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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 June, 2003, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
Calcutta gays hold rare march
Indian men wearing lipstick and jewellery carry rainbow flag at Calcutta march
Marchers called for India to accept them in society
Up to 100 people have marched in a gay rights parade in the Indian city of Calcutta, in a rare display of activism for one of the country's most hidden cultures.

Braving bemused and at times unsympathetic responses from hundreds of bystanders, the men - many wearing makeup and jewellery - waved banners, including one saying "Let us love and be loved".

Others waved the rainbow flag, a symbol of the gay rights movement.

Many of those who observed the march had risen early just to watch the spectacle - an unusual sight for a country where homosexuality is still an offence punishable by law.

"The problem in India is that the society does not accept us," marcher Arpan Banerjee said.

"Whatever we want to do, we do behind the curtains... what is there to hide?

"Only sexual orientation is different, and that's a personal issue. They have no right whatsoever to say that we are somewhat different."

India's gay community has begun to assert itself in recent years, with cities such as Bombay and Bangalore becoming centres for gay culture.

However not all bystanders welcomed the men's march.

"Authorities should immediately stop such activities," retired government worker Suman De told French news agency AFP.

"Otherwise our youths will be lost in the merry-making of the gays."

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