Blackmail and abuse: Gay sex ban in India stirs violence

Mon Apr 6, 2015 8:40pm EDT
 
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By Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Rajan was followed by two men into a public toilet in Mumbai and forced to perform oral sex on them, the 31-year-old gay marketing professional realized this was the beginning of the end of his short-lived sexual freedom.

"They knew I was gay. They were watching me and waiting. They filmed the whole thing and threatened to tell the police," Rajan, who did not want to disclose his full name, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Then they took me to an ATM and made me withdraw all the money I had which was 15,000 rupees ($240)... Even though society has not fully accepted us, the law was there to protect us. But now we are scared."

Rajan is one of thousands of people from India's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT) who have faced persecution after the world's largest democracy in December 2013 reinstated a colonial-era law banning gay sex, say activists.

They are campaigning to reverse this ruling by the Supreme Court, arguing the reinstated law has led to a surge in reports of gangs, as well as the police, intimidating, harassing, raping, blackmailing and extorting money from LGBT people.

Gay sex is punishable by up to 10 years jail under this law.

"What is becoming increasingly common are gangs whose modus operandi is to befriend victims on gay dating sites, meet them in a hotel room, get them naked and take compromising pictures of them," said Sonal Giani, advocacy manager at the Humsafar Trust, a Mumbai-based charity which works for LGBT rights.

"These gangs threaten to report them to the police if they don't give them money. They often beat and sexually abuse the victims ... but the victims are so scared that they generally don't tell anyone."   Continued...