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Goa drops gay-friendly tourism plan

Outraged Church and Hindu groups force government U-turn on 'intolerable' idea

The government in Goa yesterday withdrew a plan to promote the western state as a gay-friendly tourist destination after Church and Hindu groups expressed outrage. Father Maverick Fernandes, executive secretary of Goa archdiocesan Council for Social Justice and Peace, said the government dropped the idea after a meeting with government officials. I told them “the Church would not tolerate this. The government has not dropped the plan voluntarily, but because they have been pressurized”, the priest said. On Wednesday state director of Tourism Swapnil Naik told a press conference that a four-day Goa International Travel Mart meeting, which begins today, would discuss the issue because gay-friendly tourism is a growing trend in the industry. Some 400 people from 28 countries are attending the event in the state capital, Panaji. However, in a U-turn last night, state Tourism Minister Nilkant Halarnkar, withdrew the plan out of what he called respect for people’s sentiments. Fr Fernandes welcomed the decision and also warned the government not to promote tourism haphazardly. In an earlier press statement, the priest accused the government of trying to turn Goa into a sex tourism destination catering to people’s sexual preferences. He also said promoting tourism only for economic benefits would demean Goan ethos and culture. Opposition to the tourism plan had also come from a Hindu group which filed a criminal case against the travel mart organizers and urged the government not to let them discuss the LGBT issue. “Goa has never encouraged same sex tourism. Raising this subject at an event is nothing but an attempt to provoke trouble,” said Dattaram Sawant, from the hardline group Janajagruti Samiti. He lamented that Goa is becoming known for its relaxed stance on drugs, casinos and prostitution, saying it would have a negative affect on youth and the future of Goa. Goa is a leading tourist spot in India, attracting some 2.6 million tourists annually, including nearly half a million foreigners. Related links: GOA CHURCH SEEKS TO PROTECT ECOLOGY, PROMOTE HEALTHY TOURISM


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