Manvendra Singh Gohil
|Manvendra Kumar Singh Gohil|
Royal portrait of Manvendra Kumar Singh
September 23, 1965 |
Ajmer, Rajasthan, India
|Parents||Maharana Shri Raghubir Singhji Rajendrasinghji Sahib|
His parents attempted but failed to disinherit him after he revealed his homosexuality, and since then his relations with the family have been in question. He is the only known person of royal lineage in modern India to have publicly revealed he is gay.
In January 2008, while performing an annual ceremony in Rajpipla in honour of his great-grandfather Maharaja Vijaysinhji, Manvendra Gohil announced plans to adopt a child, saying: "I have carried out all my responsibilities as the prince so far and will continue as long as I can. I will also adopt a child soon so that all traditions continue". If the adoption proceeds, it will be the first known case of a single gay man adopting a child in India.
Manvendra was born at Ajmer, 23 September 1965, as the son of Maharana Shri Raghubir Singhji Rajendrasinghji Sahib, who inherited the title of Maharana of Rajpipla in 1963. The princes were derecognized by the Republic of India in 1971. Their residence Rajvant Palace has been converted into a resort. Manvendra had a traditional and conservative upbringing. He was educated at Bombay Scottish School and at Amrutben Jivanlal College of Commerce and Economics, Vile Parle, Bombay.
In January 1991, he married Chandrika Kumari from Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh, because, he claims, "I thought after marriage I will be all right because I never knew and nobody told me that I was gay and [that] this is normal. Homosexuality is not a disease. I tremendously regret for ruining her life. I feel guilty." The marriage ended in divorce when Manvendra revealed his homosexuality to his wife.
"It was a total disaster. A total failure. The marriage never got consummated. I realized I had done something very wrong."
Several years after his divorce in 1992, he became involved in a social network to help the LGBT community in Gujarat.
|“||It was difficult to be gay in my family. The villagers worship us and we are role models for them. My family didn't allow us to mix with ordinary or low-caste people. Our exposure to the liberal world was minimal. Only when I was hospitalized after my nervous breakdown in 2002 did my doctor inform my parents about my sexuality. All these years I was hiding my sexuality from my parents, family and people. I never liked it and I wanted to face the reality. When I came out in the open and gave an interview to a friendly journalist, my life was transformed. Now, people accept me.||”|
Manvendra's homosexuality was revealed to his family by doctors in 2002 following his hospitalisation for a nervous breakdown. However, it was when he talked publicly about his sexual orientation in 2006 that his family took action and accused him of bringing dishonour to the clan. The disowning, however, is likely to remain a symbolic act rather than legally enforceable disinheritance, given India's modern inheritance laws. He has been reunited with his father.
On 14 March 2006, the story of Manvendra's coming out made headlines in India and around the world. His effigies were burnt in Rajpipla, where the traditional society was shocked. Next in line were his cousins Deodats.
He was interviewed for a BBC Radio 4 documentary in April 2007, titled The Gay Prince of Rajpipla which charted his coming out as a gay man and the HIV/AIDS prevention work of his charity, The Lakshya Trust. The report examined the ground-breaking work of the Lakshya Trust in training female field workers who educate women married to MSM about safe sex practices.
The BBC report also interviewed Manvendra's father, the Maharaja of Rajpipla. He revealed his embarrassment over the widespread coverage of his son's homosexuality, and how he thought Manvendra's work in the HIV/AIDS prevention field was not suited to someone of his caste. In an updated version of the report broadcast in February 2009, the programme revealed that Manvendra's father was a guest of honour at a fundraising event for the Lakshya Trust and was beginning to accept his son's sexuality.
Manvendra appeared as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show on October 24, 2007. He was one of three persons featured in the show entitled 'Gay Around the World'. He expressed that he has no regrets about coming out, and that he believes the people of his state respect him for his leadership in preventing and educating on HIV/AIDS.
On his coming out, Manvendra has said:
|“||I knew that they would never accept me for who I truly am, but I also knew that I could no longer live a lie. I wanted to come out because I had gotten involved with activism and I felt it was no longer right to live in the closet. I came out as gay to a Gujarati daily because I wanted people to openly discuss homosexuality since it’s a hidden affair with a lot of stigma attached.||”|
In 2000, Manvendra started the Lakshya Trust, of which he is chairman, a group dedicated to HIV/AIDS education and prevention. A registered public charitable trust, Lakshya is a community-based organization working for HIV/AIDS prevention among men who have sex with men (MSMs). It provides counseling services, clinics for treatment of sexually transmitted infections, libraries, and condom-use promotion. Lakshya won the Civil Society Award 2006 for its contribution in preventing HIV/AIDS among homosexual men.
The trust also creates employment opportunities for gay men and support for other organisations for MSMs, and plans to open a hospice/old age home for gay men.
In 2007, Manvendra joined the Interim Governing Board of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health, known as APCOM, a regional coalition of MSM and HIV community-based organisations, the government sector, donors, technical experts and the UN system. He serves as India Community Representative on behalf of INFOSEM, the India MSM and HIV network. Manvendra said of this work, "APCOM is one of the best mediums to bring together different nationalities and develop linkages with others working for HIV and MSM/TG. In India, it will be an important tool to influence authorities to change thinking and broaden outlooks for the betterment of society. APCOM demonstrates the essence of unity and solidarity within diversity."
In May 2009, it was announced that there are plans to turn Prince Manvendra's life story into a major motion picture. The script will be written by a member of the erstwhile Kapurthala royal family, Prince Amarjit Singh.
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