“I chose to stay with my gay husband because getting a divorce, just like homosexuality, is considered a taboo in our society. But I soon realised that our marriage was a farce and it was best for the both of us to call it off,” says Delhi-based interior designer Pooja Sharma (name changed).
Pooja is one of the many Indian women who seem to be stuck in loveless marriages with gay men. Their plight came to light on Sunday after 31-year-old AIIMS doctor Priya Vedi ended her life at a hotel in central Delhi’s Paharganj, leaving a four-page suicide letter and a Facebook post in which she held her ‘gay’ husband responsible for her death.
In India, most women married to gay men often tend to stay in the marriage due to social or financial compulsions.
But there are some who dare to call off their unhappy nuptial bonds and walk out. It is for such women that Pooja has set up an unofficial support group called Straight Partners.
The 36-year-old realised three years into her marriage that her husband was interested only in men. It took three more years before she could finally walk away.
Two years after her divorce in 2010, Pooja decided to give women stuck in similar predicaments a platform to share their experience and help each other recover from the physical and mental angst of being stuck in a loveless marriage.
Today, Straight Partners is a group of around 15 women who meet once every two weeks and share their stories and look for practical ways to help each other.
“In many women, the sexual frustration of their marriage often turns into deep anger and resentment towards their partners and families. By sharing their experiences, most of them learn to forgive and try to see their spouses as equal victims of the system. We do not have any counselor,” says one member.
Chaperons is another unofficial group run by LGBT activists for both gay and straight partners who are trying to separate.
It was just weeks after her wedding in 2005 that Anita (name changed) - a member of Chaperons — noticed the first signs of her childhood sweetheart’s interest in men. She had dated him for 10 years before they got married.
“I was using his laptop and came across a folder of gay pornography. At first it was awkward but then I convinced myself that I was overreacting. I kept doing this for almost two years before I finally snapped out of it and realised my marriage was over,” says the 32-year-old IT engineer.
“I was never treated badly in those two years. Apart from having no physical relationship with me, he was like my friend who would take me out and discuss his problems with me and listened to mine in times of need. But it was like being trapped in cages. So, we mutually decided to part ways,” she added.
For most women, however, walking out of a marriage with their homosexual partners is not an option.
Anjan Joshi, an LGBT activist working with Space NGO, says the issues of privacy and lack of a proper support system make matters worse for straight spouses of homosexuals in the country.
"In a country where gay sex is not only stigmatised and considered illegal, issues like family pressure, shame and the involvement of society forces gay men to unwillingly get into the ‘regular’ heterosexual marriages. They are also victims,” Joshi says.
In 2012, the Indian government had estimated that around 2.5 million gay men live in the country, of which 60-70% men are married to straight people.
'I will not judge Priya Vedi, I almost married a gay man myself'
Read: AIIMS doc suicide: Colleagues say Priya never showed signs of distress
Read: 'Just a wife tag': Doc's suicide over gay husband sparks debate