I got Death Threats, But I Didn’t Budge: Founder Of ‘Arranged Gay Marriage’
She tells me her phone hasn’t stopped ringing since then, the Supreme Court of India decriminalized Section 377. Media has been chasing her for interviews, debates etc.
But Urvi Shah, the Founder of ‘Arranged Gay Matrimony’ India’s first and only site for the LGBTQ community has her focus set, here brain tuned to her mission.
A mission to help find a partner of choice for the LGBTQ across the globe. A mission that took shape in 2015. The mission that not only helps connect a life-partner of their choice but also employs not one but 36 homosexuals! Isn’t it fabulous, in a country, where the patriarchal mindset still rules the roost!
The day Supreme Court came up with the landmark ruling, the famous gay prince of Gujarat Manvendra Singh Gohil who is like a mentor figure to Urvi, congratulated her. So I decided not to waste time in a detailed introduction and put some ‘straight questions to this straight 25-year-old from Ahmedabad, Gujarat on why did she take such a so-called twisted path!
How did you come up with this idea to starting a matrimony portal set up such a matrimonial portal?
I did my Post Graduation in Development Studies from EDII Gandhinagar. I have done many internships in the service sector like in Pratham Foundation, Quest Alliance, Saath NGO, etc.
While getting to understand the social issues, I came to know that the LGBTQ community is still a taboo in India where homosexuals and transgender are facing various kinds of issues. I started researching on these issues and during that period I came across Humsafar trust, Lakshya foundation and other NGOs. I understood the concept better when I met gay Prince of Gujarat Manvendra Singh Gohil, Richardson Duke, and Laxmi Narayan Tripathi.
Regarding homosexuals, I came to know that they face depression, anxiety, families non-acceptance, discrimination, violence, and drug abuse. I also researched on dating sites where I came to know that many of them are looking for serious relationships and marriages, but there were a lot of fake IDs, fake pictures, trans making ids of homosexuals, etc. Even there were guys making fake IDs of lesbians for physical relationships and one night stands.
Therefore I came up with arranged gay marriage, a platform for homosexuals to find a like-minded life partner where we come up like their guardians.
What was the reaction of your friends and family, when you told them about this concept?
I had to explain to my parents what LGBTQ stands for. My parents hardly knew that this community exists in India. I was in an Entrepreneurship college and still, my professors were against my idea. When I shared this idea with two of my closest friends, they thought I am insane. So I particularly come from an orthodox Gujarati family where it does not matter how educated a woman is, in the end, we are supposed to find a rich husband and get married off. My professors and friends had the same preconceived notion about me following the same tradition.
Getting into this business was a big risk, that I knew, but my parents had a question… “If you went into this profession, which guy will marry you?” I only had one answer, “I’ll go with the husband and family who are educated enough to understand what exactly my duties are”
In the end, I could only convince my parents and not my friends and professors. My parents agreed upon one condition which was to leave Gujarat and settle somewhere else and never let my family know about my business. And I did exactly the same. I informed my family that I got a job in Secunderabad and I am shifting there.
So far primarily you have lovers from abroad tying the knot since a same-sex wedding is legal in many other nations. How do you manage it sitting in India? I mean the logistics involved.
Our team consists of 36 homosexual employees who work from an office in Secunderabad. We have day shift for Indians and night shifts for our international clients. Plus, I usually work 5 hours during the day and 5 hours during the night.
It must have been a huge struggle to make your mission you reality. Can you share your emotions from the past with us?
Explaining my parents about my work was still not difficult as I called few of my homosexual friends home for dinner and my parents knew that they were no less than straight people in terms of genuine emotions. Above that, my parents started respecting them much more knowing that the society is against them. I have been threatened by political parties and others.
It was not something I was worried about, but the fear factor is I have known the LGBTQ community members going against our work and calling this a fake company.
A lot of community members told me that I am going to get a failure in this business because no one wants to get settled down. Even few people said that by the name of a marriage bureau, I am running an escort center! Just imagine.
How many LGBTQ weddings have you organized so far? How many were Indian, in this list?
