Surprised that Asian Networks Censored Oscar Speeches? I am not.

My role at the Family Equality Council serves as a great
conversation starter every time an old friend from India calls to
ask how I am doing. Especially, since our cause does not get much
media attention in India, where I grew up and which remains one of
the few democratic countries that criminalize homosexuality. So to
start off my conversation with you, the reader of our blog,
here’s a quick look at some of the latest LGBT-related news from

The Presidents of the Indian and American Psychiatric Associations
(IPA and APA) recently issued a
in the Hindustan Times urging the
Indian government to decriminalize homosexuality. This is a big
step forward for a country where, thanks to a 19th century British
law, having gay sex is still considered illegal. While updating the
law is an important step towards equality, changing public
perception is perhaps even more urgent.

Much has been made in the American media about Sean Penn and Lance
Black’s Oscar speech censorship by Asian TV network STAR. Jamie
Poon, spokeswoman of the Rupert Murdoch-owned network,
told the Associated Press
that the action took into
consideration the “sensitivities and guidelines” of their
market. The Oscars had their biggest ever Indian audience (thank
you Slumdog!) this year and censoring the two speeches was a great
opportunity lost in changing hearts and minds.

In another piece of equally disturbing but less widely reported
news, members of the band Black Lips had their
Indian tour cut short
and their passports taken away. Why?
Because members of this all male punk band kissed and stripped
on-stage. In a country not quite comfortable with public displays
of even straight love, this is not entirely unexpected.

But the question remains: how long before the world’s largest
democracy becomes comfortable with its gay population?