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India's Gay Prince To Open His Palace To LGBTQ People In Need

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, India's first openly gay prince, uses his fame and status to raise awareness for HIV advocacy and LGBTQ rights.

India's only openly gay prince has announced plans to open up his ancestral palace to Indians who have been ostracized for their sexuality or gender identity.

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil — likely heir to the throne of Rajpipla in the western state of Gujarat — says his center will help provide vulnerable LGBTQ people with the security that typically comes from one's family.

"I want to give people social and financial empowerment, so eventually people who want to come out won't be affected [negatively]," he told the International Business Times. "It won't make a difference if they are disinherited."

After Gohil's coming out made international headlines in 2006, his mother took out a newspaper advertisement publicly disowning him. People burned his effigies in Rajpipla.

"People still face a lot of pressure from their families when they come out, being forced to marry, or thrown out of their homes," Gohil told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "They often have nowhere to go, no means to support themselves."

Since coming out, Gohil has made a name for himself as a gay rights advocate, both in India and internationally. He's appeared on a BBC series and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Gohil has also been a staunch opponent of Section 377, India's colonial-era law that criminalizes consensual same-sex relations. Earlier this week, the country's Supreme Court ordered a review of the law, which was reinstated in 2013.

Prior to coming out, Gohil created the Lakshya Trust, an organization focusing on gay issues and sexual health in Gujarat. The group will be in charge of managing the center's operations.

Gohil says construction plans include adding rooms for guests, a medical facility and space for vocational training to the 15-acre grounds, according to Reuters.

"I am not going to have children," Gohil said. "So I thought, why not use this space for a good purpose?"

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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