The situation for, and social acceptance of, male homosexuals [IND32120.E]

In India, although the Hindu religion does not forbid homosexuality (CJR Nov./Dec. 1992), it is a criminal act under the law (ibid.; India Abroad 5 Feb. 1999; Asiaweek 7 Aug. 1998). Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code imposes up to life imprisonment for an "unnatural" sexual act "against the order of nature" (India Abroad 5 Feb. 1999b; Asiaweek 7 Aug. 1998).

Although no consolidated statistical study on the gay population has been done in India, gay activists subscribe to the internationally-accepted figure of 5 per cent homosexuals in any given male population; in India this would work out to 1.3 crore (10 million) people (India Today 11 May 1998).

According to a 5 February 1999 India Abroad article, 99 per cent of India's homosexual community remains in the closet (India Abroad 5 Feb. 1999a; The Independent 20 Dec. 1998). Ashok Row Davi, a former Mumbai/ Bombay-based journalist and India's foremost vocal gay advocate (CJR Nov./Dec. 1992; India Abroad 5 Feb. 1999a), and Bhupen Kakkar, a 60-year old painter are but two Indians who have openly acknowledged their homosexuality; the vast majority remain quiet, submitting to family and societal pressures to marry and raise a family (India Abroad 5 Feb. 1999a; India Today 11 May 1998). According to Geeti Thadani, a prominent lesbian activist, "India is one of the worst countries in the world in terms of compulsory heterosexuality. ... The whole social culture is so embedded in getting married-children, the extended family, grandchildren-that if you reject that there is a whole policy of insidious exclusion" (The Independent 20 Dec. 1998). Swapan Dasgupta wrote in India Today that "...Homosexuality... was always an alternative to marriage and family, but never a socially acceptable solution" (ibid.). At Mumbai's KEM Hospital's sextology clinic, for example, large numbers of homosexual men come to "learn how to function in heterosexual relationships" (India Today 11 May 1998). In May 1998, India Today reported that although gay activists in India are "actively counselling urban homosexuals against marriage," advising those who are already married to stay faithful to the wife, and if that is impossible, then to come out of the closet, "homophobia is a reality and examples of discrimination a dime a dozen" (11 May 1998).

Due to social attitudes towards homosexuality, gays do not have the opportunities available to their sexual counterparts in North America to meet other gays and are, therefore, forced to resort to encounters in parks after dark (India Abroad 5 Feb. 1999a; India Today 11 May 1998), where they are "preyed upon by crooked policemen who threaten to book [them] unless they are paid off" (India Abroad 5 Feb. 1999a).

In the late 1980s India's only gay and lesbian publication Bombay Dost was launched as a sporadic underground newsletter, that came above ground as a quarterly in 1991 (CJR Nov./Dec. 1992). Ashok Row Kavi helped launch it (ibid.).

There exist a few support groups for homosexuals in India: (1) Hamsafar Trust, whose helpline receives an average of 80 calls a week, 75 per cent of them from homosexuals being pressured to marry, or married, or having problems (India Today 11 May 1998). In May 1998 Hamsafar Trust was planning to establish a support group for wives of homosexual husbands (ibid. 11 May 1998). The Delhi-based Campaign for Lesbian Rights (CLR) is a support group for homosexuals, lesbians and heterosexuals who feel that sexual discrimination is a violation of human rights (India Abroad 5 Feb. 1999b). In February 1997 Humrahi in Delhi was founded and its members reportedly meet regularly once a week (Humrahi n.d). Humrahi also has a counselling service and publishes an infrequent newsletter called Darpan (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Asiaweek [Hong Kong]. 7 August 1998. "Revolution by Stages; Things are Gradually Getting Better for Asia's Homosexuals-But Acceptance is Still a Long Way Off." (NEXIS)

Columbia Journalism Review (CJR). November/December 1992. Arthur J. Pais. "A Light in the Closet." [Internet] [Accessed 24 June 1999]

"Humrahi: Forum for Gays at New Delhi, India." n.d. [Internet] [Accessed 24 June 1999]

The Independent [London]. 20 December 1998. Peter Popham. "Film Breaks Silence of India's Lesbians." (NEXIS)

India Abroad [New York]. 5 February 1999. Arvind Kala. "Hidden Homosexuals: Fugitives in Their Own Land." [Internet] [Accessed 8 Feb. 1999]

_____. 5 February 1999b. Zarin Ahmad. "Controversial Film Brings Lesbians Out of the Closet." [Internet] [Accessed 8 Feb. 1999]

India Today [Delhi]. 11 May 1998. Vijay Hung Thapa et al. "Homosexuals: Sex, Lies, Agony and Matrimony." (NEXIS)