Your Gay Guide to Mumbai

My last post listed down some of the gay pubs, cafes and spas and cruising spots in India’s capital Delhi. In this post, let me tell you about the various gay friendly places or things you must visit if you are visiting Mumbai.

Mumbai is called the economic capital of India. It is also where the Indian film industry Bollywood is located (yes, those movies with songs and dance are made here). Mumbai is also called as the city that never sleeps, because even late at night, the streets are bustling with people. The city also has a very active gay scene, thanks to years of activism. So what are the interesting places and gay hangouts that you could visit if you are visiting the city, let’s find out.

Parties : As in Delhi, the city hosts gay parties every weekend. There is no single club where the party is organsied every week. The venue keeps changing and is usually communicated through SMS or whatsapp. Salvation Star, Gay Bombay are some of the party organisers in the city.

The HIVE : The Hive, located in Khar West, often plays hosts to various queer events that are organised by Queer Ink every 2nd Sunday of the month. These events often have movie screenings, workshops, performances etc.

The Humsafar Trust : Humsafar Trust is among the oldest organisations to be working with the queer community. It also used to take out Bombay Dost Magazine, which was the first gay magazine of India back in the 90s. Humsafar Trust works on HIV/AIDS prevention among the LGBT community now, but also runs various queer focussed program. You can drop by their office at Santa Cruz.

Mumbai Local : In my Delhi post, I talked some of the cruising spots. In Mumbai, nothing is more cruisier than the local trains. Taken by millions of people every day for commute, the Mumbai local are packed to the brim always, and are often notorious for the cruising that happens inside. Imagine, hundreds of bodies pushed against each other, it’s natural that there will be action. The 2×2 compartment is well known for some hot action.

Gay Bombay : Gay Bombay, or GB, is the oldest organisation working for gay men in Mumbai. They organise various events for gay men in the city, including parties, health talks, outings etc. They are an unregistered organisation and do not have an office. You can check out their website for updates.

Kashish International Queer Film Festival : The Kashish Film Festival has emerged as a major event in the gay calendar of the city (apart from pride). Held in May, the film festival is billed as the largest South Asian film festival and often stretches over 5 days. If you are in the city during this time, join for some wonderful movies from around the world.

Pride March : Pride march in Mumbai, also called as the Queer Azaadi Mumbai, is held around end of January, and is often preceded by a month full of activities. If you are visiting the city in January, you will be in for a treat! Do check out their website for updates.

Sukhdeep Singh

Sukhdeep Singh is the Founding Editor of Gaylaxy magazine which is India’s largest English language LGBT magazine. He grew up in Kolkata, in a Sikh family and in a liberal atmosphere. While studying in college he launched Gaylaxy magazine in 2010, which is now also available as an App. His message to the world is: “Treat everyone equally, with love and dignity.”

Your Gay Guide to Delhi

So you are travelling to India? It is very likely that you will start your tour from Delhi, the capital of India. And if it is your first travel to India, be prepared for a culture shock in more ways than one. I had recently befriended a person online who was visiting from the UK. He said although he had assumed Delhi and India would be quite different, nothing had prepared him for the culture shock still. The noise, the chaotic traffic and the honking of cars takes some time getting used to!

But once you are here, there are several interesting gay spots and places that you can explore. But before moving to those, let me just quickly jot down some of the popular tourist spots that you must visit if you are in Delhi. You will probably also find them in any tourist guide map of the city – Lotus Temple, Jama Masjid (old Delhi), Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, Lodhi Gardens, Nizammudin Dargah (next to Humayun’s Tomb), India Gate, Delhi Haat, Bangla Sahib Gurudwara and Qutub Minar.

Coming back to the focus of this article, here’s your gay guide to the city:

Connaught Place: Located in the heart of Delhi, Connaught Place is a popular place that houses many restaurants, brands, cafes etc. The place is always swarming with people, especially on weekends. Palika Park, which is just above Palika Market parking, is also a popular meet up point for Delhi’s LGBT community. You will find the park teeming with gay people on Sunday evening, when many people descend to the park to meet friends and hang out.

