It's like taking one step forward and two steps back. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Hyderabad find themselves in a similar situation wherein the hard work of encouraging its members to come out of the closet and making others understand the travails of the community better all comes to nought due to one unfortunate incident.

LGBT activists in the city are clearly distressed by the turn of events after the city police raided a pub on Tuesday night and then claimed that somehow community members were involved in obscene and illegal acts.

“It is a classic example of moral policing. On that night, just like in any other typical pub, young people had gathered to have plain and simple fun. The difference was that the young people belonged to a sexual minority group and were targeted [for that reason]. How come the city police do not conduct similar raids on other pubs?” asks Jayathi Mathur, head of Wajood, which works for the interests of the LGBT community. Many also pointed out that the police raid has raised questions about the fundamental rights of sexual minorities.

“The raids are against our basic rights. They will only create more fear, and increase the stigma and discrimination towards our community members, who too have needs like any other individual.

Such acts will only take us one step back in terms of the preconceived notions that the public at large has towards the community,” feels Vijay R. Nair, LGBT activists and program manager for 'Pehchan,' an NGO working in the field. The community members said that the police raids victimised and discriminated against homosexuals because almost all the persons who were in the party were closeted gays and never acknowledged their sexual orientation in public. Refuting the allegation that some of those at the party were consuming drugs, they said that a majority of the persons present at the party were from a modest middle class background and had no means to afford costly banned drugs.

“Our members became victims in the hands of the police and event organisers. The organisers sent invites for an exclusive party and like any other individual our community members went to the pub in the hope of having clean fun.

“At the end of the ordeal, the perception created by the police and the media was that gay community members were involved in obscene acts,” says G. Krishna of 'Suraksha,' who last year had organised Hyderabad''s first Queer Pride rally. Some have also called for greater interaction between LGBT members and public.

“There is a definite sense of phobia, which can be broken only by frequent interaction between our members and the public. Hyderabad can''t claim the tag of a cosmopolitan city unless it accepts people of all kinds in its fold,” says Rachana Khan, a transgender and an ardent advocate of LGBT rights.

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