Indian prince to be prized guest at Swedish gay fest

July 24th, 2008 - 11:39 am ICT by IANS  

By Alfred de Tavares
Stockholm, July 24 (IANS) Manvendra Singh Gohil, perhaps the only erstwhile Indian royal to have declared himself gay, is expected to be the main attraction at this year’s StockholmPride, a famous global gay event, starting Friday. “I am honoured to be invited as one of the opening speakers for StockholmPride,” Manvendra told IANS. “Especially since I live in a country where LGBT issues continue to be ridiculously taboo, no matter how universally practiced.”

Manvendra is the son of the erstwhile Maharana of Rajpipla in Gujarat.

He, along with Swedish Minister for EU Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom and veteran Swedish mega-entertainment star Barbro ‘Lill Babs’ Svensson, will be a keynote speaker during the 10-day festival.

“Prince Manvendra came out in the open in 2006 and is one of India’s few open and totally transparent LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) people,” says Anders Wallner, who will be his personal host.

“He has become a respected figure of the global gay community.”

This year’s LGBT event is extra-special because StockholmPride is presented EuroPride - a unique combination of politics and partying - annually hosted by European member countries. Incidentally, Indian capital New Delhi hosted its first gay pride event in June.

StockholmPride will kick off at the prestigious and colourful Skansen, the oldest open air museum and nature park in the world, and will continue in other venues in the Swedish capital.

This year’s the theme is “Swedish Sin, Breaking Borders”, with the focus going beyond the Swedish borders on the situation for LGBT people.

“We have chosen Manvendra Singh Gohil because he can give EuroPride visitors an image of the situation for LGBT people in other parts of the world,” says Jonah Nylund, president of StockholmPride.

Manvendra drew attention in 2007 when he participated in the Oprah Winfrey show called “Gay around the world”.

“I looked forward to visiting Scandinavia for the first time and for the possibility of initiating future collaborations. I am convinced it will be a memorable journey and the first of many more to follow,” says Manvendra.

“And hopefully raise positive conscientiousness to our rights in India and elsewhere,” says Manvendra.

“We are not the monsters we are often made out to be. We value our right to respect and dignity, the most basic human rights, as much as any other person. The treatment we have received lately in Russia and other East European countries has been most atrocious and demeaning. We are set to change these attitudes.”

Malmstrom said: “Of course, I too am very honoured. I am proud to represent a government that wants to be a strong voice for the rights of LGBT-people. I will speak about human rights and that they are universal.

“It’s depressing that LGBT rights are violated in most of the world, even in many European countries, today.”

StockholmPride’s press chief Anna Sodertrom said: “Indian prince Manvendra Singh Gohil will give an international point of view and Cecilia Malmstrom will give a European viewpoint. The third opening speaker will speak with a national perspective at the beginning of August.”

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