Wednesday, March 24, 2010

India: Where gays hide their pride

Some independent experts believe the (HIV infection) rate among Indian homosexuals is probably higher than 10 per cent. A recent study by staff at the Sion Hospital in Mumbai found 17 per cent of homosexual men and 68 per cent of transgender people surveyed were HIV positive.

via the Sydney Morning Herald, by Matt Wade

Sexual identity can be complicated in India, where few men are brave enough to call themselves gay, writes Matt Wade.

Ajay, another Andheri sex worker dressed in a tight pink shirt with ''playboy'' emblazoned across his shoulder blades, says he joined a recent gay pride march in Mumbai. But he does not identify strongly with the tag.

''Gay and homo are words wealthy and educated people use,'' he says. ''The people around here call us gur [raw sugar] or mitha [sweet].''

Young homosexual men in Mumbai often move between multiple city identities including sex worker, massage boy, student and even Bollywood film extra. But they may have a wife and family back in their village.

Kavi, an adviser with UNAIDS, has identified at least 13 distinct groups of men who have sex with men in India, apart from the gay community. This includes India's traditional Hijra, or transgender community; itinerant transport workers such as truck drivers; and aspiring male actors who flock to Bollywood each year in the hope of stardom. Male film extras have been identified as vulnerable to HIV infection because many sell sex in order to survive between acting jobs. They may also have to exchange sex for work.
Read the whole thing.

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