Palika Bazar in Connaught Place, Delhi

Nehru Park: Nehru Park is a famous gay cruising area/park in Delhi once the sun sets. You will find many people cruising here in the evening, and the bushes and trees of the park give ample opportunities too. But beware of criminal gangs who are known to loot people.

Spa: Mykonos Spa is a famous gay spa in Delhi, that operates in Lado Sarai, close to Qutub Minar. They offer a variety of services, including spa, Steam bath, Dry Sauna, Jacuzzi, Gym, shower. They also offer accommodation and rent out rooms to guests. Check out their website for more. Apart from Mykonos, there are a couple of other gay spas like the G-Spa at Green Park. Their Saturday dark nights are pretty famous. Check out their website. You also have Mens-Spa (website) providing a host of services. Some other popular spas are Aarogya Health Care And Spa and Kalph Kaya Spa.

Chez Jerome G-Cafe – Located on the terrace of the building that houses Mykonos Spa, this is Delhi’s only LGBT cafe that is maintained by Sambhav Sharma and Jerome. You not only have some really friendly staff and great food and ambience, but also have a wonderful view of Qutub Minar. Sunset at the place is absolutely mesmerising. Check out their facebook page (and the pictures of the cafe below).

Chez Jerome Cafe
Chez Jerome Cafe, Delhi

Parties: Gay parties happen every Saturday, and is often hosted in some club in Connaught Place. Unlike Europe or America, there are no fixed gay bars in India, and information about these parties are often circulatd via SMS or Whatsapp. Kitty Su at The Lalit too hosts parties on Thursday.

In case you are worried about the legal status of homosexuality in India and the implications for you as a visitor, read this post of mine.

Sukhdeep Singh

Sukhdeep Singh is the Founding Editor of Gaylaxy magazine which is India’s largest English language LGBT magazine. He grew up in Kolkata, in a Sikh family and in a liberal atmosphere. While studying in college he launched Gaylaxy magazine in 2010, which is now also available as an App. His message to the world is: “Treat everyone equally, with love and dignity.”

Gay Sex Culture in India – Does it Exist?

Sex is a taboo topic in India, and any discussion around sex is usually hushed. Governments are still stuck on whether to allow sex-education in schools or not. All this, despite India being the land of Kamasutra, and a land where temples like Khajurao depict sex in a very open and unrestricted manner on its walls through carvings pointing to an era when sex was celebrated openly. In such an atmosphere, where (straight) sex itself is taboo, you can imagine the many barriers that discussions around gay sex exist.

But does the reluctance of people to talk about sex means people are not having sex, or there is no sex culture in India? Far from it. Remember, India did not reach a population of 1.2 Billion through test tube babies. However, what it does do is make it difficult to talk about ones desires openly, and throws everything underground.

With the many restrictions, both legal and social around gay sex, it is not surprising that a gay sex culture (as it exists in European countries) does not exist in India. There are no bear or leather clubs, or clubs or pubs around fetishes. India does not even have gay clubs or bars. No Nude beaches. You do have gay parties but they are organised in regular bars/clubs once or twice a week, and notified via SMS or through secret Facebook groups. Sex toys are in demand in India, yet they are sold mostly underground (or online). Individuals do enjoy BDSM, master-slave relations, kink etc., and these are mostly put up in the profile description of Grindr and Planetromeo. LGBTQ space in India is still too preoccupied with discussions around coming out and fighting the homophobic law – Section 377.

But how does it all affect you when you visit India? Well, to begin with, it means when you visit India, there is no single club or bar in any city that you can go to to explore the gay life. If you do not know any LGBTQ Indian before who could show you around, or pass on the information of parties to you, then grindr and planetromeo remain your best friend to connect with people and gather these information.

