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Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil – India's only openly gay royal and his battle against HIV
Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil is perhaps the lone distinct example, as he's the first person from an Indian royal family to have openly revealed that he is gay.

The crown prince and the apparent heir to the throne of Rajpipla in Gujarat, one of India's oldest royal families, Gohil had made this startling revelation in 2006. However, coming out with the truth did come at a heavy price for him. His mother publicly disowned him and his effigies were burned by the people of Rajpipla.

However, undeterred by his social boycott, this gay prince has been waging a war against AIDS for the last 10 years. Gohil has been using his name, fame and status to educate the gay community about safe sex and their rights in a country like India, where British-era law still make gay sex a punishable offence.

Gohil, who's commonly regarded as the face of India's LGBTQ community and an important voice for raising issues related to gay rights, has spared no efforts, right from hanging condoms on trees to setting up his own charity.

While citing the Kamasutra and homoerotic sculptures in ancient Indian temples, Gohil says, "People say homosexuality is a part of western culture. It is absolutely wrong. It is the hypocrisy in our society which is refusing to accept this truth. And this motivated me to come out openly and tell the world `I am gay, so what? And I am proud of it.'"

His charity, the Lakshaya Foundation works with homosexuals and the transgender community to promote safe sex, despite constant opposition from the police. Gohil is part of a campaign for fighting against colonial era law that bans homosexual acts in India.

He said, "People are having sex under fear and unsafe sex practices are going on. When we started work among the MSM (Men having Sex with Men), we were harassed and threatened by police. We would keep condoms in public toilets, and even hang them on trees in public parks because we did not want to stop them from having sex in toilets or behind the bushes. We just wanted them to have safe sex."

Although gay sex was decriminalised in 2009 with the Delhi High Court ruling that prohibiting it was a direct violation of a person's fundamental rights gauranteed by the Indian Constitution, but in 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the responsibility of changing Secton 377 (which makes homosexual intercourse a criminal offence) of the Indian Penal Code, which dates back to 1860, rested with the lawmakers and not the judges.

According to the United Nations, India features at the third place in the number of HIV/AIDS cases in the world. Although the rate of infection is falling due to awareness, in 2015, India had an estimated 2.1 million people infected with the virus.

Crusaders like prince Manvendra Singh Gohil remain a glimmer of hope in this fierce battle against HIV/AIDS and for safeguarding the rights of the LGBTQ community in India. 

In 2007, Gohil was invited as a guest to the Oprah Show, and that's when things started to change for him. He is now also the brand ambassador for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is the largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the US, with branches in 36 countries. Gohil's efforts for the upliftment of the LGBTQ community are tremendously inspiring, to say the least.

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