Coming out is still taboo for half of India’s gay, bisexual and trans men

Indian members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community celebrate outside the Supreme Court after the decision to strike down the colonial-era ban on gay sex in New Delhi on September 6, 2018. - India's Supreme Court on September 6 struck down the ban that has been at the centre of years of legal battles. "The law had become a weapon for harassment for the LGBT community," Chief Justice Dipak Misra said as he announced the landmark verdict. (Photo by Sajjad HUSSAIN / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Half of gay Indians are still in the closet despite homosexuality being legalised in the country, according to the results of a new survey.

The study was conducted among users of LGBT+ social networking site Romeo following the country’s Supreme Court unanimous decision to overturn the ban on consensual same-sex relations on September 6.

Homosexuality was previously illegal in the country, since the introduction of a law called Section 377 forbidding sexual activity “against the order of nature” in 1861 when India was ruled by the British Empire, and punishable by a sentence up to life in prison.

The survey suggests that there is still a huge social stigma against homosexuality in India.

The research showed that 50 percent of the 3,392 gay, bisexual and transgender Indian men who participated in the survey are still not out to their families and friends. It also revealed that more than 40 percent did not plan on telling anyone that they are gay.

One third of respondents said they are married to a woman. Of the married individuals, a startling proportion—more than 70 percent—said they do not plan to come out as gay.

Indian members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community take part in a pride parade in New Delhi on November 12, 2017. Hundreds of members of the LGBT community marched through the Indian capital for the 10th annual Delhi Queer Pride Parade. / AFP PHOTO / SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

New Delhi Pride in 2017. (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty)

The research also revealed that more than 30 percent of respondents had been verbally or physically abused because they are gay.

Only one quarter of those questioned said they believed the repeal of Section 377 would have a “major impact” on their lives.

In his judgment, the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, said: “Any consensual sexual relationship between two consenting adults – homosexuals, heterosexuals or lesbians – cannot be said to be unconstitutional,” according to Reuters.

In 2009, the High Court in Delhi ruled that the 1861 law violated human rights, and legalised homosexual sex between consenting adults.

But just four years later, the Supreme Court reversed the High Court ruling, making gay sex illegal again and outraging LGBT+ rights campaigners across the world.

New Delhi’s 10th annual LGBT+ pride has renewed hope for legislative change in India. (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Activists and supporters have welcomed the decision, with Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director for Human Rights Watch, tweeting: “Thanks to all that fought for this, braving the worst sort of prejudice.

“This is a good day for human rights.”

Bollywood and Indian film stars, too, praised the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Preity Zinta wrote: “‘If you have a heart you should be free to love who you want.’ ❤️ So Happy to hear that the Supreme Court of India has abolished #section377 decriminalising Homosexuality.”