That one time we almost got arrested for being gay in Delhi

That one time we almost got arrested for being gay in Delhi

Don’t get us wrong, we absolutely fell in love with India.

But its government just has major problems accepting its LGBT community.

A very old law dating back to 1861 (Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code) criminalises gay sex with up to 10 years in prison. This was invalidated by the Delhi High Court in 2009, but in 2013, the Supreme Court reintroduced Article 377.

In January 2016, the Supreme Court announced it would review this decision, but until this is done, being gay in India remains a crime.

Gay scene Delhi protests against Article 377

Protests in India against the offensive Article 377

We couldn’t find any evidence of Article 377 being enforced, but its very existence is a symbolic slap in the face to the LGBT community.

We interviewed a gay Indian couple anonymously who said that Article 377 is used by the authorities as a validation for all sorts of bullying and harassment of the LGBT community, in particular the Indian police who use it as a way to get bribes.

We experienced this first hand in Delhi.

gay scene in Delhi arrested in gay club

Policeman in Delhi

THE GAY SCENE IN DELHI

Our first stop in India was the buzzing and chaotic city of Delhi. It was our entry point into the country and our base to visit the Taj Mahal.

As a big city with over 10 million, we were expecting it to have an active gay community. Unfortunately, most online resources about gay bars or clubs in Delhi were outdated.

Since 2013 when the Supreme Court made being gay illegal, there are no openly gay hangouts. If there were before, now they were closed down and everything forced underground.

One of our favourite mobile apps for our travels is Grindr, to connect and meet locals, and our experience in Delhi was a classic example. Using Grindr, we were able to tap into the scene and discover the venue of that week’s party: Knight by Castle 9 at Connaught Place.

So, dolled up and ready to party, we hit the town.

ready for gay scene in Delhi

Heading for a gay night our with our friend Andrew in Delhi

The gay party itself was a lot of fun. It was heaving full of locals dancing and drinking, having a good time.

Just as we whipped out the selfie sticks to start capturing the evening, a burly bouncer quickly took us aside and sternly told us that all photography is strictly prohibited. They were only trying to protect their clientele who were naturally sensitive about their family or work finding out they’d been to a gay place.

Suddenly at around 1am the music stopped.

All the lights were switched off and window blinds pulled down.

Everybody was asked to stay inside the club, be silent and under no circumstances, go outside.

The police had arrived!

Everyone in the club was blazé about it. This happened at all their parties. It was just the way it had always been.

We, however were freaking out…

  • What if we have to go to some dodgy Indian prison cell?
  • What’s the number of the UK/French embassy?
  • What are your rights if arrested in India?!

Our Indian friends reassured us, explaining the policemen were simply looking for a bribe from the promoters and would leave everyone else alone.

It was just the way it had always been.

Knight club by Castle sign gay party Delhi gay scene

The venue for the gay party when we were in Delhi

We waited for around 20 minutes. At one point one young guy tried to leave through the back door, but the burly bouncer smacked him and told him to wait inside to avoid antagonising the police.

Eventually the policemen’s bribes were settled and everyone was asked to leave via the back door, one by one, and go straight home.

No one got hurt. No one was arrested. And most shocking for us, nobody seemed to care!

This was all part of an average gay night out in Delhi.

Although we were able to laugh it off afterwards, we were so shocked that this is what the Delhi LGBT community have to live with every day.

gay scene Delhi almost arrested gay club

Our “we were nearly arrested in Delhi” tuk tuk selfie on the ride back home

THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN IN LONDON!

Back home in London, or anywhere else in Western Europe or North America, this would never, ever in a million years happen!

Any police presence in Heaven or XXL would be to protect us from something, not for a bribe! Our Police even have their own float at London Pride and let us kiss them and take silly photos with them.

London gay scene easier then Delhi gay scene

Sebastien the angel kissing one of our friendly policemen at London Gay Pride parade

We were just shocked that in India, the very people who are supposed to protect you are instead the ones you have to bribe to leave you alone.

We truly hope the Indian Supreme Court takes the initiative in its review of Article 377 to make the correct decision and repeal it once and for all!

SHOULD GAY TRAVELLERS BOYCOTT INDIA?

On the contrary!

We strongly believe that gay travellers should not boycott travelling to countries with anti-gay laws.

As a foreigner you will be quite safe. No one wants any embassy issues, least of all the police. More importantly, going there as a gay traveller you would not only be helping to raise awareness with everyday folk that gays are like any other person, you would also be supporting your local sisters there.

