Indian prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, the only openly gay royal in the world, has made it his personal mission to campaign for reform of India’s anti-LGBT laws.
Hailing from the state of Gujarat, Mr Gohil, who came out in 2006 recently announced plans to open his palace as a community centre for LGBT people.
Currently Indian law criminalises sexual acts between members of the same sex, but the Supreme Court of India has ordered the relevant legislation to be reviewed in 2018.
According to Gohil although social change in India had been slow, things have been improving for young gay, lesbian and transgender people in India, noting that there had been “a huge change” in the 11 years since he came out.
He added that parents were more accepting and media was also reporting positive stories, which said was” a very good thing”. According to Gohil, such support for the community from society, will help them “win our rights.”
Public Outcry On His Admission
Eleven years ago, Gohil’s admission of homosexuality drew violent public retaliation and media backlash.
Recalling the reactions, he said that the public had “revolted”, with his effigies being burned and demands made for him to be socially boycotted and stripped of his title. His parents , the king and queen, released public notices stating that they would like to disown him and publicly disinherit him from the ancestral property.
Gohil said that the negative response was not entirely unexpected, and attributed it to ignorance in the country. He has said that he doesn’t blame Indians for “their lack of understanding” and considers his duty as “an activist” to “educate these people about what is the facts.”
Palace To Be A Community Centre For LGBT
Gohil’s proposed palace community centre intends to offer clinical services along with financial support and skills training for LGBT youth to become financially independent from their families. It also aims to offer free safe-sex seminars to young gay and lesbian Indians around the country.
Gohil hopes that it will become a key part of a campaign to fight for what he calls are “rights” enshrined in the Indian constitution.
In Gohil’s opinion, the anti-LGBT law in India will change primarily because the law was not entirely Indian to begin with. He pointed out that homosexuality existed in the Indian society “since bygone eras.”
According to him institutional anti-LGBT attitudes are the relic of British colonial rule and the influence of other religions like Islam and Christianity.
Mended Relationship With Parents
After over a decade of coming out, Gohil said he had since mended his relationship with his father, the king. His father has expressed support for his son’s plans and was present at the launch of the LGBT community centre to lay a foundation stone.
Gohil noted that his parents had realised their mistake acknowledging that they had threatened disowning him only “under societal pressure.”