Gay Indians can browse for their own Valentine's Day cards for the first time, with the country's largest card chain rolling out a small selection this year after a historic court ruling.
The Archies card company said it had decided to bring out the speciality cards after the High Court last year decriminalised homosexuality. "We have been toying with this idea for a while and then came the court judgement in which it was clearly said that it's legal to be gay," Archies company spokesman Yohan Arya said. "So we felt this was the right time to add these cards to those we already have for the occasion," he said.
Homosexual consumers are not exactly spoiled for choice, with just two cards for gay men, two for lesbians and one gender-neutral card. The wording of the messages is also pretty basic.
A lesbian version says: "For my girl friend from your girl friend." The gender-neutral card reads: "Oh how totully gay!" (sic).
Homosexuality had been illegal in India since 1860 under a statute introduced by British colonial rulers that banned "carnal intercourse against the order of nature". Conviction carried a fine and maximum 10-year jail term.
The High Court verdict last July was widely welcomed by health campaigners and gay rights' activists who argued that decriminalisation would help India combat HIV/AIDS. India has an estimated 2.5 million people living with HIV.
But several religious groups have challenged the ruling and are demanding that the Indian government appeal to the Supreme Court. The gay-themed cards are likely to fuel the ire of radical Hindu groups already staunchly opposed to any celebration of Valentine's Day, which they see as an erosion of Indian culture and a symbol of Western encroachment.