Crown Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil is quietly optimistic about LGBTI equality in India.
‘India is definitely making progress’, he told Gay Star News. ‘But there are still people living in fear, living in the closet’, he said.
The prince is expecting the Supreme Court to overturn Section 377 of India’s Penal Code. The 1861 law prohibits ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal.’
He hopes the court will announce the decision this month (September). This is because one of the Supreme Court judges considering the case is expected to retire in October.
He described the battle for decriminalization, which has bounced between India’s courts for years, as a ‘dispute of humanity versus hypocrisy’.
‘The section is based on Victorian moralities, not Indian moralities’, the prince said. India has accepted LGBTI people for centuries, he argued. Same-sex copulation is depicted in the Kama Sutra and on ancient temples.
Section 377 ‘completely violates the human right to have the freedom to fall in love’, he said.
A larger purpose
Manvendra is the 39th direct descendant of the 650-year-old Gohil Dynasty Of Rajpipla in Gujarat State in western India. He is the most likely heir to Maharaja of Rajpipla.
The Crown Prince came out as gay in 2006 and was initially disowned by his family. He has since rose to be at the forefront of India’s push for LGBTI equality.
Last month, he launched an LGBTI course at a university. He hopes to open an LGBTI center on his palace grounds later this year.
US chat show host Oprah Winfrey invited him on to her talk show twice. Last year, he starred in an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
His achievements have earned back the respect of his family. ‘No other Indian royalty has appeared on these shows’, he said.
‘I tell my gay friends that if you want to be accepted by society, initially you may face resistance but, make them feel pride and they will see value in you’, he said.
But the Prince’s dedication has come at a personal cost. ‘I do feel lonely at times’, he told Gay Star News. It is difficult to date with such a busy schedule and he fears that potential lovers may have a vested interest.
‘I don’t mind sacrificing my private life’, he said. ‘It is for a larger purpose’.
The prince said a positive judgement on the Section 377 case would be the beginning of a ‘new battle’. ‘My fight for rights does not end here’, he said.
He acknowledged the strides made by India’s pride movement. Cities across the country now hold marches and festivals. Attendees are no longer afraid to show their faces and more and more allies are attending.
He welcomed the softening in stances of religious groups in India and urged the government to respect the Supreme Court’s decision.
But while India’s courts and cities are making progress, areas of India are still very conservative. ‘Gay rights cannot just be in the court room, but in the hearts and minds of the people.’ he said.
Eighty per cent of India’s gay men are married to women, he said. The prince firmly believes in reaching out to the non-community and informing them on LGBTI issues.
Thats why launched what he believes is the first university course in South Asia dedicated to LGBTI issues. He hopes to introduce the course to more universities and expose more Indian students to LGBTI issues.
For now, he has one message for India’s LGBT: ‘Accept yourself’. ‘Be proud of who you are and do not feel guilty. Be proud of your identity’.