MyWords | The rise and the fall of LGBT community in India

New Delhi: Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gender (LGBT) community during a Delhi Queen Pride 2015,  in New Delhi on Sunday. PTI Photo by Shahbaz Khan(PTI11_29_2015_000136a)

In 2009, adult consensual homosexual relations were decriminalised in the Indian Penal Code. This ruling by the Delhi High Court was seen as a landmark in the Indian gay rights movement. In December 2013, however, the reintroduction of Section 377 of the Indian penal code re-criminalised homosexual.

Homophobic attitudes persist in Indian society and the LGBT community faces discrimination from their families, employers, the police and society in general. There is some openness towards homosexuality in urban areas but it remains a taboo in rural areas.

Same-sex marriages are not recognised. However, there was one case of a court in Gurgaon, Haryana recognising a lesbian marriage in 2011.

Transgendered people are colloquially known as “hijras”. They have their own sub-culture within Indian society and live in communities organised around a guru who they consider to be a leader. Many members of the hijra community work as sex workers. They are a common sight and can be seen begging at busy junctions and in commercial areas.

There has been a rise of LGBT community in India in the past decade. And then again, the fall came. And now we’re left with some ultra uncomfortable truths about the community in India.

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1. It’s illegal — again.
In 2009, the Delhi High Court handed down a landmark ruling decriminalizing homosexual acts. The religious lobby immediately filed appeals and, in 2013, the India Supreme Court overturned this ruling, recriminalizing homosexual acts stating it was not the court’s job to review the constitutionality of acts passed by parliament. Absolutely ridiculous.
2. This has led to scams targeting gay guys, both local and foreign.

Grindr and similar apps are great for helping gay guys meet while maintaining discretion. However, this has led to a rise in blackmail scams targeting gay guys. They arrange to meet you, and once in a compromising position, someone else busts in to take a photograph. Threats of turning photos over to the police ensue. It’s two-on-one and they’ve got the pics. You either pay or get arrested.

3. Gay guys can’t do things a lot of straight guys do.

Like holding hands in public. Straight male friends often do this as a sign of closeness and friendship. But two gay guys would never risk it, for fear of the possibly violent reprisals.

4. Local guys dating foreigners are often considered to be prostitutes.

If either guy is less than absolutely masculine, it doesn’t matter how discreet you are in public, locals will still stare, heckle, and make you very uncomfortable.

5. Gay guys are forced by their families to marry women and have kids.

It’s a big deal to come out in India, clearly. A lot of families react by simply forcing their son to get married.

6. As a result, a lot of gay guys you’ll meet have at least a fiancé, possibly a wife and kids.

There’s a good chance they won’t mention it until after the fact. If they do, they may not understand why you have a problem with it, which is a really sad example of the state of affairs for gay people in India. And no, I’m not talking about the bisexual guys who are married.

7. There’s a lot of hypocrisy regarding the treatment of Trans people.

In India, transwomen (male to female) are known as hijras. They are treated as less than second-class citizens who seek out a living by begging on streets and on public transportation. Yet, they are also considered touched by the gods and are often invited to bless newborns — though this doesn’t mean that they get treated any better because of it.