And how does a law like 377 affect you? Well, the law is mainly used as a tool of harassment and for extortion of money by criminal gangs or by police. The Section 377 is mostly applied in cases of rape and child sex abuse, and is seldom applied on gay men for having sex. For more details on how Section 377 affects you as a gay tourist, you can read this post that I wrote sometime ago.

The fact that you are a foreign national visiting India however apparently acts as a deterrent for the police, as the police would not want to get into the tangles of dealing with embassies and disturbing foreign relations of India with other countries.

 

Sukhdeep Singh

Sukhdeep Singh is the Founding Editor of Gaylaxy magazine which is India’s largest English language LGBT magazine. He grew up in Kolkata, in a Sikh family and in a liberal atmosphere. While studying in college he launched Gaylaxy magazine in 2010, which is now also available as an App. His message to the world is: “Treat everyone equally, with love and dignity.”

Queer Carnival in Delhi – A Celebration of LGBTQ Talent

Gaylaxy, India’s leading LGBTQ magazine, organised a Queer Carnival on 13th November in Delhi. November is the pride month in Delhi, India’s capital, and a number of pride related events are held in the month of November. The actual pride march will be held on Nov 27th.

The Queer Carnival too was part of this month long celebration of sexuality and diversity. The carnival provided a platform for people to showcase their talent. Gaylaxy has always believed in “empowering expressions” and has been doing that since the last 6 years through its online platform, where various people share their thoughts, personal stories etc. The Queer Carnival was an extension of the online to offline.

Calls for performances were given a month in advance, and we received a number of entries from various queer individuals. Entries were received for song, dance and poetry. The talent of the individuals simply stumped us!

The Carnival also had some interesting stalls for people to check out. For the first time in India, there was an Asexuality Awareness stall. There also was a stall by Kinkpin displaying some really quirky and fun products related to sexual health. Another stall by Posterwa selling feminist and queer posters. Paintings and pictures by queer artists too were on display.

Mr. Gay World India 2016 Anwesh Sahoo and Spicy Tutuboy, the artistic persona of Diniz Sanchez were the two wonderful hosts for the evening. Around 15 people performed at the carnival, including Abhina Aher – a transgender activist and founder of a transgender dancing group “Dancing Queens”. Held at Gulmohar Club, in the heart of a resident’s colony,  it was really heartening to see so many residents come to the event and express their support for the community and its people.

The Carnival not just provided a platform for people to showcase their talent, but also proved to be an important socialising space for queer individuals at a time when homosexuality remains deeply taboo in India and homosexual sex remains criminalised by law.

Some of the pictures on display at the Carnival
Some of the pictures on display at the Carnival
Spciy Tutuboy and Anwesh Sahoo (Mr. Gay World India 2016) - the two hosts of the evening
Spciy Tutuboy and Anwesh Sahoo (Mr. Gay World India 2016) – the two hosts of the evening
The Asexuality Awareness stall
The Asexuality Awareness stall
Kinkpin stall with sexual health products on display
Kinkpin stall with sexual health products on display
Mr. Gay World India 2016 singing a song
Mr. Gay World India 2016 singing a song
A painting on display
A painting on display
A dance performance
A dance performance
Poetry being recited by a young poet
Poetry being recited by a young poet
Soniya, an acid attack survivor, expressing her support for the LGBTQ community. Soniya faced acid attack in her teenage in 2000 and she remained on bed for 2.5years. When she started walking again she opened a small parlour at her home without getting any support from govt. and organization. Now it’s been 15 years of running that parlour at her home.
Soniya, an acid attack survivor, expressing her support for the LGBTQ community. Soniya faced acid attack in her teenage in 2000 and she remained on bed for 2.5years. When she started walking again she opened a small parlour at her home without getting any support from govt. and organization. Now it’s been 15 years of running that parlour at her home.
Trans activist Abheena Aher and a founding member of Dancing Queens group performing a dance
Trans activist Abheena Aher and a founding member of Dancing Queens group performing a dance
Audience at the Carnival
People enjoing the performances at the Carnival
Sukhdeep Singh

Sukhdeep Singh is the Founding Editor of Gaylaxy magazine which is India’s largest English language LGBT magazine. He grew up in Kolkata, in a Sikh family and in a liberal atmosphere. While studying in college he launched Gaylaxy magazine in 2010, which is now also available as an App. His message to the world is: “Treat everyone equally, with love and dignity.”

