Deepak and Rajshree have been living together in Nottingham in UK ever since they graduated from Bristol, where they met at university. By all accounts, they are like any normal couple – except, both see themselves as ‘asexual’.
An ‘asexual’ is a person who does not experience sexual attraction, according to the definition drawn up to describe the orientation of a less known but growing community of people in various countries. Most live in the US and UK, but have also ‘come out’ elsewhere.
Deepak and Rajshree (names changed) are based away from their parents and unknown to their conservative families, have been living together while pursuing their professional lives. They are close, but given their orientation, have no plans to get married.
Several Indian-origin people in the UK are part of this community of asexuals – mostly women, and between the ages of 18 and 24. However, the orientation is rarely mentioned or discussed in the Indian/Asian community.
Researchers told HT that there was no reason to believe that asexuals were not present in India too.
Matt Dawson, an expert at the University of Glasgow, said: “There is no reason to doubt that asexuality, as a sexual orientation, is absent in India. Indeed, we know that in other countries people who would now identify as asexual used other terms in the past (such as celibate or, in the case of American women, engaged in ‘Boston Marriages’)”.
The latest census of asexual people by Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) found that 0.3% of over 14,000 responses were from people who described themselves as Hindu; 0.5% Muslim, 1.4% Buddhist. At 27%, the largest group was ‘Atheist’.
Dawson added: “It is possible asexual people in India currently use different terms to describe themselves. There is real need for a more global focus within academic studies on asexuality. While some of this work is beginning to appear (for example, a recent article on China), India is certainly a place where such studies would be most welcomed”.
According to AVEN, unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who asexuals are. Many asexual people experience attraction, but they feel no need to act out that attraction sexually.
“Asexual people have the same emotional needs as anyone else, and like in the sexual community we vary widely in how we fulfill those needs. Some asexual people are happier on their own, others are happiest with a group of close friends”, AVEN says.
“Unlike sexual people, asexual people are given few expectations about the way that our intimate relationships will work. Figuring out how to flirt, to be intimate, or to be monogamous in nonsexual relationships can be challenging, but free of sexual expectations we can form relationships in ways that are grounded in our individual needs and desires”, it adds.
The community figured prominently in Britain's public discourse last week when an aide of former prime Minister Edward Heath - who is facing child abuse allegations - described him as an 'asexual'.