Manvendra Singh Raghubir Singh (known as 'Manvendra Singh Gohil', 'Manvendrasingh Gohil', or 'Manvendra Gohil'; born 23 September 1965 in Ajmer) belongs to the royal family of the former princely state of Rajpipla in India.

His parent attempted but failed to disinherit him after he revealed his homosexuality, and since then there has been a question mark over his relations with the family. 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. In June, 2009, in São Paulo, he told: "Adopting a child is easy in India, and there is no problem because of being openly gay. I hope to be with my son soon after my return from Brazil".

Early life:

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. Manvendra had a traditional and conservative upbringing. He was educated at Scottish High 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 alright 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 gays 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.”

Coming out:
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.

Manavendra appeared as a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show on October 24, 2007. He was one of three persons featured in the show entitled 'Gays 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.
Manvendra inaugurated the Euro Pride gay festival in Stockholm, Sweden on 25 July 2008.

Manvendra featured in a BBC Television series, Undercover Princes, screened on BBC Three in the UK in January 2009 which documented his search for a British boyfriend in Brighton.

Charitable activities:

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.

Lakshya is a member of the India Network For Sexual Minorities (INFOSEM) and a founding member of the Sexual Health Action Network (SHAN).

In 2004, Manvendra spent a month in the districts of Surendranagar and Rajkot in Gujarat, running consultation sessions for homosexuals in the areas (where the homosexuality rate is among the highest in India).

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 another Royal, a member of the erstwhile Kapurthala Royal family, Prince Amarjit Singh.

The LA Times wrote this:

As a maharajah's son, Manvendra Singh Gohil grew up in a bubble of privilege, surrounded by hangers-on who treated him so reverentially that he was 15 before he crossed the street by himself.

So the public snubs and rejection of the past nine months have been a new experience. Yet the mild-mannered Gohil couldn't be more content.

At last, he says, he is living an honest life — albeit one that has touched off a scandal in the royal house of Rajpipla, one of India's former princely states. Last March, he revealed a lifelong secret to a local newspaper, which promptly splashed it on the front page.

"The headline read: 'The Prince of Rajpipla Declares That He's a Homosexual,' " Gohil said with a rueful chuckle. "The newspaper sold like hot cakes."

In the uproar that followed, disgusted residents in Gohil's hometown flung his photograph onto a bonfire. His parents disowned their only son, printing notices in the media that he was cut off as heir because of his involvement in "activities unacceptable to society". His mother has threatened to sue anyone who refers to him as her son.

For scandal-mongers, the tale of India's gay prince is an irresistibly juicy affair full of details worthy of a tabloid tell-all: his teenage affair with a servant boy, a sexless marriage to a minor princess, a nervous breakdown.

For Gohil, his public unmasking has brought him a pulpit from which to speak out against a law that makes him not just a pariah of noble birth but also a common criminal.

Here in the world's largest democracy, home to 1.1 billion people, sex between two people of the same gender remains a punishable offence.

Decades after India threw off the yoke of British rule, the country still clings to a Victorian-era statute established by its colonial masters nearly 150 years ago, which demands life in prison for anyone committing "carnal intercourse against the order of nature".

In practice, few prosecutions are brought to court. But reports abound of police using the law to harass and blackmail gays.

Human rights advocates, lawyers' groups and the government's AIDS co-ordinator are lobbying for repeal or revision of the law. In September, dozens of Indian luminaries, including Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen and author Vikram Seth, added their voices to the campaign. Activists are guardedly hopeful about the chances of a legal challenge now pending before the Delhi High Court. A hearing is scheduled for this month.

But even should they succeed, changing attitudes will prove a far harder task.

Gohil, 41, would seem an unlikely spokesman for bucking the system, one from which he has benefited handsomely. Although India's royal families were stripped of formal political power after the nation's independence in 1947, many retain enormous wealth and influence in their former fiefdoms, as smiling ribbon-cutters and patrons of the arts, education and charitable work.
Gohil's parents, maharajah and maharani of Rajpipla, a predominantly agricultural town of about 70,000 people in the western state of Gujarat, are the community's biggest landowners and have several palaces to their name.

Gohil lived a cocooned existence there and at the family residence in Mumbai, spending his childhood absorbing the finer points of royal protocol and etiquette, attending the finest schools and being waited on hand and foot. "It was so luxurious that even a glass of water I didn't have to go and get for myself," he said.

By age 12, Gohil had already been invited to be guest of honour at a local school event. Around the same time, he began sensing that something besides his aristocratic background set him apart from his peers. "Somewhere inside me I felt I was different than others," he said at his office in Vadodara, about 90 minutes from Rajpipla.

"When I came to the age where you develop sexual attraction to the opposite sex, I had the feeling that I'm not attracted to the opposite sex but the same sex."

He didn't have the words to describe his impulses, but as a teenager he found a way to act on them at home with a servant boy his own age, an orphan whom Gohil's grandmother had taken under her wing. The two boys maintained a secret relationship until they were about 18.

After his graduation from university, the pressure on Gohil to marry mounted as his parents expected their only son to carry on the Rajpipla line and assume his duties as custodian of the family's 600-year-old royal heritage.

A suitable wife could manage the household, making sure that the heirlooms, the china and the sumptuous royal costumes were kept up. Gohil's father, the maharajah, and his mother, from a royal family in Rajasthan, scouted out potential mates, settling on a princess from the state of Madhya Pradesh.

Gohil, then 25, agreed to the match, which quickly turned out to be a disaster and ended in divorce.
It took years for him to summon the nerve to contact a well-known gay activist in Mumbai. Slowly, the young royal began tiptoeing out of the closet, deepening his involvement in the gay community and becoming an HIV counsellor to other homosexual men.

In 2002, Gohil suffered a nervous breakdown, spending 15 days in hospital. At the end of it, his sympathetic psychiatrist arranged for his parents, his sister and her husband to attend a family meeting during which, at Gohil's request, the doctor informed the family of his sexual orientation.

He is no longer on speaking terms with his mother. His father, despite disinheriting him, has softened slightly, declaring in a newspaper interview that he had felt pressured by friends and relatives into taking such a drastic step and describing Gohil as "a gifted individual" and "a good son". The two men still speak, but their conversations are awkward.

Gohil has "no regrets at all" over his decisions or the public consequences. Rather, he has finally been able to put on a little weight, offers for dates have started coming in, and the Lakshya Trust counselling group with whom he works just won an award from the United Nations.


To those in Rajpipla who still harbour reservations about their patron-in-waiting, he waves an indifferent hand. "They cannot get a prince on hire. I am the prince, and whether I am gay or not gay is hardly the issue," Gohil says. "I'm the only son. They have to come back to me."

(sources: Wikipedia, The Oprah Show and the LA Times)


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