And let’s face it, India has the potential to be very gay: with a population of over 1 billion, there’s statistically over 100 million gay boys waiting to party with you!

Oh – and have you seen some of the carvings at religious places like the temples of Khajuraho?!

Delhi gay scene erotic carvings gay sex

Back in the old days, anal sex seemed to be the norm in India judging by these ancient temple carvings in Khajuraho

FOR MORE FROM OUR TRAVELS IN INDIA, CHECK OUT OUR VIDEO:

 

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That one time we got arrested in India for being gay

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90 Comments

    • Stefan Arestis

      Right?!!!

      Reply
  1. Kemkem

    Oh..why am l not surprised about this? Police bribery seems the norm in all these countries. The government is so corrupt and the pay so little, most turn to bribery to survive. Glad you guys came out of it okay, but it must have been scary as hell :-).

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Kem

      Reply
  2. Edsel Laitila

    You guys have the best life in the worldwith all your travels and fun times. Keep it up Boys.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Edsel

      Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Kisses to our lovely Edsel ??

      Reply
  3. Fred in Motul

    The bribe thing is pervasive. Not so much in the US, but for sure here in Mexico. We always used to say: “What is the most dangerous time to drive around in Mexico?” Answer: Just before Lunch Time because, if the cops see a Gringo they think they can fluster, they would stop them and hit them up for enough of a bribe to eat a good lunch. Once we became more invisible here (local car with local tags, State IDs, tax stamps, etc) we no longer are subjected to this, and truth be told that is more in Cancun or Merida. Not our little town. Once, we even turned the table on one guy who seemed very nice any way, and invited him to lunch with us. He took us to this amazing bar / restaurant that served ice cold beer and drinks for almost nothing, and all the food you could eat for free. Delicious stuff too, not just chips and salsa. We went back for years after that and even saw him there again another time. Life is so much fun if you get out and enjoy it! This was an interesting story about India, and one to keep in mind while traveling just about any where that you do not know the law or speak the language fluently. The harassment used to be common place in the USA too. Crazy laws like your hair could not be too long, or you were guilty of female impersonation, and even your clothes had to conform to your gender on an ID card. Not all that long ago in San Francisco, CA.
    You guys are great! Keep the stories and pictures coming!
    Fred

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Fred!

      Reply
  4. Kevin Wagar

    Great article and good on you for encouraging people to visit the country even though some of it’s legislation may be against their own life and lifestyle. The best way to open people’s eyes is to keep being awesome. Just like you two!

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Awwww sweet! Thanks Kevin 🙂

      Reply
  5. Santiago Hermida

    I wouldn’t like to minimise what happened to you that night in Delhi but this kind of incident is not at all happening to gay establishments only… What we have to understand is that in India (as well as in Sri Lanka) everything linked to sexual activities or even linked to sex in general, is highly taboo. I saw, in India as well as in Sri Lanka, cops harrassing young straight couples for the mere reason that they were “too closely” seated on a bench of a public park or a discreet street… What I’m trying to explain is that, even when 377 will be deleted from the Penal code (asap hopefully), it can’t be expected a sudden tolerance for display of affection… Kissing in public for a straight couple is still regarded as a gross indecency and it will remain like that for a while despite things are changing little by little… If you visit India or Sri Lanka, I confirm that you’ll find an important (sometimes huge like in B’lore for instance) gay life, community, etc. It’s something relatively new and it has been bubbling mainly under the influence of gay movements worldwide… However, undeground, for ages (as suggested by the temples statues pictured here) there’s a generalized space – but never mentionned and always kept unsaid even in the best guides- for same-sex activities (calling it “gay” may probably be insufficient). Go to bus stands of any Indian city, public toilets, parks, river sides, etc., specially at sunset, use eye-contact “international” codes, show interest even to people who don’t speak a word of English, be smiley and sweet, you will be rewarded hundred times… (Take care too, as usual)

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks for your comment Santiago. How funny about the public toilets, parks etc 🙂 But not sure if I agree about it being the same for everyone? None of the straight bars we went to were ever raided by police!

      Reply
      • RunawayBrit

        Hi, what a worrying experience that must have been! I definitely wouldn’t want to see the inside of an Indian jail, especially having done nothing wrong. However, Santiago is right. I live in Mumbai and it is very common for the police to harass young couples who are ‘getting too close’ on the seafront (where young couples hang out to cuddle). They also routinely break into hotel rooms if unmarried couples are cohabiting a room.

