Gay rights activists from planning Pride events in New Delhi, Calcutta and Bangalore this weekend, undeterred by the fact that homosexuality is illegal in India.

The police have given permission for the marches, according to organisers.

While there have been similar small events in Calcutta in the past, the gay marches will be a first for the capital New Delhi and the industrial centre Bangalore.

Homosexual relations are legally still a crime under an old British era statute dating from 1860 called Section 377, though the government no longer seeks to prosecute adults engaging in private consensual homosexual acts.

In India there are huge social and legal pressures to live a heterosexual lifestyle but in recent years, the campaign to decriminalise homosexuality has strengthened.

Time Out Delhi was launched last year with a section and listings featuring gay nights and social gatherings.

Pride march organisers said they fear they may be targeted by religious groups, but that police had been co-operative.

“The conversation has been growing. Over the last few years there has been a steady rise in organising around gay issues,” organiser Gautam Bhan told AP.

“Pride in India is at a stage where it’s not just pure celebration, it’s always part protest. A reminder of how difficult things are.”