This Indian Prince Opened A Palace Refuge For Vulnerable LGBTQ People

by Sarah C. Epstein


In the same week that President Shithole tried (and failed) to negotiate a racist and bigoted immigration plan in an Oval Office meeting, an actually decent political figure decided to open his doors to LGBTQ folks in need. As reported by NPR, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, India’s only openly gay prince, announced that he would open his palace doors to vulnerable LGBTQ people.

Same-sex relations are illegal in India, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and the country does not recognize same-sex marriage. Additionally, Indian law does not protect against discrimination for LGBT folks; criminalized by law, ostracized by the public, and often disowned and estranged from their families, the LGBTQ community — and homeless LGBTQ youth especially — face a heightened risk of violence.

In a conversation with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Prince Gohil, heir to the throne of Rajpipla in western Gujarat state, explained that while coming out in larger Indian cities aren’t as difficult (there are more LGBT-friendly spaces in Mumbai and Delhi), coming out in a small town, where traditional values reign and heterosexual relations are the norm, is incredibly hard: “People still face a lot of pressure from their families when they come out, being forced to marry, or thrown out of their homes. They often have nowhere to go, no means to support themselves.”

Sounds familiar. A study published by UCLA School Of Law found that in the U.S., while LGBTQ youth make up only about 10% of the population (probably a low estimate), they account for over 40% of the homeless youth population.

Disowned by his own family after coming out, Gohil dedicated his life to helping the LGBTQ community in India, and is recognized internationally as a champion for gay rights (he has even appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show); he has a charity, the Lakshya Trust, which fights for LGBTQ rights, and provides sexual health education and resources to combat HIV/AIDs.

While it looks like the Indian government might soon change the law criminalizing homosexuality (India’s top court recently stated it would reconsider the 2013 verdict to uphold the colonial era ruling), Gohil isn’t waiting around. He has already started constructing a center on his ancestral, 15-acre abode that will give housing, medical care, ESL and vocational skills training for vulnerable LGBT people. He intends for the center to provide support before and after the court’s decision. “Lifting the law will encourage more people to come out and live their lives freely. But it may also mean more people in need of support,” Gohil explained to Reuters.

Top Photo via Facebook

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