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Shedding the Last Layer: Gay India Awakens to New Freedom

Story by Karuna Ezara Parikh / Photography by Ashish Shah

On September 6, a historic victory left India bathed in rainbows when the country's Supreme Court finally overturned an archaic British-era law that pronounced gay sex illegal. While even same sex marriage has been recognized in the United Kingdom for a number of years at this point, homosexuality remained illegal and a crime in India where the colonial era law still stood.

Following the verdict, Indian stylist Kshitij Kankaria and photographer Ashish Shah decided to shoot a series of brave members of the Indian LGBTQIA community.

In a country where nudity is neither commonplace nor commodity, the act of stripping publicly is often a political one — the same way the act of kissing, of hand holding, of laying in bed together has been political for the community we see here. Their nakedness, one needn't really point out, is a triumph — a dare, and a declaration of freedom.

The shoot marks their bodies as proudly part of the country, rather than of just one community. Here they stand strong, and look to the future, face their fears even in the wake of this judgement, question, and begin to dream bigger. India might have been hiding her LGBTQIA community, but the queer Indian community has not been bothered about hiding. Even if in the shadows, it has thrived — and here, they celebrate with pride.

Below, meet eight queer Indians, who reflect on what their country's gay decriminalization means to them.

Rohan Agnani

"I wonder if this judgement passed by a panel of privileged and aware individuals will actually filter down into society. It will be a true victory the day we are accepted by the masses. A high school boy in rural India probably doesn't know the law is now on his side, so I think acceptance from one's own people, from your own family — that's the battle." – Rohan Agnani

Photography: Ashish Shah
Styling: Kshitij Kankaria
Hair & Makeup: Saher Ahmed Gandhi
Photography Assistant: Shubham Lodha
Fashion Assistants: Ruhani Singh & Nayanika Kapoor

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