        This is from a report of an incident that happened in Mumbai last year when police raided hotel rooms: “What followed was indeed astonishing. The police rounded up around 40 couples, all of them adults, and took them to the police station. While three people were booked under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act – ITPA, the rest of the couples were booked under Section 110 (indecent behaviour in public), kept at the police station till 10pm in the night and let off with a Rs 1200 fine, even though no one has been to explain how a private hotel can be considered ‘public’.”

        If you travel in the north (Shimla, Manali etc…) you will notice that your booking says that a marriage certificate could be requested upon arrival. As a foreigner, I was never asked to show one (which is a good thing because I am not married to my bf), but my Indian friends say that they would be expected to produce it.

        It’s a sad state of affairs, but right now India is going backwards not forwards. Gay travellers should definitely NOT boycott places like India, I have gay Indian friends here who need support from guys like you. They need a government that changes these archaic laws.

        Reply
        • Stefan Arestis

          OMG what a story! Thanks for the comment. Let’s hope the Supreme Court makes the right decision this time round.

          Reply
  6. Katie

    Love how you guys are always able to be positive and throw in something funny, no matter what you are talking about! It is hard for me to wrap my head around the police singling a particular group of people out like that. How frustrating for the community, though it seems like they take it in stride. Did you guys ever feel like you were being singled out or unsafe while traveling in India?

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks for the comment Katie. No we didn’t feel singled out or unsafe as 2 foreign males aren’t gonna get attention. But the treatment towards solo female travellers there alarmed us a bit from what we read/heard from others.

      Reply
      • Katie

        Wow, good to know as a potential female solo traveler in Delhi. Glad you guys didn’t feel unsafe though!

        Reply
        • Stefan Arestis

          Thanks

          Reply
  7. Anna @ shenannagans

    Noooooo way! I am amazed this kind of thing even happens, although not sure why. This post was so interesting tho, prob an experience I will never have, but you write it so I feel like I am right there with you. 🙂

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Anna 🙂

      Reply
  8. Sanket D.

    Just to add some perspective to this story — this isn’t LGBT specific. There is also a likelihood that the cops didn’t bust the place specifically because a gay-party was in swing. Most major Indian cities (I can vouch for Mumbai and Delhi) have strict closing times — I’m guessing things are stricter in Delhi, because it is generally considered a less safer place to be out at in the night than Bombay is. I have lived in Bombay for most of my life, and I’ve partied a lot in the last 4-5 years I lived there. A LOT of times, we used to get kicked out of established joints by 1 am-ish, and we’d then move the party off to slightly less established (read: more underground) places. Quite a few times, these places get raided/visited by cops, because technically they are open after closing time, and they aren’t allowed to, and the exact same chain of events ensues. So it isn’t necessarily an ‘anti-gay’ thing, although your particular incident could well have been one. It’s true that India has a ridiculous anti-gay law, but at least people in the urban circles are very chill about it, and in fact, I’m pretty sure that some time soon the government’s going to have to scrap the ridiculous 377. Just a few days ago we had a major gay-pride event in Mumbai, and the turnout was massive. The pressure’s definitely growing, and we should hopefully see a change soon. Despite all this, I don’t think India is unsafe or gives you an additional reason to worry about for being ‘gay’.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks for the comment Sanket but this was in Connaught Place in the safest part of the city. It was meant to go on till around 3am. The police apparently get wind of where th gay parties are and plan their bribes around this! So glad Mumbai Pride went ahead ok 🙂

      Reply
  9. Sanket D.

    Dear lord! I loved your video right at the end! HAHAHAHAHA. So many relatable incidents crammed into that song. Hit me up next time you guys are in India. Love to catch up if I’m home too.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Sanket!

      Reply
  10. rachel

    It’s a shame that the laws have regressed here in India. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to hide.

    I have lived in Goa for 3 years now, but actually the police do this to bars and clubs here all the time and it doesn’t have anything to do with gay/straight it’s just about money and liquor laws.

    Glad you guys enjoyed Delhi anyways!

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Rachel

      Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Exactly, right? Thanks Sam.

      Reply
  11. Arzo Travels

    Such a shame that it is still not accepted in many parts of the world. However, I assume the police is just trying to find ways to get some extra income and they are probably happy about the existing laws :/

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Yeah they we after bribes 🙁

      Reply
  12. Sara | Belly Rumbles

    I’m reading this on the same night of the Sydney Mardi Gras. Where the whole of Sydney is awash with rainbows, glitter and celebration. If I was in your situation i Delhi I think I would have been a quivering mess, quite scary.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Awww thanks Sara – enjoy Sydney Mardi Gras – we’d love to go one day!

