Indian media embroiled in row over ‘gay’ Bollywood star
A huge row has broken out in India over whether a Bollywood superstar should say he’s gay.
Director and talk show host Karan Johar has caused the spat after the release of his auto biography.
The star hasn’t made a secret of his sexuality – numerously referring to his sexual orientation, but without ever saying it for certain.
Activists have reacted angrily to his refusal, saying it undermines that struggle of LGBT people in the country.
In his autobiography, An Unsuitable Boy, he writes: “Everybody knows what my sexual orientation is.
“I don’t need to scream it out.
“If I need to spell it out, I won’t only because I live in a country where I could possibly be jailed for saying this.
“Which is why I Karan Johar will not say the three words that possibly everybody knows about me,” he writes.
Instead the actor has insisted on leaving what he calls “bold clues” to his sexuality.
Johar says he fears being taken to prison for explicitly saying ‘I am gay’.
According to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a 155-year-old colonial-era law, a same-sex relationship is an “unnatural offence”.
Last February, the Supreme Court agreed to revisit a previous judgement that had upheld the law.
“The reason I don’t say it out aloud is simply that I don’t want to be dealing with the FIRs [police complaints].
“I’m very sorry. I have a job, I have a commitment to my company, to my people who work for me; there are over a hundred people that I’m answerable to.
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“I’m not going to sit in the courts because of ridiculous, completely bigoted individuals who have no education, no intelligence, who go into some kind of rapture for publicity.”
Indian society remains deeply conservative in its attitudes to LGBT people.
It was recently reported that four in ten transgender people in India face sexual abuse before they reach the age of 18.
There were 1,491 arrests during 2015 under Section 377.
Nearly all of those arrested were men, with 207 minors and 16 women among those arrested under the law.