“The courage that comes with the participation itself cannot be denied, given that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code deems a same-sex sexual relationship an ‘unnatural offence’ punishable by a 10-year jail term,” said mid-day.com, a popular Indian newspaper.
Sushant Divgikar, a Mumbai resident and degree holder in Psychology, will be reaching Rome August 23 for the contest that will commence the next day and end with a grand finale on August 30.
Divgikar, 24, told mid-day.com that while he has not entered the contest for personal glory alone, but to set an example to other gay people in the country and urge them to be open about their sexuality.
“When you are different from the majority, you are always going to face discrimination, whether overt or covert. I believe that if we stand up for ourselves, we shall be recognized,” he said.
Divgikar praised his mother for helping him pick out clothes and eat his way to a pageant-worthy physique. He owes his openness and honesty to the unwavering support shown to him by his parents, he said.
“They let me choose what I wanted to be, and hence, today I am freely able to go out in the world so confidently. They are the best parents,” he said.
Indian gay rights activists are waging a legal battle to do away with the colonial-era “Section 377” law that describes same-sex relations as “unnatural” and punishable with life imprisonment.
Efforts have resulted in a flip-flop with courts decriminalizing and then recriminalizing the Section 377 law with the Supreme Court past December upholding the validity of Section 377, reversing the 2009 Delhi’s high court ruling that decriminalized it and gave the gay community broad protections and rights.
Currently, a new Supreme Court bench has agreed to re-examine that decision.
Nonetheless, gay people in India are physically abused because of their orientation.
In Tamil Nadu state, for instance, a gay man was beaten. In February, a policeman in Gujarat assaulted a man who had participated in a gay pride parade. Last week, Mumbai-based LGBT activist Harrish Iyer, was spat upon and publicly humiliated.
Speaking on such nation-wide anti-gay discrimination, Divgikar said: “Why can’t they accept us the way we are, and allow us to keep our individuality intact? We don’t impose our preferences on them, so why do they have to impose their preferences on us,” he asked.