Guardian: Indian Americans Balance Family with LGBTQ
Comedian: Being Gay and Indian in America
India Declares: Freedom of Sexual Orientation is
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.
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
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.”
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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