      Reply
  13. Michelle

    It’s nice to know that even in a country where being gay is a crime, that the community still can find ways to come together. Thank god for Grindr!

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Very true 🙂

      Reply
  14. Julie

    Miss you guys! And so sorry that your selfie stick got taken away – at least our time together wasn’t the first time that happened. BTW, I LOVE that pic with the police here in London. It is freaking adorable and he’s hot.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Awwwww thanks Julie. We miss you too, is why I started that group Whats App chat 🙂

      Reply
  15. Hannah

    I love your stand on not boycotting and instead encouraging visiting to raise awareness- good for you!
    I can totally understand your panic though, India is NOT somewhere I would want to end up in jail. Not that I want to end up in jail anywhere! I would be terrified. Glad it didn’t go that way though.
    Ps: that carving made me laugh out loud.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Aww thanks Hannah – pleased to make you giggle 🙂

      Reply
  16. Brenda Tolentino

    It’s terrible that one has to worry about perhaps having an incident with the police while you’re traveling. Corruption is a horrible reality in many countries and I hope that will change with more people visiting. I’m glad you were able to go home safely without incident.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Very true – thanks Brenda 🙂

      Reply
  17. Hugo

    Crazy law. I agree with you when you say people should visit despite this non-sense. At least you have a good story to tell 🙂

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Hugo

      Reply
  18. Bell | Wanderlust Marriage

    Wow, what an experience, and while intense travel experiences often make for a good story it is sad that such a law exists and is used to facilitate corruption. Glad to read that you guys don’t believe in boycotting the country, we hope to make it to India one of these days!

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Great country to visit! Thanks for your comment 🙂

      Reply
  19. Dan

    I completely agree with not blocking any country out, I was guilty of this for years before realising by ignoring the countries I was simply ignoring their peoples problems.

    India is a funny one, I try and understand the local LGBT situation every where I go but In India I didn’t meet anyone and it was pretty hard to strike up a conversation about it. The caste system and treatment of women also really shocked me. It was certainly a lot less progressive than I expected and also, as you point out, a lot more corrupt. It’s a shame so many countries still cling on to the crappy UK laws we left them with so long again – hopefully through tourism they break down soon enough.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Quite right – thanks Dan 🙂

      Reply
  20. Darlene

    What a crazy night for you guys! But good thing you still enjoyed your night out. Yeah, it’s probably gonna take a long time still for some countries to accept the LGBT community. But definitely dont let that hamper you into traveling. 🙂 What a very interesting carving they have there.hehehe

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Darlene xx

      Reply
  21. Jackie

    First, thank goodness everyone was ok! Second, its just outrageous (though not surprising)! The world needs a great big dose of tolerance. I’d think it is this type of backward thinking that creates more of a culture shock than anything else.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Jackie

      Reply
  22. Jenna

    That’s too bad it is a common occurrence, but glad they are reviewing the law this year and that you guys still had a great time in India! Sounds like a fun party until the cops came!!

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Jenna

      Reply
  23. sabrina

    I really wish the indian law and mentality (well, not only indian for sure) changes! Not only for travellers but mainly for locals, that must be free to live and love in the best way

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Totally agree 🙂

      Reply
  24. Natasha Amar

    I’m originally Indian (but born, raised and based in Dubai) and I always say how in India, sometimes the focus is on things that are so irrelevant in present times- and these kind of laws are an example of this. Quite an adventure and quite the story for you guys but my dream for my country is to step up and step into present times with a more tolerant attitude and an open mind. I’m glad to hear that you loved India!

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Natasha – truly a remarkable country 🙂

      Reply
  25. Meg Jerrard

    Interesting experience – thankyou for sharing to raise awareness. It’s sad that the reality is that the laws in India are continually used as a way to bully and harass the LGBT community, and even sadder yet that “it’s the way it always has been”. But hopefully the supreme court will come through and the country will see change.

