The Hindu community in the Netherlands has a lot to learn from India, says Dutch gay activist Sanam.

There's a split among Hindus in Holland. Indian Hindus are relatively relaxed about homosexuality. But gays in the Surinamese Hindu community still suffer discrimination.

Dutch gay organisation Rainbow has set up a programme designed to help break down the prejudice against homosexuality in the Surinamese Hindu community.
"We should look at how our fellow Hindus from India deal with these issues," says Sanam, one of the speakers at a special Rainbow event on Saturday.

Roundabout route
There's a large community of 'Hindustanis' in the Netherlands who came to Holland by a roundabout route. Their great-grandparents originally left British India way back in the late 1800s to settle in the little Latin American country of Suriname - then a Dutch colony. When Suriname became independent in the 1970s, many headed for Holland.

Gay goddess
Although the Netherlands is relatively accepting of homosexuality, that's not an attitude shared by many Surinamese Hindus. Sanam wants the community to look to the example of its original homeland.
"Indian society is much more relaxed when it comes to gay issues, although there are obviously still many problems to overcome. But homosexuality is not regarded as completely abnormal, as many Suriname Hindus see it. Indian Hindus even have their own goddess for transgenders, gays and bisexuals, Buchara."
Sanam is Surinamese, a Hindu and gay - so he knows the problem from his own experience. "We're not free to be ourselves," he says, "you have to go through times of discrimination and feeling unaccepted by your own people."

Sanam's community is very enthusiastic about many aspects of Indian culture, such as Bollywood films and music, and he's hoping they'll also learn to love Buchara:
"The goddess is virtually unknown to Surinamese Hindus," he says, "and our community could learn a lot from the Indians. Buchara is worshipped by Hindus, which makes the subject of homosexuality a little bit easier to discuss."
Homophobic Hindus in Holland
(van de wereld omroep)

Sanam v Voorthuijsen