New Delhi: A recent Supreme Court ruling that criminalizes homosexuality has had a negative impact on the sentiment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community but the business catering to it remains strong, say entrepreneurs in an IANS report.
“The matter has sent out a negative image of the country, especially to foreign tourists, as they have expressed apprehensions in travelling to India. Foreign LGBT travelers are cautious about their security and legal status in India,” said Sanjay Malhotra, founder of Indjapink, India’s first dedicated online gay travel boutique.
“However, Indjapink will start India’s first ever all men’s bed and breakfast– Pink House in Delhi from March 1,” he said in an IANS report that appeared in news.aligarhkhabar.com.
The Supreme Court last month upheld the validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code ruling that consensual gay sex between adults is illegal. In 2009, the lower Delhi’s high court had overturned this law that dates back to 1860 under the colonial rule of British East India Company and punishable by up to life imprisonment.
Malhotra, whose travel agency caters to about 150-200 foreign tourist per year, told IANS that though bookings have not been affected, the number of inquiries have gone down and that Indian destinations might loose out to other countries like Thailand and Malaysia in attracting LGBT tourists.
On an average, Malhotra’s clientele might spend upwards of $500-$600 per night per person for their stay in India.
Several global estimates have pegged international LGBT travel segment to be growing and worth upwards of $60-$100 billion annually. Several international destinations, hotel chains, airlines and travel agencies seek to leverage the niche segment.
Marketing and consultancy firms have placed people in LGBT groups under the double income no kids (DINK) community.
“People belonging from this segment have shown higher spending capacity when it comes to travel, shopping and eating-out. Lately several marketing campaigns targeting this community members could have been seen in India,” said media consultant Ranjit Monga.
According to Monga, niche market segments spanning clothing and fashion accessories, tourism and media targeted at the LGBT community is fast growing in India, with entrepreneurs wanting to cash in on its purchasing power.
Mumbai-based publisher Queer-Ink’s Shobhna S. Kumar feels that though the recent events have been negative in nature, it has brought back the topic of LGBT rights and education in the mainstream.
“Books sales have gone up in the past several months. People are coming out and buying books on the topic that have been written by Indian authors and based on Indian characters.”
Nonprofit Mission for Indian Gay and Lesbian Empowerment (Mingle) which conducted the first ever leadership summit for LGBT youth in Mumbai from Feb 15-16, said new entrepreneurs may be discouraged to start out their LGBT-based business due to the court order.
However, there is a need for NGOs and legal experts to come in and set aside the doubts over the legality of the issues, as only sexual act has been criminalized, said Udayan Dhar, chief diversity consultant, Mingle.