India: Online dating fuels new danger for gays

Sonal Giani, a Mumbai-based gay activist, said the Internet gave many men a false sense of security. “Online spaces are deemed to be oh-so-safe” compared with the limited options otherwise, since connections are made in private, Ms. Giani said. “But we’ve been seeing gangs operating online.”

Since India’s Supreme Court recriminalized gay sex more than a year ago, homosexuals have increasingly become targets of robbery and extortion, gay men and activists say. The trend has been fueled by the rise of Internet dating, which has become an easy way for urban, middle-class gay men to meet, but also exposed them to online predators. “It’s more and more frequent,” said one 26-year-old engineer who lives in Mumbai. He said he was robbed in January after inviting a man he met on PlanetRomeo to his apartment.

After they had sex, the visitor threatened to tell the engineer’s neighbors he was gay unless he handed over 10,000 rupees, about $157. The engineer didn’t notify police. “If I file a complaint because a man I had sex with robbed me, I’m denouncing myself under Section 377,” he said. “It’s a lose-lose situation.” Read More