willing to have sex with whomever.”

Some have beaten up transvestites after having sex with them because they are ashamed of themselves, experts say.

Even governments deny these men exist. Last year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at Columbia University in New York, “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country.”

In Malawi, that country’s first organization working on behalf of gay men was created in 2006 with the backing of World Bank officials and other international agencies.

Called the Centre for the Development of People, the group surveyed 100 gay men about discrimination to prove to the government that such men existed in Malawi. Homosexual sex is punishable up to 14 years in prison in the African country.

The organization also found through testing 200 gay men that about 21 percent carried HIV compared with 12 percent for the general adult population.

“This means that we are not moving ahead with the fight against AIDS,” said Gift Trapence, the organization’s director who has received e-mails threatening hanging.

AIDS activists say they avoid using words like “homosexual” or “gay” and instead use the label “men who have sex with men,” or MSM, so their work is not impeded by the stigma.

Ashok Row Kavi said he has learned the importance of carefully choosing his words in India, where he started one of the country’s first organizations to work with gay and bisexual men.

The Humsafar Trust found nearly 14 percent of the gay and bisexual men it surveyed in 1999 were infected with HIV. Kavi said when he told India’s AIDS officials they “totally panicked because until now they believed these men did not exist.”

But last year they added a definition of men who have sex with men to their health planning program to start prevention campaigns. The definition includes married men.

Kavi has been training health workers how to ask men if they have had gay sex and not scare them away.

“I tell them to say things like, ‘There are many cultures where men are very close to men. Are you one of these men?'” he said. “These questions have to be sensitive,” especially in India, where sodomy is illegal.

“That’s why the word homosexual is not used,” he said. “If anyone asks a man that, he will slap you.”


UNAIDS: http://www.unaids.org/en

Gay ‘Indian prince’ charms Sweden! August 8, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in dnaindia, English, Personality.
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Gay ‘Indian prince’ charms Sweden! (DNA)


Sunday, August 03, 2008  19:43 IST

STOCKHOLM: He has become Sweden’s charming “Indian prince” in just a few days. And erstwhile royal Manvendra Singh Gohil, who is unabashedly gay, returns the compliment, thrilled as he is by the openness of Swedish society.

Manvendra, the scion of the erstwhile royal family of Rajpipla in Gujarat, is here as a guest of honour of Sweden’s annual gay parade, StockholmPride, which this year hosted the annually rotating EuroPride.

Believed to be the only erstwhile Indian royal who is openly homosexual, Manvendra has worked magic on gay as well as straight Swedish audiences, a la Hollywood celebrity.

“I had been told fabulous legends of a prince-charming since my cradle days, but I never thought I would ever behold one in flesh. Manvendra is truly charming,” said Elin Nordh, a 34-year-old bisexual mother of two sons, who is very devoted to gay causes.

“Had he been a frog and I had caught him, I would have taken good care never to de-metamorphose him with a kiss!”

Princely charms aside, Manvendra is breaking fresh ground in promoting the interests of gays globally.

In a conference chamber in Stockholm’s regal Grand Hotel, the mild-mannered Manvendra told IANS: “If the gay movement needs a paradise, Sweden is the place, the veritable Valhalla.

“Here, I have seen the incredible: members of the parliament, cabinet and people from socio-religio-political spheres, replete with multi-gender proclivities, hobnob without the blinking of an eye.”

The StockhomPride, a 10-day event ending Sunday, was a unique combination of politics and partying. This year’s theme was “Swedish Sin, Breaking Borders”, with the focus going beyond the Swedish borders on the situation for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people.

“In India, the hypocrisy and, worse, the cowardice is nauseating. In our parliament and state legislatures, homosexuality is, and has always been, rampant,” said Manvendra.

“But when we (the gay movement) strive to overturn a senseless law, will any single one of these stand up and support the proposal?”

“The draconian IPC section 377 (making homosexuality a crime) has no bearing on the reality of our times, leave alone the times when it was imposed upon an unsuspecting public. Unsuspecting because the illiterate masses were attuned to following official diktats without a word, and those who could understand were too cowardly to raise a voice,” said Manvendra.

When asked what could be done, Manvendra mischievously pointed to the many Swedes swooning over him and said: “Get our presence felt in the legislatures of India, starting with the Rajya Sabha, Lok Sabha, the state legislatures and down the line.”

Asked how a homosexual candidate could possibly be fielded in a sexually prejudiced society, he said with a twinkle in his eye: “There are ways to go about it. Get yourself elected and then show the rainbow colours (the gay plumage)! But we would never wish to hide behind subterfuge.”

Manvedra himself has been approached several times to stand as a political candidate. “Caring people like K. Sujata Rao, (director-general of India’s AIDS body NACO) have urged me, but I have not yet felt ready to abandon the field work I an engaged in fulltime.

“I am all for representation for our harassed community. Mind you, it is by no means a minority community. Our sheer volume and weight can, and will be, effectively harnessed as our community inexorably makes itself seen, heard and felt.”

Incidentally, the Indian capital fielded its first gay pride event in June.

“Also I feel that others, like my most revered mentor and friend, the most heroically outspoken champion of gay rights in India, Ashok Row Kavi, merit the order of precedence,” explains Manvendra. “With his social clout he could flush out many a crypto gay parliamentarian and assorted establishment icons into open.”