The Indian version of Celebrity Big Brother, Bigg Boss, has been embroiled in a homophobia row after one of the participants was mocked for his sexuality.
Rohit Suchanti, a 22-year-old actor who has starred in Indian TV shows, was faced with “homophobic” comments from other participants, the Times of India reported, soon after entering the house on October 22.
In particular, cricketer S. Sreesanth mocked Suchanti for his mannerisms and for wearing a pair of purple shorts, suggesting these were signs he was gay. Another participant, actor Karanvir Bohra, also made disparaging comments about Suchanti’s sexuality, Indian news outlet NDTV reported.
The comments enraged Vikas Gupta, a former participant on the hugely popular show and a friend of Suchanti, who had suffered a similar treatment while taking part in the reality programme the previous season.
“I am extremely upset after what I saw today on #BigBoss12,” he wrote on Twitter on October 22.
In his post, Gupta pointed out that some of the housemates also implied that Suchanti was “too fair or too good looking” to be straight and others laughed at the “homophobic jokes instead of correcting” Sreesanth—a behaviour that left him feeling “ashamed.”
“It’s not about Rohit Suchanti who is straight but the portrayal of the LGBT community as something to be made fun of or laughed at [that] is really disgusting,” Gupta wrote, pointing out the hypocrisy of celebrating the recent repeal of Section 377, which criminalised homosexuality, but then condoning homophobic comments.
According to a recent survey of nearly 3,400 Indian gay, bisexual and transgender men users of LGBT+ social networking site Romeo, half of respondents have not revealed their sexuality to their families and friends and 40 percent of them said they do not plan on doing so. The figures highlight the stigma people still face in the country even after the historic Supreme Court ruling.
Gupta’s post gathered thousands of retweets and likes, but several of Suchanti’s pictures on Instagram have received comments questioning the actor’s sexuality following the Bigg Boss housemates’ comments.
Suchanti’s own mother, Rajini Suchanti, decided to intervene, writing a long post published as a screenshot on her son’s Instagram account on Tuesday.
“I am Rohit’s mother, and I want to say something. Please share with others,” read the post’s caption, which included a picture of mother and son together.
“Rohit has achieved so much at such a young age and he has lead by example, for which his family and friends love him. If this doesn’t make him worthy of being selected for Bigg Boss then I don’t know what will?” Suchanti’s mother wrote.
She added that her son used to be severely overweight and worked hard to get in shape, so it now broke her heart to see him being teased for being “too good-looking.”
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