Thu, Sep 13, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Gay sex ruling to unlock ‘pink economy’ in India

AFP, MUMBAI, India

Members and supporters of the LGBT community in Bengaluru celebrate the Indian Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a ban on gay sex on Thursday last week.

Photo: AFP

From LGBT nightclubs to “gaycations” and more, a court ruling legalizing homosexuality in India is set to unlock one of the world’s largest “pink economies,” experts say.

The Indian Supreme Court’s historic decision last week to scrap a colonial-era ban on gay sex sparked joy as activists held rainbow-colored celebrations across the nation.

Now the community can expect to see businesses lining up to offer a range of tailored products, in fashion, health and other industries, providing a massive boost to Asia’s third-biggest economy.

“It can bring billions of dollars to the Indian economy if they can activate the spending of gay people in India,” said Keshav Suri, a hotelier and petitioner in the landmark case. “There is business to be done, real estate to be bought and sold, holidays and all the services that go with that.”

“The value of the pink economy and the social aspects of the LGBT community are too large now for us to ignore,” added Suri, executive director of the Lalit hotel group.

India is home to more than 55 million LGBT adults, according to Out Now Consulting, a marketing agency that helps businesses target gay and lesbian consumers.

Their nominal income is about US$113 billion annually, the firm estimates.

LGBT couples have fewer children than other groups and higher-than-average salaries, meaning plenty of disposable cash.

“They represent one of the world’s largest LGBT markets,” said Ian Johnson, founder of Australia-based Out Now Consulting.

He predicts that drinks brands and travel companies would be the first to target the LGBT community following the scrapping of Section 377, which was introduced 157 years ago.

LGBT bars, clubs and cafes would provide new employment and boost sales in the food and alcohol industries, while people would be able to attend vacations designed specifically for the gay market without fear of legal reprisal.

Nakshatra Bagwe, a Mumbai-based entrepreneur, runs The BackPack Travels, a company specializing in organizing trips for LGBT tourists.

He says it has been profitable since it was set up in October 2016, but he expects to see an increase in revenue following the law change.

“With legality and freedom on our side businesses will invest in the community and opportunities will increase in the coming years,” Bagwe said.

Inder Vhatwar, another businessman based in India’s financial capital, also hopes to profit from the ruling by judges who said members of the gay community deserve an apology for the treatment they have suffered.

Shortly after gay sex was briefly decriminalized before by the Delhi High Court in 2009, Vhatwar opened a store called D’Kloset in Mumbai’s trendy neighborhood of Bandra, where several Bollywood stars live.

He sold glitzy clothes, handbags and party masks, but after the ban was reinstated in 2013 Vhatwar was evicted by his landlord.

“I faced a lot of challenges due to Section 377 and had to shut down, but with this recent judgement I am planning to start the store again,” the 37-year-old said.

Gay sex has long been a taboo subject for many in socially conservative India, with religious groups in particular fiercely opposing any liberalization of sexual morality.

The World Bank said in a 2014 report that homophobic attitudes and a reluctance to hire LGBT people hampered India’s economic growth by up to 1.7 percent annually.

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