“I am moving to India with my partner and little sceptical about how people in India treat same-sex couples. I have been reading up on it and got mixed reactions. I’m not sure what to expect.”
The evolution of LGBTQ+ culture in India is slow but transpiring. The acceptance of the queer identity by the younger people in the country is increasing. Still, they often do not have the freedom to freely express their opinions and gender choices within the walls of their homes and communities.
Queer expat couples may be treated and seen with scepticism in various places and sometimes even compelled to be subtle about their sexual identity; this may vary from place to place. Some communities within urban India are more embracing of the LGBTQ+ community and have increased awareness because of the numerous online platforms that expose the various challenges faced by the community. While in rural India, far away from the Pride celebrations, are people who need to conceal their identity or run away from their families with no support or money to survive.
An essential aspect of living in India is not to jump to conclusions and perceptions. Indians are very affectionate, and people display open affection to the same sex, you will see them walking arm in arm or talking closely to one another and seemingly affectionate. Still, they are not gay and are not attempting to show sexual attraction for one another.
India’s Supreme Court in 2017 gave the LGBTQ+ community the freedom to express their sexuality freely and protected them under the Right to Privacy law. In 2018, they made homosexuality legal too. But despite this, legal laws have not been provided for anti-discrimination or same-sex marriage. There are also a few places which may not be welcoming of the LGBTQ+ community, and you must remember this while coming here. Some precautions must be taken as India remains to be an extremely traditional and conservative society.
It is advisable to refrain from any forms of public display of affection with your partner; this is true even for straight couples. While travelling, it is always advisable to stay at 4-5 star hotels as sexual identity is never really an issue amongst the hotel staff in such places. Maintaining slight modesty is crucial as India is a conservative country and not all sects of society are as aware and accepting as most urban locations.
While homosexuality is considered a taboo in many Indian communities even today, as the nation is evolving, the mindset is progressing too. Numerous people are coming out of their closets and embracing their sexuality, and in the process, helping their family and friends understand how being queer is not a crime and nothing to be ashamed of. The LGBTQ+ community has also formed support groups for people whose families and friends have not been supportive.
India’s societal values make being queer seem like a crime. What society needs is a good educational system to create awareness. The system needs to change from the root and become more accepting of people. As an expat moving here, it is necessary to understand that the culture is different and evolving and will take time to reach a level of complete acceptability but until then, it is crucial to be sensitive to the local community.