Why do you think so many people stand in the way of LGBT+ rights? 

It’s the hypocrisy which comes in way of accepting and understanding LGBT rights. I don’t blame the homophobic people but their ignorance on this subject and it’s the duty of activists and allies to educate and aware these individuals.

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil 

Interviewed by Amar Singh

There has been significant change in the rights. However, it’s gradual and different in each State depending upon the political situation and socio cultural issues in the regions. 

Two years on from India’s historic verdict to abolish the section 377 penal code how do you feel about the state of LGBT+ rights in India?

I think we need to go step by step. First priority was to ascertain and ensure the guaranteed fundamental rights to the LGBT community which was deprived by Sec 377. The next step is to see the dissemination and the practical implementation of the judgement in the mainstream society. It’s only after sufficient percentage of the society is able to change the mindset towards support and acceptance of the LGBT community, then the next step would be advocating for same sex marriage and adoption rights. According to me it’s too early to fight for these rights.

How do you feel that India still does not allow same sex marriage, same sex adoption and has not outlawed LGBT+ conversion therapy centres?

How do you feel that India still does not allow same sex marriage, same sex adoption and has not outlawed LGBT+ conversion therapy centres?

I think we need to go step by step. First priority was to ascertain and ensure the guaranteed fundamental rights to the LGBT community which was deprived by Sec 377. The next step is to see the dissemination and the practical implementation of the judgement in the mainstream society. It’s only after sufficient percentage of the society is able to change the mindset towards support and acceptance of the LGBT community, then the next step would be advocating for same sex marriage and adoption rights. According to me it’s too early to fight for these rights.

The most difficult situation I encountered was hatred and anger towards me as a person who is being discriminated for speaking the truth because people are not used to listening to truth and that’s why it is said that truth is always bitter. More than anything the homophobic behaviour came from those who respected me and treated me as an icon or role model before I publicly came out because that’s the respect I got belonging to the royal family and heir apparent to the throne of Rajpipla.

When you came out as gay, it is well known you received threats and people were even burning images of you outside your palace, what was the most difficult situation you encountered once you came out? 

The defining moment was the first invitation by Oprah Winfrey in Oct 2007 which came as a turning point in my life. It not only helped me to change the mindsets of homophobic and bigoted indians but it also gave me an opportunity to connect with the world due to the popularity of Oprah resulting in invitations coming from across globe.

What was a defining moment in your journey as an LGBT+ rights activist?

Yes I definitely see a bright future for India because fortunately our students and youth population which is largest in the world is very much interested to know more about us and are more aware due to the exposure through social media. The youth are the future of our country for that matter the future of any culture and if we are able to mould them with the right information then I see a bright and positive future citizens for our country.

Do you believe we can see true equality across India in our lifetime?

Can you tell us a little bit about your foundation, Lakshya Trust?

LAKSHYA trust founded in the Gujarat State 20 years ago by me with the help of friends was a result of the government wanting to partner with us for HIV prevention and awareness amongst the vulnerable population which is Men having sex with Men and Transgenders. We have moved beyond HIV to work for mental health, aging issues, issues of wives of gay men, special focus on transgender issues specially Hijra Community, HIV testing and treatment, domestic violence against all women, etc. Currently the Trust is focusing on developing a LGBTQA Community campus for the social and financial empowerment of the community.

What is one message you would send to LGBT+ activists around the world?

Message for LGBT activists is that education and awareness should be the focus to create more and more Allies which will help us mainstream our issues in the society.

The positive verdict didn’t come as a surprise but it is interesting to know that the entire bench of judges were on the same page and the decision was unanimous. The judgement was very clear that homosexual relations are justified based on rights guaranteed by The Indian Constitution and that this judgement is irreversible and no parliament of India can challenge it, thus making judiciary independent of legislation.

On September 6th 2018 what did it mean to you deep down for homosexual relations to be legalised? 

LGBT conversion therapy centres should be declared illegal since now even the Indian Psychiatric Association has stated that Homosexuality is not a mental disorder. It’s inhuman to put the LGBT community through torture and trauma by forcing them to undergo conversion therapy. 

What is your personal experience with LGBT+ conversion therapy centres?