Shivananda Khan: Never Apologise for Who You Are

The LGBT community in South Asia has lost one of its brightest colours in the Rainbow… the flambouyant, controversial, acerbic, and wittily charming Shivanad Khan is no more… 

Shiv is tall and handsome and of decidedly masculine appearance, with no more feminine traits than several of my heterosexual friends. When I had earlier accused him of being a “real man”, he had mock-frowned and said “hush! You’ll ruin my reputation.” That’s an extract from a blog of one of Shivanada Khan’s very many friends.

Sir Shivanada Khan is no more. The news of his sudden death on Monday has left many who have worked for sexual health and rights for non-heterosexual people in South Asia stunned. While writing this, the details of his death are sketchy, but it is understood via a communication from his long time associate Arif Jafar, that Shiv chose to end his life in Lucknow due to financial pressures.

Sir Shivanana Khan with Prince Charles

Sir Shivanana Khan with Prince Charles


Shivanada Duncan Khan was born on the 9th of June in 1948 from an Anglo-Indian mother and a Bengali Muslim Father. The eldest of seven brothers and a sister, Shiv spent his childhood  in Calcutta, [he spoke about the ‘Park Street’ mileau], and was enrolled in Kalimpong’s  famous Doctor Graham’s Homes, a boarding school, where he received his primary school education. He was to visit his old school years later and had remarked to me about how times had changed.

Shiv and his family migrated to England in 1958, where he grew up. He attended college in Manchester, where he became part of the ‘Gay Scene’. By his own admission, he moonlighted as ‘Manchester’s first and only South Asian gay sex-worker’ to supplement his college grant. From those heady days of the flower power sixties to being honoured by Britain with an Order of the British Empire in later life for his contribution to the fight against HIV and AIDS.

In 1988, Shiv set up ‘Shakti’ a forum for South Asian Lesbians and gay people, with the idea to address the issues of the South Asian queer diaspora in England. He said that at the time, there was no concept of a South Asian identity among queer people in Britain.

Shiv with Shale from 'Bandhu'

Shiv with Shale from ‘Bandhu’


Anger and sadness over the way HIV positive people were treated, and the prejudice which gay South Asian men were treated by their own communities led Shiv to conceive of the Naz Foundation. Volunteering for a charity that provided home care for HIV positive people, Shiv elected to take care of Nazir, a gay man who had been turned out from his home, ostracised by his relatives and the local mosque. He experienced the intense loneliness and despair of this man who died ‘totally alone’. This was what gave birth to the Naz Foundation International , in memory of Nazir , and to denote ‘Naaz’ or ‘Pride’. “We will not be apologetic about being HIV Positive or being Gay”, that was Shiv’s one-line agenda.

It was in 1995 that Shiv discovered the multi-faceted indigenous queer identities of South Asia, so very different from the ‘Gay’ identities which he rightly discerned as a ‘privileged class’ in India , Bangladesh, and elsewhere. His work in this area is well documented.

In 1995-96, Shiv was the guiding light of a newly established community based organisation Bandhu Social Welfare Society in Bangladesh. Today this is a very strong and vibrant organisation taking up issues of sexual health among non-heterosexual males.

Shiv holds forth in front of an audience in Patna, Bihar

Shiv holds forth in front of an audience in Patna, Bihar


In 1997, he nurtured the Lucknow based community based organisation Bharosa to address sexual health issues among MSM in this town of Uttar Pradesh. In July  2001, the arrests of the staff of Bharosa for ‘’aiding and abetting activities prohibited under section 377 of the Indian Penal Code” was a traumatic period, but it triggered off a movement across towns and communities that eventually led to the reading down of Section 377 that made same sex relationships punishable by law.

In 2002-2004, Naz Foundation International in partnership with DFID, NACO, and other funders, concentrated on developing community based organisations run by kothis and their partners to help cope with HIV AIDS and rights related issues.

For his many friends in South Asia, they will still be grappling with the reality of this sudden loss.


“Dear Shiv, we are going to miss you. I still remember first meeting you in 1999 in Hyderabad. You were so charismatic and inspirational. Your life is an example of selfless dedication for MSM & TG welfare in India. You will continue to inspire us. May your soul rest in peace,” writes  Yadavendra Singh from HIV AIDS Alliance.

Amitava Sarkar  writes on FB: My first training on HIV/AIDS/STIs was by him in 2000…I still have that certificate given by Naz Foundation International.. it is a great loss indeed.. may his soul rest in peace..

Diepiriye Sungumote Kuku-Siemons says,” I am deeply saddened to hear of Shiv’s passing. Speechless, really. What a trooper, what a fighter for the rights of so many. Glad I got to know him in this lifetime, and am truly sorry for the loss you all must be feeling in Lucknow…”







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Posted by on May 21, 2013. Filed under Breaking News,UK,WORLD NEWS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to Shivananda Khan: Never Apologise for Who You Are

  1. k-smartie

    May 22, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Shiv… fell for him on a report on Shakti in an indian newspaper in the late 90’s… rest in peace old chap…

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