4 Ways To Pass Your Time When Stranded At a Station While Traveling

I was recently traveling to Dharamsala and McLeodGanj (the place where Dalai Lama resides), and while returning, I had 7 hours to kill as my train was at 12 in the night, and I was at the station around 5pm. But this was not something I was facing for the first time. I have often had situations where the train or bus or plane has been delayed, or I have arrived early for the same. And I think this is a very common situation one finds oneself in when one is traveling. So what does one do to pass the time? Here are some things that I usually do.

Check Out The Place : If your train/bus/plane has been delayed, or you have arrived early and you have a couple of hours in hand, it is always a good idea to check out that place. The area around a Bus or Train Station is usually pretty crowded and happening too, especially if it is a tourist place. There are a number of shops selling local handicrafts and goods. If you are a food lover, these places also have a lot of food joints and are a good option to try some local cuisines and delicacies. This is especially true in case of India. If you are in an airport lounge, you will find shops selling local handicrafts or other stuff unique to that place, and could be a good option to take back as souvenirs.

october_food

Make friends : In case you are stranded because your flight/train/bus has been delayed, it is a great opportunity to make new friends. A lot of people you meet in such situations are travellers, and this is a great way to bond with them and exchange tips etc. about other interesting places. If you are traveling to their city, they could host you as well and show you around. People you meet under such situations are often very friendly, and looking out for other travellers with whom they could bond, and may be you could plan your next trip with them! Also, life is full of opportunities, and who knows this could be a life long bonding. Remember the movie ‘Before Sunrise’, where the two lead actors meet during a train journey only to fall in love!

october_friends

Get on Grindr : So I don’t think I need to tell anyone about it, because the first thing that gay men usually do when visiting a new place is log on to grindr and change the name to “Visitor”( or “Visiting”). But apart from the humpty-dumpty stuff that you use grindr for, it could actually be a good way to meet people who could act as your local guide, or could help show you around. When I was visiting Agra (the city of Taj Mahal), I met a guy via grindr who showed me around and acted as my guide while visiting Taj Mahal!

october_grindr

Watch a Movie : Well, this is an old fashioned option that you have. You could watch a movie on your phone, or search for a cinema hall or multiplex nearby and catch the latest show. This is what I did during my recent trip to Dharamsala. I asked for the nearest theatre, and bought tickets for the movie that had just begun. It helped me pass  3hours (it was a 3 hour biopic!!) without getting bored.

Apart from these, you can always read a book, play crossword, sudoku, mobile games. Try and make the most of the time and place you are at. Also, would be lovely to hear from you as to what you do when you are under similar situations.

Sukhdeep Singh

Sukhdeep Singh is the Founding Editor of Gaylaxy magazine which is India’s largest English language LGBT magazine. He grew up in Kolkata, in a Sikh family and in a liberal atmosphere. While studying in college he launched Gaylaxy magazine in 2010, which is now also available as an App. His message to the world is: “Treat everyone equally, with love and dignity.”

