In a country where same sex relations are still illegal, the only openly gay prince in India is offering vulnerable, queer people a home.
Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, heir apparent to the throne of Rajpipla in western Gujarat state, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that he will make his palace available to people ostracized for their sexuality.
“People still face a lot of pressure from their families when they come out, being forced to marry, or thrown out of their homes,” Gohil said. “They often have nowhere to go, no means to support themselves.”
He added: “I am not going to have children, so I thought, why not use this space for a good purpose?”
Gohil is renovating and extending his palace to help house shunned LGBTQ people, including adding rooms, vocational skills training, and a medical facility.
Prince Gohil, 52, cited the difficulty of his own coming out experience in a small town in India.
When he first came out to his family, they almost immediately disowned him. Gohil’s mother even took out space in a local newspaper announcing their decision, and contacted medical practitioners to try to “fix” him, he told IBTimes.
“People lack knowledge,” he said. “Even educated people like my parents, who are both university graduates, weren’t educated on homosexuality.”
Over a decade later, the prince is still one of the largest advocates for LGBTQ rights in India. Gohil’s charity, Lakshya Trust, raises awareness about discrimination and safe-sex practices.
He said that with the law possibly being repealed, there needs to be options for LGBTQ people.
“Lifting the law will encourage more people to come out and live their lives freely,” Gohil told Reuters. “But it may also mean more people in need of support.”
Harish Iyer, a gay rights advocate, said Gohil’s status had helped boost the profile of India’s LGBTQ community.
“For him to be one of us, the stakes are even higher, so providing this space is a great gesture,” he said. “We are lucky to have many LGBT-friendly spaces in cities like Mumbai and Delhi. But in smaller towns, there are not so many places, and that is where they are most needed.”
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