When the 33-year-old was with a man he met through an online dating service, two others burst into his hotel room. One whipped and punched him. They took his laptop, a gold chain, camera and his ATM card, which they used to empty his bank account, he says.
The men also made a threat: If he went to the police, the robbers said, they would press criminal charges against him for having sex with a man and tell his colleagues and family that he is gay.
“I was dead scared,” said Rohit, who asked that his surname not be used because he feared the consequences of being publicly identified as homosexual.
Since India’s Supreme Court recriminalized gay sex more than a year ago, homosexuals have increasingly become targets of robbery and extortion, gay men and activists say. The trend has been fueled by the rise of Internet dating, which has become an easy way for urban, middle-class gay men to meet, but also exposed them to online predators.
Such cases underline the deep disconnect between more liberal and cosmopolitan parts of urban India and conservative norms that condemn homosexuality and leave gay people vulnerable to discrimination and blackmail.
India, the world’s largest democracy, is one of more than a dozen Asian countries that outlaw what in India’s case is defined as sex “against the order of nature.”
In December 2013, India’s Supreme Court found the law, which dates to the British colonial era, wasn’t unconstitutional and could be changed or repealed only by Parliament, effectively overturning a 2009 lower-court ruling that made consensual gay sex legal.