28-year-old Thahir Mohammed Sayyed (pictured) was slated to represent his home country of India in the upcoming Mr. Gay World pageant being held in Knysna, South Africa this weekend. He was to be the only Asian participant and organizers were thrilled to have him. But homophobic bullies have quickly put a stop all that.
In a statement sent to India’s newspaper DNA, Sayyed said, “I am withdrawing from the contest. I hope the organizers appreciate the difficulties I faced. I cannot take this pressure. I have switched off my phone to prevent getting any unwanted calls.”
He went on to explain that, as a result of entering the competition, he and his family have received threats and were even prevented from praying at their local mosque.
“It would be unfair for me to drag them into any trouble,” Sayyed said, referring to his family, who he says is now in hiding.
Sayyed also refused to elaborate further out of fear that “talking about this will only worsen things.”
Mr. Gay World is an international pageant for gay men that was established in 2008 with the goal to establish ambassadors for LGBTQ and human rights.
“We created this event to combat homophobia, but for a delegate and his family to go through such harassment is unacceptable and we have to be sympathetic with him,” Eric Butter, president of Mr. Gay World, told DNA.
Other administrators of the pageant also expressed regret over Sayyed’s withdrawal from the competition, calling it “100 percent understandable” but saying it was a shame for India as a country.
“It is unfortunate that LGBTQ rights aren’t accepted in one of the world’s largest democracies,” said Coenie Kukkuk, the pageant’s managing director.
India’s treatment of the LGBT community has seemed to worsen over the last few years. In 2013, the country’s Supreme Court reinstated a colonial era law banning gay sex. The punishment for being caught engaging in homosexual behavior is life imprisonment.