As of now, we have 49 couples in live-in relationship, 43 couples who got married and 29 couples in a relationship but yet to move in together. All this data is about India.
Talking about clients abroad, we have 12 gay couples who are hitched abroad, 3 lesbian couples and 6 Transgender couples.
Indians married without a law? How did you register their wedding?
As I stated, for most of the homosexual couples, getting married is just like giving the opposite person a lifelong commitment. Under the banner of Billionaire events, Founder Abhishek Tudel and Co-founder Urvi Shah, we get 9 couples to get married according to Hindu religion and 2 couples under Christian marriage culture. We called the priests, their friends, and relatives and it happened under a mutual agreement with their parents.
Despite so much poison in the society why did you still launch it in India? Especially when your own country was still undecided on the legalities of same-sex marriage?
While understanding the problems faced by the community, I was keen to help them get their problems resolved. After a certain age, everyone needs a companion to be together in thick and thin. I was never bothered by laws because all I was looking for was the happiness of the community. I wanted to help them come out of a closet, gain the confidence and flaunt their sexuality. T
he law that we are talking about was made by Britishers and the funny part is that they have legalized it in their own country. Secondly, I heard a lot of people saying that homosexuality is against the Hindu religion which made me curious and I went deep into the Hindu philanthropy and cultures and traditions.
Hence, the people stating that it’s unethical and against Hindu religion have never educated themselves about the Indian and Hindu religion.
What was your first reaction when the Supreme Court decriminalized Section 377?
Obviously, I jumped with joy Mahima. After 71 years of Independence, this verdict has set us free. This is really a day of true independence for me and the members of LGBTQ community.
Enough members of the LGBTQ community have suffered due to this criminalization. Making someone’s sexual preference in bed a crime is not just unfair, it’s also unconstitutional according to the fundamental rights we are ensured as Indian citizens. I am super excited about this crime not existing anymore and people getting equal rights to love and be loved.
Now, when step one is made, it’s the time when India needs to come out with marriage laws and educate society about the LGBTQ community. Even though homosexuality is legalized, people are not aware about it and they don’t know what it means. Sex and gender education must be made compulsory in schools.
What are your next and immediate plans in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling?
I am going to help people come out to their surroundings and we are planning to educate society about the LGBTQ community. A lot of people have been waiting for the Legalization of homosexuality and finally, now they are going to live a life without thinking of them doing a crime.
What will be your next step in India in relation to your matrimony website, since only section 377 has been abolished, there is no law to register such weddings in India? So what next?
I am soon going to meet my lawyer and decide how to file a petition for making marriage laws for homosexuals and transgender community,
So you plan to take up the legal aspect of same-sex weddings in India, as an activist?
If the government is not in favor of homosexual marriages, I will definitely file another petition for the recognition of homosexual couples in a live-in relationship
Sporadic same-sex weddings are already taking place in India, without a law. Your take on it.
Although we do not have any marriage laws, people do go through their religious way of getting married. For them, it’s all about giving and taking commitments from their respective partners.
The government cannot control the things that are natural and going to happen. I totally support people getting into marriage customs because that’s definitely their choices. Gay marriage advocates argue that this is an equal rights issue. But what is it that a married hetero couple can “do” that an unmarried gay couple cannot “do”? Under current law, gays can commit themselves to one another... they can live together... what can’t they do that married people can do? I guess nothing.
There is also no surprise that many gay couples have chosen to have one “adopt” the other, which is the only way such a bond is even remotely available to them outside of marriage. Yes, the gay community is asking the body-politics to recognize their relationships as being kinship bonds — and there is no good reason why they shouldn’t be so recognized. There is nothing about the relationships of straight couples which makes it any more “worthy” of legal, social, and moral obligations we traditionally structure as “marriage.”
Despite India decriminalizing Section 377, our society might not accept such marriages. Your take on it.
People think that whatever they do is correct and others are stupid. It’s all about education and openness. We as a society have a habit of labeling people based on their skin tone or caste or religion or sexuality. I don’t actually care what people think because I and homosexuals are the part of the same society and we think it’s OK to get married, have children and live the life just the way we want to.