5 Reasons Why People Love to Travel

1) To Explore a New Place : While not all of us can be Columbus, the spirit to travel the world and explore new places exist within all of us. If you are live in a city, countryside excites you, if you live in a small town, the fast paced life of a city brings you excitement. From the picturesque Himalayas and Alps, to the wonders of the world, there are too many places in the world that would steal your heart away and which would you like to experience for yourself.

august_koffer_header

2) To Run From Boredom/Relax :  This is one of the major reason why people travel – to take a “break”. This is true for those people who often have a stressful life, working a 9-to-6 shift at office or can barely find out time for themselves. Going on a trip to a far away land not only breaks the monotonocity of life, it can also provide you with time for your own self. Working in a corporate setup, I have found that it is not just me, but a lot of people around me travel because they feel that they “need a break”. Travelling helps them refresh themselves and de-stress. For couples, travelling often means a romantic getaway which helps make their relationship stronger.

august_2_relax

3) Experiencing a New Culture – This is another reason why many people love to travel. Getting to know another culture, its beliefs and traditions can be quite educating and at times humbling. Many people often travel to a different place or country to get to know different cultures. At times they even spend many days there to learn more about the culture. Many travellers from the West coming to India spend months in India to learn about the culture and traditions.

august_3_culture

4) For the local cuisine : For many people, especially the food buffs, food is a great motivator to travel. Each place is often also associated with food – like Switzerland for its chocolate, Italy for its cheese, India for its spices. Travelling gives a chance to experience a variety of finger licking food to suit your taste buds. It is often the kind of food you will never find at the place you live, no matter how good a restaurant you go to in your own city.

august_4_cusine

5) Adventure : Travelling in itself is a bit of adventure, but for the truly adventurous, it can mean going on treks in forests, climbing mountains, safaris in forests, or a bike trip across countries. The options are limitless, and the adrenaline rush it brings to you is priceless.

So what is your reason to travel?

Sukhdeep Singh

Sukhdeep Singh is the Founding Editor of Gaylaxy magazine which is India’s largest English language LGBT magazine. He grew up in Kolkata, in a Sikh family and in a liberal atmosphere. While studying in college he launched Gaylaxy magazine in 2010, which is now also available as an App. His message to the world is: “Treat everyone equally, with love and dignity.”

What’s Best – Traveling Solo or in Group ?

Traveling is a stress buster. It is also a good way to get to know different cultures, people and food. I often go on short trips to different parts of India whenever I am too stressed out of the fast paced city life. It not only bring you relief, but also acts as a reminder of how diverse and wonderful the world and human race is. But when it comes to exploring an unknown place, should you be doing it alone, or is the company of friends a better option?

There is no straight (pun intended) answer to this question. Many people prefer traveling in groups, while some like me prefer to go solo. Traveling to a far away land can be intimidating for some, plus being alone at an unfamiliar place can be boring as well. That is why many people prefer to travel with friends or family in larger groups. It also gives you more bargaining power with the travel companies, and a bigger group can bring down your travel cost as well. It also gives you a sense of security. Additionally, if you are traveling to some remote place or hill station where hiring a vehicle is the only way to travel around, being in a larger group really brings down the individual price for the trip as the cost gets divided amongst the members.

However, if you are someone who enjoys solitude and the thrill of being in an unknown place all alone by himself/herself, solo travel is the thing for you. When you are traveling solo, your survival instincts kick in. You no longer have the luxury of someone else taking care of your needs. You actually talk to the local people and get to explore the local culture because that is the only option for you to find out about things. When you are traveling in a group, you often restrict yourself to your guide, or remain confined among your group.

I have traveled to some of the remotest parts of India alone, with little knowledge of the language that is spoken there, and have been helped by the locals in various ways, be it with directions or getting accommodation, or with transport, and bowled over by their hospitality. I have hopped on to local taxi or buses, been helped by strangers when I got stranded, and made friends with a lot of them as well. These are experiences that you will often miss out when you are traveling in a group.

Me at Hampi in Karnataka
Me at Hampi in Karnataka

So how you should travel depends a lot on the kind of person you are and the kind of adventures that you are seeking. But even if you have always traveled with friends, solo travel is something you must explore, at least once in your lifetime.

Sukhdeep Singh

Sukhdeep Singh is the Founding Editor of Gaylaxy magazine which is India’s largest English language LGBT magazine. He grew up in Kolkata, in a Sikh family and in a liberal atmosphere. While studying in college he launched Gaylaxy magazine in 2010, which is now also available as an App. His message to the world is: “Treat everyone equally, with love and dignity.”

