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Campaigners protest against gay witchhunt in India

Campaigners protest against gay witchhunt in India

A series of ill-conceived reports by a local daily in India has harmed the cause of HIV intervention and gay rights and will force people deeper into closets of shame, a leading non-profit organization working in the area of gay and transgender sexual health has said.

The Humsafar Trust in Mumbai, India’s financial and film capital, led a protest on Monday against reports published by a Marathi language newspaper, Lokmat Amravati, portraying the gay community in a negative light.

Supporters and members of the LGBT community assembled before the police commissioner’s office in Amravati, the seventh largest city in the state, protesting against three reports that purportedly exposed the growing “gay culture” that was eroding Indian values by propagating western culture in which men indulged in “unnatural desires”.

The first report appeared on 11 August after what was described as a sting operation targeting places in the city known to be the meeting points of gay men.

The front-page article, titled “Amravati has become a den of homosexual activities”, cautioned that it was putting the younger generation in danger.

The two companion reports described homosexuals as being addicted to “this kind of sex”, adding that the culture had claimed almost 4,000 men in the city.

“In this curious world of gays we see men of all ages, from adolescents to old men, from the rich to the very poor, men who have become addicts to this kind of sex,” one of the reports said.

The paper alleged that police had raided the meeting points after the reports but couldn’t make any arrests.

Media reports said after the first article was published, the paper was contacted by a community-based organization, Samarpan Trust, which pointed out that such “homophobic” reports could create serious harm.

However, the reports continued with the writer claiming that the daily had received queries from people wanting to know how gays looked like and whether he was afraid while undertaking the assignments.

A section in the paper, Shower of Felicitations, claimed readers had congratulated it for highlighting the issue and the reports were being shared avidly on WhatsApp.

The reporter, also described as the editor of the paper, reportedly said neither he nor the paper were anti-gay but concerned with paid or unpaid sex in public.

Sonal Giani, advocacy officer at the Humsafar Trust, said, “The editor confuses sexuality with sex work and speaks about the LGBTIQ community in the most deplorable manner. This besides impacting HIV intervention would affect mindsets and push people deep into closets of shame.”

Though India’s Supreme Court decriminalized sex between men in 2009, homophobia still exists in conservative society, leading to discrimination and gay bashing.