Conversion therapy has been a hot topic for a while now with the LGBTQ+ community calling out the harm it has caused. Twenty states and more than 100 municipalities have banned conversion therapy in the United States, but no nationwide ban has happened as of yet. In India, conversion therapy is still an accepted form of therapy, and though there is evidence that it exacerbates symptoms of depression, shame, addiction, self harm and suicidal tenancies, being gay was outlawed in the country until 2018, and conversion therapy is considered treatment.
Royal Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, India’s first openly gay prince, is continuing his fight to ban conversion therapy in India. In 2006, the prince made history at the age of 41 by coming out as gay. The decision to come out was immediately condemned due to his position and the fact that India had recently disregarded its outdated law, which used to be punishable by a lifetime in prison. Singh Gohil told Insider that people burned him in effigy. “The day I came out, my effigies were burnt. There were a lot of protests, people took to the streets and shouted slogans saying that I brought shame and humiliation to the royal family and to the culture of India,” he said. “There were death threats and demands that I be stripped of of my title.”
The prince is the 39th direct descendent of the Gohil Rajput dynasty and dedicates his time to supporting LGBTQ+ causes and providing education around LGBTQ+ issues. He blames ignorance around LGBTQ+ people for the way others reacted when he came out as gay. Despite homophobic attitudes and being rejected by his parents, the prince continues to advocate for the queer community in India.
In fact, Singh Gohil is so dedicated to pushing forward education and protection of the LGBTQ+ community that in 2018 he opened up his 15-acre palace grounds to become an LGBTQ+ center. He also launched Lakshya Trust 20 years ago, which is a community-led charity that focuses on education around sexual tolerance, gender equity, HIV/AIDS and the LGBTQ+ community. Some may find it surprising that a prince in a country where homosexuality was banned until recently would be such a fierce advocate for queer rights. To Singh Gohil, this has been a long battle starting years before he came out publicly.
The prince revealed to Insider that he was once subjected to conversion therapy due to his family’s dismissal of the idea that he could be homosexual. He said, “They approached doctors to operate on my brain to make me straight and subjected me to electroshock treatments.” Singh Gohli was eventually sent to religious leaders in an effort to help him “behave normally” after conversion therapy was unsuccessful.
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The prince plans to keep advocating for the queer community, saying, “It’s important for people like me who have a certain reputation in society to continue the advocacy. We can’t just stop because the country repealed Section 377,” he explained. “Now we have to fight for issues like same-sex marriage, right to inheritance, right to adoption. It’s a never-ending cycle. I have to keep fighting.”
It’s amazing to see such an important person not only be a member of the LGBTQ+ community in India but to openly advocate for it. The fight for equality is not easily won, but having royalty on your side has to be a boost to the cause for the queer people of India.