Orlando Shooting Proves Homophobia Remains A Worldwide Phenomenon

June is celebrated as Pride Month in US to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969. But this June was a tragic reminder of how vulnerable the LGBT community remains even in so called safe spaces when a gunman went about shooting people at a gay club called Pulse in Orlando, US. The exact motive of the gunman, identified as Omar Mateen, remains unclear, but homophobia surely was the driving force behind the attack that killed 49 people.

Omar’s father said that he had got agitated after seeing two men kiss, possibly pointing to his hatred towards the LGBT community as the motive. Then again, there have been claims by various gay men and his own wife that Omar was gay himself, leading some to believe that internalised homophobia might have driven him to this extreme step. Him owing allegiance to ISIS minutes before being killed further complicates the matter. ISIS has been know to murder homosexuals in gruesome manner in territory controlled by it. Whichever angle one looks at, homophobia remains at the centre of it.

orlando homophobia

The Orlando shooting comes within two months of another gruesome murder of LGBT activists in Bangladesh. The general notion is that LGBT community is vulnerable in countries with homophobic laws, or in third world countries, while the West is considered as much safer. But the Orlando incident shows that it is not just in Islamic or African countries where the LGBT community remains unsafe. Despite advances, LGBT community is vulnerable even in the West. Homophobia remains a cause of concern worldwide.

Despite all this, we must remember that we must not cower or hide back in the closet. We must win over people and their “phobias” by educating them, by being open and showing them that there is no basis of their hatred. Such attacks want to install fear in our minds. We must be resilient and defeat such people through our fearless actions.

Sukhdeep Singh

Sukhdeep Singh is the Founding Editor of Gaylaxy magazine which is India’s largest English language LGBT magazine. He grew up in Kolkata, in a Sikh family and in a liberal atmosphere. While studying in college he launched Gaylaxy magazine in 2010, which is now also available as an App. His message to the world is: “Treat everyone equally, with love and dignity.”

Travelling To India? These Cities Have a Vibrant Gay Culture

You probably already know by now that homosexuality is criminalised in India under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. However, the existence of a law hasn’t deterred the queer community in India in any way, and a vibrant gay culture exists in various Indian cities. Here are some of the best cities to be LGBT in India.

1) Mumbai – The economic capital of India and the centre of Indian movie industry Bollywood, Mumbai has one of the most vibrant queer cultures. There are regular gay meet-ups and gatherings being organised by Gay Bombay group where everything from movie screenings to cooking classes to  talks on relationships are held.  Apart from this, the city also has one of the largest LGBT film festival called Kashish that is held in May. It just concluded last week and Sir Ian McKellen had inaugurated it this year. The city also holds one of the largest pride marches in January and it is usually preceded by a month of pride activities.

2) Bengaluru – The Garden City of India, also called the Silicon Valley of India, is one of the friendliest cities of the country and hosts a weekly meet every Thursday at the Good As You Office where around 20-30 gay men usually meet and engage in friendly banter and discussion on various queer topics. I once took a friend of mine who was visiting from France to one of these meets. Apart from this, there is a Gay Runners And Breakfast (GRAB) group which, as the name suggests, is a runners group that runs around the famous Cubbon Park every Sunday and then meets for breakfast. Bengaluru too hosts a Film Festival in February, while pride is held in November end, and is preceded by a month of pride related events.

june_bengalore_gay_runners

3) Delhi – Unlike Mumbai and Bengaluru, the capital city does not have regular official meet ups being organised by any group. But that doesn’t stop the queer community from coming together. You can find the LGBT community thronging Pallika Park at Connaught Place every Sunday evening. People come there with friends, to meet friends, to make friends. Other events that are held are usually communicated through social media or via email lists. Delhi also holds one of the largest pride parades in India and it is held around November end.

