Indian LGBT Activist: Changing Laws Doesn’t Bring Tolerance, Acceptance

In the wake of President Obama’s momentous announcement, one of the most prominent LGBT activists in India has come out with a message of her own: It’s not getting better for gays and lesbians on the South Asian subcontinent.

Anjali Gopalan (right), one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, tells Reuters that though her government legalized homosexuality in 2009, homophobic attitudes and discrimination are still widespread:

“Just because a law changes, doesn’t mean the way of thinking changes. That’s a slow process and something we have to keep working at. Homophobia is so entrenched I don’t think we realize we’re being homophobic. I’m talking about those of us working with the community too. So you have many NGOs working with the community who show very high levels of homophobia.

In 2001, Gopalan, 54, petitioned India’s government to decriminalize homosexuality, which eventually led to the law being changed almost a decade later. But even the advent of gay Pride parades haven’t changed prevailing attitudes in the country, even among LGBT people themselves. “The sad part is we still get a lot of [gay] men who say ‘Can I get medicine to not feel this way’ which is very heartbreaking,” says Gopalan. “But that’s the reality.”

True acceptance will take time, and maybe more than few obituaries: “It’s parliament which has to do the work,” she says. “And given that the average age of our parliamentarians is 80, I don’t see anything happening in the near future.”