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Celina Jaitley bats for gay rights

Bollywood actress and rights activist Celina Jaitley has lent her voice to United Nations' music video to promote LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights.

bollywood Updated: May 03, 2014 17:28 IST

Bollywood actress and rights activist

Celina Jaitley

has lent her voice to United Nations' music video to promote LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights.

Jaitley, the goodwill ambassador of United Nations' Free and Equal Campaign, made her singing debut by voicing the song for the campaign produced by UN in typical Bollywood song-and-dance style for the first time.

The two and a half minute video called The Welcome calls for recognition and support for LGBT community.


Celina Jaitley turns singer for a cause

LGBT activist Ashok Row Kavi; chief of global human rights issues and senior adviser on sexual orientation and gender identity in the UN human rights office, Charles Radcliffe, Bollywood actor Imran Khan and Jaitley graced the official launch event in showbiz capital Mumbai on Wednesday.

Jaitley, who has been on a sabbatical from movies post her marriage and kids, has been a leading voice for the rights of LGBT community in the country.

She has crooned the reworked edition of legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar's famous song "Uthe sab ke kadam" for the Bollywood style campaign.

The video tells a story of a man who brings his boyfriend to his house to meet his family for the first time.

Jaitley, a former Miss India, said music has always played a special role in her life.

"Music is the best way to connect people and we thought why not pull together the emerging trend of Bollywood which is of course Mr Radcliffe's idea and in great track Neeraj (musician singer Neeraj Shreedhar) composed an edition of Uthe sab ke kadam and make me sing it and here we are with the video, with a beautiful message for everyone that it is not about gay rights, it's about basic human rights and together we can build a world that is free and equal," she said.

The Supreme Court granted the shunned transgender community legal recognition as the third gender last month, entitling them to the same rights as any other citizen, seeking to end centuries of discrimination and paving the way for their return from the fringe of the society.

India is still way behind places such as Hong Kong and Thailand, which have openly gay communities and gay-friendly infrastructure.

Transgender rights activist Laxmi Tripathi, who was also present during the official launch of the video, said it is high time that federal and provincial governments do their bit to bring LGBT community at the same pedestal.

"Transgender word I don't go with it. I am a hijra (eunuch) and I will stick to my word. We come under the umbrella of the transgenders and there are transgenders in India too, and I believe in my culture, and in this whole region I just said two months ago at a website of UN, when we were dealing with the issue of transgenders, this is a high time that the government, the state and the federal government start taking the responsibility of sexual minority people immaterial whether they are gay, lesbian, transgenders or in this region of Asia Pacific," said Tripathi.

Bollywood actor Imran Khan said even film industry should take responsibility in portraying gay characters in movies.

"And I think it's actually a key step in breaking out these prejudices that people have; a major part of these prejudices. I do take responsibility, in the portrayal of LGBT relationships and characters in our films and in any media and I think this makes it a very-very important step in the right direction," Khan said.

But the Supreme Court of India last year had reinstated a ban on gay sex, taking an unexpectedly bold stance ahead of elections.

The court overturned a 2009 ruling by Delhi's High Court, which had lifted a ban on gay sex between consenting adults that dated back to the nineteenth century. The top court said only parliament could change the penal code.

Gay rights activists have long argued that the current law reflects British colonial standards of morality and not Indian traditions.

Many transgenders in the country operate as sex workers or move around in organised groups begging or demanding money from families who are celebrating the birth of a child or a marriage. They would threaten to curse the happy new couple or the newborn if they do not pay up.

Many fear a hijra's (eunuch's) curse, which is said to bring infertility or bad luck. But transgenders are the bigger victims, activists say.

Hate crimes against the community are common yet few are reported, partly due to a lack of sensitivity by authorities such as the police.