4) Kolkata – The people of the city are as sweet as the Rosogullas (a sweet dish). Sappho for Equality and Pratyay Gender Trust hold a film festival around November, while Pride March is held in December

june_kolkata_gay_pride

5) Chennai – Pride in the city is held in June. The city also has a queer literature group that meets regularly.

And if you are more into parties, then all of these cities also have gay parties every weekend. Apart from these, there are other cities like Hyderabad and Pune that are making their presence felt on the queer calendar with the increasing activities being organised or held in these cities.

If you plan to visit India, or any of these cities, do explore the local LGBT scene as well.

Sukhdeep Singh

Sukhdeep Singh is the Founding Editor of Gaylaxy magazine which is India’s largest English language LGBT magazine. He grew up in Kolkata, in a Sikh family and in a liberal atmosphere. While studying in college he launched Gaylaxy magazine in 2010, which is now also available as an App. His message to the world is: “Treat everyone equally, with love and dignity.”

Section 377 & India : How Safe Is India for a Gay Tourist?

India is referred to as a sub-continent because of the varying weather, terrain, people and languages that you find in the country (well, actually the India sub-continent includes Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh too, but India is still no less of a sub-continent on its own). The country has 29 different states, each with its own distinct culture, language, food, sub-languages, dialects etc. The variety is so huge that if you move from one state to another, you might even be mistaken that you are in a different country!! During one of my own solo trips in South of India, I met two young German students who were stunned by the diversity they found in India and remarked that in Europe, you find a totally different culture and language only when you move from one country to another.

All this makes India an ideal travel destination for  a number of tourists. But India is also a country that criminalises anal and oral sex through Section 377 – a legacy of the times that Britain ruled over India. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalises “unnatural sex against the order of nature” and includes all non peno-vaginal sex. Although ideally the law should apply to straight people engaging in oral and anal sex, the law is widely perceived to be targeting LGBT people only. If convicted under this particular law, you could be sentenced to a maximum of life imprisonment.

However, the Indian LGBT community has been fighting this law in the courts for more than a decade now and met with success in 2009 when the Delhi High Court said that Section 377 should not apply for consensual sex. However this verdict was challenged in the Supreme Court by various religious groups, and the Supreme Court reversed the Delhi High Court judgement in Dec 2013 and re-criminalised anal and oral sex. Currently, the Supreme Court has agreed to re-examine its own verdict by a larger bench of five judges.

Section 377 in India has largely been a tool for the police to extort money from gay men at cruising spots and harass them by threatening to implicate them under Sec 377 if they do not pay them bribes. Recent crime data though shows that a number of cases were filed under Section 377 by the police, there is no distinction though if it was filed against LGBT people or in cases of child abuse (Section 377 is also often invoked in cases of child abuse).

Foreigners taking part in Delhi Queer Pride 2015
Foreigners taking part in Delhi Queer Pride 2015

Despite the existence of Section 377, more and more Indian cities are organising pride marches, LGBT film festivals, parties and other events. Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Bangalore see some of the largest pride marches of the country. There is a thriving LGBT culture in the larger cities, and people mingle and meet in parties, social events, and also via apps like grindr and planetromeo. A number of gay travel portals exist with a largely foreign clientele.

Apart from the legal front, socially, India is still a largely conservative country where public display of affection is generally frowned upon. But you will find a lot of homo-social behaviour which often stumps people visiting from West. Two men holding hands while walking on the road might imply they are gay in Western countries, but such a gesture holds no meaning in India.

India is a vast and beautiful country, a little chaotic may be, but definitely worth visiting. And when you make that trip, do check out the local LGBT scene as well.

Sukhdeep Singh

Sukhdeep Singh is the Founding Editor of Gaylaxy magazine which is India’s largest English language LGBT magazine. He grew up in Kolkata, in a Sikh family and in a liberal atmosphere. While studying in college he launched Gaylaxy magazine in 2010, which is now also available as an App. His message to the world is: “Treat everyone equally, with love and dignity.”