Indian mother places advert for a groom... for her son

The advert in yesterday's Mid-Day newspaper in India, placed by a mother searching for a groom for her son.

Story highlights

  • An Indian mother placed a matrimonial advert in a newspaper looking for a groom
  • Nothing unusual -- except the groom is for her son
  • Gay marriage is illegal in India and gay sex is punishable with anything up to a life sentence

New Delhi, India (CNN)At first glance, it looks like an unremarkable matrimonial advertisement, the kind you'd find in every Indian newspaper; a focus on financial security, eating habits, and caste.

"Seeking 25-40, well-placed, animal-loving, vegetarian, for my son (36, 5'11") who works with an NGO. Caste no bar."
    But we omitted one key word from the advertisement.
    The mother is looking for a well-placed, animal-loving, vegetarian "groom" for her son.
    It's being called India's first advertisement for a partner for a same-sex marriage.
    The problem is that gay marriage is illegal in India. Not only that, India's Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that "carnal intercourse"—interpreted here to mean gay sex—is punishable with anything up to a life sentence.
    Harish Iyer, the groom in question, is a prominent gay rights activist based in Mumbai. He was also the only Indian mentioned in Guardian's list of 100 most influential LGBT people in 2013.
    "My mother is like any other mother," he says. "She wanted to find me a partner and help me settle down. It became news only because I was looking for a man instead of a woman."
    The news itself is now part of the news.
    While the Indian newspaper Mid-Day published the advertisement, three other leading national dailies refused to run it.
    According to Iyer, The Times of India and Daily News and Analysis rejected the advertisement because of "legal reasons." CNN was unable to obtain any further comments from the newspapers.
    Hindustan Times gave Iyer a message in writing, which he shared with CNN: "Dear Mr. Harish, Sorry to say but we can't carry this advertisement in HT Matrimonial Section." No further explanation was given.
    Mid Day's executive editor Sachin Kalbag told CNN his organization did not see the LGBT community as any different. "A lot of credit goes to the advertising department because they treated this as any other ad." Kalbag told CNN he hopes other papers will follow suit.
    Planet Romeo, a gay dating-app, places India 81st in the world for "gay happiness"—a ranking to determine how gay men are treated by their societies. India ranked behind Kuwait, Qatar, and Djibouti.
    India has a curious relationship with sexuality. In 2014, India became one of the few countries in the world to legally recognize transgender people as "third gender." Eunuchs, for example -- known as hijras in India -- are commonly seen on Indian streets. They play a role in Indian ceremonies likes births or weddings, their good wishes seen as a blessing.
    But Iyer says the LGBT community in India is frequently bullied.
    "Although we, as a society, are slowly changing, I think there is still a very long way to go."