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Gay and accepted in Bangalore
Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore | February 19, 2008 09:08 IST
Ten years back, it would have been hell if ever you happened to mention the word 'gay' in Bangalore. However, now things are different and the trend is changing.
Chandan (name changed) says that he can today walk freely in Bangalore with his boyfriend. Eyebrows are raised, but the shock is less compared to what it used to be 10 years back, when he first came to the city in search of a job from Mumbai, he says.
From a solitary group known as 'As Good As You' for the gay community, the city has grown leaps and bounds in this department.
As of today there are at least 11 communities for homosexuals in Bangalore. Initially, there were just around 10 members in this community who used to meet every fortnight secretly.
Today there are several voluntary organisations such as Swabhava and Sangama working with the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community. These organisations claim that their membership has gone up at least five times in the past couple of years
These organisations organise rallies, dharnas and film festivals regularly in which awareness is created.
Such events help people who are confused come out in the open and share their feelings more openly says one of the workers at this NGO.
Sahaya, a helpline for the sexual minority, says that it receives at least 15 calls everyday. Says a worker at Sahaya, "The helpline aims at helping people who are confused about their sexuality. At Sahaya guidance is given to such people and help is offered to speak more openly about it.
Reasons: What exactly has changed in Bangalore? This used to be a city where boys never walked openly with their girlfriends fearing that they may get caught by their parents or relatives. There has been a constant change in the social fibre of the city, which has prompted people to come out more openly about their feelings. People are talking more openly about their sexual preferences and also meeting in the open.
"It is not a sin and we have been made to realise this through all the NGOs working for the betterment of our community. I do agree that Bangalore is opening up more compared to what it was 10 years back. The culture is more Western now and most of the people we find on the roads of Bangalore today are wearing an entirely new culture," says Raghu.
Raghu says their community must thank the modernisation of Bangalore due to the advent of the IT industry and the BPO culture.
These guys work in a very westernised set up and have a broader way of thinking. Constantly interacting with customers overseas have made them change their approach. They have started realising that the gay community does not comprise sinners. It is a way of life for some, they have also realised.
Sudhir (name changed) says that he was working at New Delhi three years back before he moved in Bangalore.
He says Bangalore is more open about homosexuality aspect and also adds that in New Delhi it still continues to be frowned upon.
He feels that Bangalore is a more tolerant city and nobody is going to punish you if you are gay.
He also adds that a city which is tolerant towards women automatically is more tolerant towards the gay community.
He also says that it was pretty touching to know that Bangalore has hosted Hijra Habbas (Hijra festivals). Such events help us come out in the open and discuss with other members regarding the kind the problems we face and how to cope with life, says Sudhir.
The Law: There is a growing misconception among the people that indulging in homosexuality is an offence. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code deals with punishment for unnatural sex. The law clearly states that the section would be applicable only if unnatural sex is forced upon someone. However, it would not be an offence if two consenting adults indulge in it.
The worry: Even as Bangalore comes to terms with its rising gay population there is now a growing concern of HIV among this community.
The HIV sentinel surveillance country report by National Aids Control Organisation and National Institute of Health and Family Welfare states that 19.2 per cent of the gay population in Bangalore is infected with HIV.
The figure in Pune is 23.6 per cent while in Mumbai and Chennai it is 7 and 4 per cent respectively.
There is a growing concern regarding this problem and if not taken care of immediately the only chance is that the numbers will grow in the coming years.
The NGOs say that awareness is being spread among the people, especially the illiterate class regarding the problem and they are hopeful that they would be able to get rid of this problem.