Even as members of the country’s homosexual community grapple with a legal framework that wants to push them back into the closet, Sushant Divgikar has willingly offered himself as a flag-bearer for gay pride. The 24-year-old is all set to embark for Rome, where he will represent India in the Mr Gay World contest, to be held between August 24 and August 30.
Sushant Divgikar is all set to represent India in the Mr Gay World contest, to be held between August 24 and August 30 in Rome. Pic/Rane Ashish
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.
Divgikar, a Mumbai resident and degree holder in Psychology, will be reaching Rome on August 23. The event will commence on August 24, with the grand finale scheduled for August 30.
Speaking to mid-day, Divgikar candidly says that while he always harboured a wish to “be an icon,” he has not entered the contest for personal glory alone, but to set an example to other homosexuals 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 recognised.”
Divgikar has been busy preparing for the pageant, with his mother Bharati helping him pick out clothes and and eat his way to a pageant-worthy physique. Divgikar says he owes his openness and honesty to the unwavering support shown to him by his parents: “I have the largest collection of Barbie dolls.
My parents never stopped me from buying dolls they knew I liked them, so they used to get them for me. They were never rigid. 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.”
Homosexuals in the country were dealt a heavy blow by the country’s justice system earlier last year, when the Supreme Court reversed a 2009 Delhi High Court judgement decriminalising gay sex. The ruling led to a fresh tide of discrimination against homosexuality in the country, in recent months.
In Tamil Nadu, for instance, a homosexual man was physically abused over his orientation. In February, a policeman in Gujarat assaulted a man who had participated in a gay pride parade. On Tuesday, city-based LGBT activist Harrish Iyer, was spat upon and publicly humiliated.
In a scenario of nation-wide discrimination, Divgikar has the maturity and depth to say he sympathises with homophobia. “I am sympathetic towards them, as they aren’t educated about the LGBT community. My only question to them is this: 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.
Sonal Giani, advocacy officer of Humsafar Trust, said, “The time is right, now more than ever, to assert our share of rainbow. I am glad that people like Sushant, representing the young gay India, have torn open the closets and are representing India in international forums, even though the law of his birth-land is homophobic and discriminatory.”