The first gay club to be officially registered in India has been founded in Chennai – a brave move in a country where homosexuality is illegal, and homosexuals are viewed with suspicion and contempt.

The group’s founder, Mr Vasu, said that he created the Men’s Community Development Society (MCDS) to draw attention to the injustices that gay people suffer. Unofficially the group has been meeting for 6 years and has over 700 members in Chennai alone, but Mr Vasu decided to take the step of registering the MCDS after police discrimination convinced him that some official protest should be made.

“I meet someone at a cruising point, and am talking to him, getting to know him,” Mr Vasu related. “Just then a policeman comes, finds condoms in my pocket. He asks for bribe, threatens us, and slaps a case on us.”

The MCDS intends to be a source of legal advice for gay people. “Police catches gay couples for no reason and the poor guys can’t even call home,” explained group member Mr Raja. “We will go over and release them in such times. Then, if someone is fired because of being gay, we meet the MD, and point out the legalities. Then, we counsel sex workers on STD, and HIV.”

The group also hopes to have a political voice, objecting to Section 377 of the Indian Penal code, which criminalizes homosexuality.