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Homosexuality remains frowned upon in India despite the fact that in July 2009 a Supreme Court ruling finally overturned a discriminatory piece of legislation that had, since colonial times, prohibited so-called "unnatural" sexual relations, criminalizing consensual sex between men. In the aftermath of this acknowledgment of constitutional freedom, the media celebrated widely with endless discussions, debates and relatively newsworthy stories about everything and anything gay, proud, and out. On the other hand, there are religious and political leaders hell-bent on reversing the legislative decision and many who actively promote antigay thinking, qualifying their hatred with the bizarre sentiment that homosexuality is un-Indian. A range of high-profile cases have brought the issue of gay and lesbian rights into the social and political sphere, and there is increased awareness in this regard across all social spheres, not least as a result of gay storylines and subplots creeping into mainstream Bollywood movies, and the rags plump with gossip about which star is in or out of the closet this week. The times certainly are a-changing, but the change is slower for some than for others, so you're likely to encounter a wide range of reactions to homosexuality (even when it's simply a topic in conversation) -- from those who clearly covet their gay friends as social accessories to those with overt hostility to those displaying utter indifference.

Finally, don't confuse social norms with sexual behavior. Indian men, for example, are a great deal more affectionate with one another than they are with women in public, and you'll frequently see men walking hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm, and embracing, though this is said to be an act of "brotherliness" without any sexual connotation. Nevertheless, discretion is probably best observed outside your hotel room (note that no one questions same-sex travelers sharing a room).

For more information and gay- and lesbian-friendly contacts nationwide, check out Indian Dost (www.indiandost.com); for a more personal perspective, filled with substance and insights read some of the posts on the Queer India blog (http://queerindia.blogspot.com). Gay support groups include the Gay Info Centre (P.O. Box 1662 Secunderabad HPO 500 003, Andhra Pradesh), Humsafar Trust (www.humsafar.org), and to a lesser extent, Gay Bombay (www.gaybombay.org), which mainly offers information on gay venues in Mumbai.

The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA; tel. 800/448-8550 or 954/776-2626; www.iglta.org) is the trade association for the gay and lesbian travel industry, and offers an online directory of gay- and lesbian-friendly travel businesses and tour operators; at press time, however, there were just five Indian tour operators listed.

The Canadian website GayTraveler (www.gaytraveler.ca) offers ideas and advice for gay travel all over the world.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.