Harrish Iyer: Indian matrimonial ad seeks 'groom' for gay activist

Harrish Iyer sees "nothing wrong" in placing a matrimonial advert as a gay man in India
Image caption Harrish Iyer's mother placed a matrimonial advert for her gay son

Gay rights activist Harrish Iyer has received half a dozen proposals after his mother placed a matrimonial advertisement in an Indian newspaper.

The advert, believed to be India's first gay matrimonial ad, was placed by his mother, Padma Iyer, in Mumbai's Mid-Day newspaper on Tuesday.

Mr Iyer, a prominent LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) activist, told the BBC that his mother, like "any other in the world", was worried about his wedding prospects and decided to place a newspaper advert.

"She is going through the proposals, she will draw a shortlist and tell me who to meet. I am looking forward to meet them. I am hoping to find a partner now," he said.

Image copyright Mid-Day
Image caption The ad was published in Mid-Day newspaper

In India arranged marriages are preferred over love matches and prominent newspapers daily carry thousands of ads for those looking for brides or grooms.

But Mr Iyer's mother's attempt to place an ad to find a "groom" for her gay son raked up a controversy in a country where homosexuality is still a crime.

In 2009, the Delhi high court in a landmark ruling decriminalised homosexual acts, but in December 2013, the Supreme Court reversed the order. It was seen as a massive blow to LGBT activists in the country.

The campaign for gay rights continues to face stiff opposition from religious groups who claim that homosexuality is "against Indian culture".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many religious and political groups have opposed decriminalisation of gay sex in India

Mr Iyer says before Mid-Day agreed to carry the ad, his mother had approached three prominent newspapers - they all turned it down saying publishing it could invite legal trouble.

He says he is aware of the legal issues and what the law of the land says about same-sex marriages.

"It was an innocent attempt by a mother to find a partner for her son. She did what any other would have done. I do not understand the controversy over this advert."

'Perfectly normal'

The ad has evoked mixed reactions on Twitter and among the gay community.

Activists who support him say "it's Mr Iyer's right to place an ad in newspapers".

"He placed an advert for a partner and it's perfectly normal. I understand that same-sex marriages are illegal in India, but then it's also a reality that thousands of LGBT people live in India. Are we going to pretend that gay people don't exist or kill them all?" asks Delhi-based activist Monish Kabir Malhotra.

Mr Iyer is also getting support from Twitter users.

Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

But there are others who have criticised the ad - they say it is "discriminatory" as it says that applicants from the Iyer caste - an upper-class Brahmin community from southern India - will be preferred.

Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

Mr Iyer denies the charge: "Like most people my mother thought that a person from familiar surroundings would be better. But look at the ad, it says 'caste no bar'. Our family is multicultural. My mother's sister is married to a Muslim."

Calcutta-based activist Anindya Hajra argues that Mr Iyer's advert does not reflect the reality of the gay community in India.

"He lives in a big city and is a well-known activist and can afford such an advert. But LGBT people living in other towns and cities cannot think about it," he says.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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