    I’m glad that you enjoyed your time in India, and I’m glad that you’re happy to promote travel there – I honestly believe that boycotting a nation due to it’s laws isn’t going to change anything, rather, being there on the ground and witnessing the culture firsthand offers a chance to understand a culture to then effectively seek to change it.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Meg 🙂

      Reply
  26. Tess Andrade

    Stories like this make my blood boil. I’m annoyed at backward laws like this that are still in force – i hope for not too long anymore. I’m sorry you had to experience this – must have been a very frightening experience. Especially after the Bataclan incident – i would have honestly pooped myself thinking I was being shot or something. I’m glad this was all just about some bribing money and you were left in peace.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Awww thanks Tess

      Reply
  27. Karla (Karla Around The World)

    Its really how disappointing how gay people are treated this way. Its like stripping their rights.The things people do for money…ugh so infuriating.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Right? 🙂

      Reply
  28. Amber

    It’s hard to wrap your head around something like this still happening, but coming from the U.S a situation like that wouldn’t happen. Very disappointing, but I’m glad you guys were able to spin a positive light on the situation and encourage people to visit. Unfortunately, there are still countries that have a corrupt government/police force.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      v true – thanks Amber

      Reply
  29. Wandering Carol

    Insane story! I’ve had a few crazy experiences in India as well, as somehow you still end up loving the country and the people. Glad you had Grindr.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Right? So true!

      Reply
  30. Lotte

    Wow, that’s a really scary experience! I am glad nothing happened and you are okay…

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Lotte

      Reply
  31. Aileen Adalid

    Thank you for sharing your experience! I believe that this will help raise awareness as well. It’s a really sad reality though for most countries that the attitude toward the gay community isn’t as good — but it’s always my hope that those countries slowly but surely ease up and be more accepting. It may be a long way to go but I’d like to believe that it will happen soon.

    Nevertheless, it’s great that you enjoyed your adventures in India nonetheless and that you don’t promote boycotting of any sort. I myself believe that often times, doing things that way doesn’t help as much.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Aileen 🙂

      Reply
  32. Vicky and Buddy

    How horrible that you had to go through that experience, and how horrible that locals have to deal with it every day! Bribery and corruption are not ok. Hopefully they repeal the law once and for all.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thx guys

      Reply
  33. Jennifer Melroy

    On the bright side you weren’t arrested or even detained. I do wonder how much bribery goes on in India. Do other non-gay specific clubs regularly have to pay brides? I know in parts of Africa brides are collected for everything under the sun. It doesn’t mean its right but it’s the way things are run.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      None of the straight places we visited got raided 🙁

      Reply
  34. Andrea Leblang

    I’m constantly shocked by lack of acceptance around the world, but I love that you guys don’t let it slow you down. Thanks so much for sharing your experience! I think it’s important to raise awareness, and to keep doing what you love no matter what. You’re an inspiration!

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Awww thanks Andrea 🙂

      Reply
  35. Mar Pages

    Lights suddenly switched off and told not to move? Thats a norm?! I would have flipped out and like you, wondering about my rights! What an adventure, I’m glad you both are safe! Great stand on not boycotting anti-gay countries too! Those carvings though, my goodness.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Thanks Mar 🙂

      Reply
      • Akash Rana

        I m a gay guy from India …and m really upset by our country laws……i want a happy life ………if u r a gay in India…your life wiil be just like Hell

        Reply
        • Stefan Arestis

          Very sorry to hear this Akash 🙁

          Reply
        • NOM NOM Boris

          I’m sorry Akash (HUGS) I hope some day things will get better

          Reply
  36. NOM NOM Boris

    oh wow that is interesting and kind of scary adventure. Do you know if this is similar in other cities in India like Bangalore? I’m going there on a work trip next month and was wondering if I should try and check out the gay scene there.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Actually we heard Bangalore is much better, gayer. Would love to hear what you make of it.

      Reply
      • NOM NOM Boris

        Deal, I will let you know :). I hope to have time to explore the scene, but not 100% sure since I will be there working a lot at our offices. I kind of expected it be more liberal since there is a large young population there and its an IT hub.

        Reply
  37. Joanna Szreder

    It’s sad that things like that happen in the world 🙁 You’re right, police in the UK would have been there to protect you. Whatever people say about police in England, I think they are the nicest guys and also very helpful.
    On the other hand, closing down bars like that happens in Thailand all the time. In Chiang Mai everything closes at midnight. Some bars tried to stay open after that, but the same things happened: lights went down, police came, took bribes and kicked everyone out. One time we even had army soldiers there, who without knocking started checking female toilets. That was scary, too.

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      WOW! Happened to me in a club in Puerto Maldonado (Peru) before – police came and they left with bottles of white powder they found in the loos (!)

      Reply
  38. jim worldcitizen

    Do you lads have any plans to return to India again? I love your blog!

    I was in Pakistan a few years ago, and those laws were stricter there! ( but behind closed doors………. )

    Reply
    • Stefan Arestis

      Definitely- we want to visit Ladakh 😍

      Reply

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