An Indian Prince Is Opening Up His Palace To Offer Vulnerable LGBTQ People Aid And Asylum

"Gay rights can’t only be won in the courtrooms — they have to be won in the hearts and minds of the people, too."

India's openly gay prince, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, is gearing up for a major renovation on the grounds of his palace. However, instead of enlarging his own bedroom or building another swimming pool, the prince announced plans to open an LGBTQ center that will provide shelter, HIV education, medical care, and vocational training to the country's particularly vulnerable LGBTQ population.

"People still face a lot of pressure from their families when they come out, being forced to marry, or thrown out of their homes. They often have nowhere to go, no means to support themselves," Mohil told Reuters. "I am not going to have children, so I thought, why not use this space for a good purpose?"

Gohil added the center will be financed by an online crowdfunding campaign and donations, and will be managed by his charity.

Despite his nobility, the 52-year-old prince, who came out to his family over a decade ago, is familiar with obstacles facing LGBTQ people. Upon coming out to his parents, Gohil's mother took out a newspaper advertisement publicly disowning her son. According to a 2012 report from the BBC, there are an estimated 2.5 million gay individuals in India.

While Gohil's decision to open an LGBTQ center is admirable under any circumstances, it stands to be especially impactful in India, where same-sex relationships are illegal and LGBTQ individuals frequently face discrimination. 

That's in part because the second most populous country in the world still enforces a colonial-era law that criminalizes consensual sex between same-sex adults. Earlier this week, however, India's top court said it would reconsider its 2013 decision to uphold the law. This comes less than six months after the country held its first transgender beauty pageant

"Lifting the law will encourage more people to come out and live their lives freely. But it may also mean more people in need of support," Gohil told Reuters, offering a glimpse into why he's decided to open an LGBTQ center at this moment in time.

Still, it's important to note this is hardly the first time Gohil has made an effort to aid his home country's LGBTQ population. After coming out, HuffPost reports the crown prince established the Lakshya Trust, a charity for the community in his conservative home state, and became a champion for equality across the globe. 

"Gay rights can't only be won in the courtrooms — they have to be won in the hearts and minds of the people, too," Gohil told Homegrown last year. "The key is public perception." 

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