India: First ever gay candidate for secretary at top university speaks out over LGBT discrimination

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The first ever gay candidate for general secretary at one of India’s leading universities has called attention to LGBT discrimination on campus, including an incident where he was denied hostel accommodation because he was deemed too “effeminate.”

The Indian Express reports Gourab Ghosh took to the stage during Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) general body meeting on Tuesday.

He said: “They wanted to know what I would do for the LGBT community of JNU if elected.”

Mr Ghosh told Hindustan Times: “The JNU campus is extremely homophobic and completely silent on the matter of LGBT issues. None of the elected representatives have ever bothered to find out what issues we face.”

He added: “Despite being a progressive campus, the LGBT narrative has not been registered here. The Student Federation of India, however, is openly fielding me as their candidate. But even if I win, I won’t be able to work on this issue unless the JNU teachers’ association is willing to start a dialogue with me.”

Mr Ghosh also told The Indian Express: “There are many people on the campus who are gay. But no one has ever asked them about their problems. I was once thrown out of a hostel where right-wing students were in majority and no one ever questioned that.”

He was reportedly denied accommodation on the pretext that the university did not tolerate the presence of “effeminate” men.

Mr Ghosh, 29, is also the oldest contestant this year, with 30 as the upper age limit for contesting elections. He entered JNU in 2006 when he began his Postgraduate degree at the Centre for English Studies.

He is openly gay and said that “everybody knows this.”

However, he added that despite the acceptance he has found among friends at the university, lack of education makes LGBT discrimination an issue.

He said: “People keep asking my roommate about what it is like living with someone who is gay. But he brushes it off saying it is a matter of preference.”

Mr Ghosh also teaches an optional course to undergraduate students. “At first, they are amused by my mannerisms, but eventually, they get used to it,” he said.

Mr Ghosh also said he aims to improve basic facilities such as counselling and health care programs.

He added: “One of the foremost issues that need to be addressed is lack of any sexual and reproductive health programme. We have a single mother on the campus here and there are others like her who need this facility. Other than that, I intend to form an LGBT group and form a counselling cell.”

Earlier this month, in a recent letter to LGBT activist groups in India, the Archbishop of Mumbai has said he would advise priests to be more sensitive while referring to gay people in public sermons, affirming “to say those with other sexual orientations are sinners is wrong.”