Have you ever noticed, the straight couples who disown their children and are in orphanages, homosexual couples adopt them and give them a better life. Until and unless the community is not disturbing them, it’s none of their matter to get involved in the personal lives of homosexuals.
Can you detail two cases that were the toughest to handle by your organization and how did you handle it?
We got an inquiry from a 16 years old guy looking for an old rich partner who can take care of his needs. He was ready to be submissive and be like a servant for his partner. I started scratching my head in order to understand this case. I video called my employees and started taking feedback from them. They informed me that the guy was from Thane, Maharashtra and I informed the 16 years old guy that I am coming down to his city.
I went there and called him on FB messenger. He missed his school and came to meet me all scared and nervous. I tried knowing more about his background and history. This guy was depressed because he was feminine, his parents used to make fun of him and classmates used to bully him. He wanted someone to understand him and love him. At first, I thought that the guy is insane. He is mentally disturbed, but after knowing him, I found out that he was extremely intelligent and does a great work in his academics.
The time when I asked him if I can meet his parents, he started crying stating that his parents are orthodox, rigid and short tempered. He used to get beaten up by his father on regular basis. His father used to beat his own wife too. I had an instant regret for this situation but I decided to meet his parents and speak to them about the kid.
After much more of pleasing, he agreed to take me to his house. When we entered the house, his parents were chilling out on the sofa having their drinks. I had no idea where to start from but I managed to speak against them. His parents started abusing me and threatened to file an FIR saying that I am spoiling their kid.
Thankfully, I had a psychiatrist and a lawyer with me and the case got resolved. Although we didn’t inform the parents about the gender dysphoria in their kid, we made them understand how to treat their kid and support him.
Who was your source of inspiration to get into such revolutionizing work?
I am a big fan of Ted Talks show, Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Shetty, and Oprah Winfrey and I watch their videos. I just got an idea of opening a marriage bureau which is not even an innovation or a unique idea, but to have the guts to follow my passion came through all the videos I have been watching.
Best compliments you got from your clients.
“You know what? You’re just 24 years old and my son is 44 years old. Although you’re too young, I feel you’re much more mature than my son. The work that you’re doing has no comparisons from all the other women working in India. You will not only get blessings from the community and their family but at such a young age you are also getting respect from the society.
I always thought that the women are soft-spoken, polite and do what they have been told to do. I have spent my entire life listening to my father and then my husband. I never lived in my own life.
I am so proud to know that a woman like you is sitting in my house with a down to earth nature. Your parents must be so proud of you. You’re like an angel to the community because you’re straight and still working for the community” My client Harshad’s mother Asmita Chowdhry
Last but not the least, your advice to parents who will go to any extent to break same-sex relationship/ wedding of their children.
I have witnessed parents going against their children’s marriages just because they are homosexuals. I always tell the parents to educate themselves about their child’s gender and sexuality before they take any further step. We have our own psychologists and legal advisors in the team who shows videos to the parents and talks about the scientific terms of being Homosexual or Trans person.
F*****Appreciate your thoughts and efforts..👍
D*****aapki chaht apni hi devki. and joyti pyar ko bandha nh jaa skta. bas us pyar se kisi ko tqlif naa ho is baat ka zarur dhyan rkhna hota hi. its nt lsbo its true love of life. isme men woman ja other ko nhi laya jaa skta. pyar kisi se bhi ho skta. bs us pyar ki respect honi chaye.
D*****Are aisa to mere sath bhi hota h... Lekin hr ladki bf ke pas chali jati isliy i dont like grlfrnd
J*****Mai ak baat jaanna chahti hu muje ak girl pasand hai jb mai uske pass jati hu to muje bhut acha feel hota hai usi ke saath rehne ka man krta hai kya mai jaan skti hu ki lesbian ke kya lasd hote hai jise ham jaan ske ki lesbian kese hote hai
A*****Thanks for this great post! And I am elated to know that admist many homophobes in our country of the generation of the yesteryears, we do have people who are coming in support and helping the nation in such a way. Great work Urvi!
U*****U have done a great work.... U r awesome.. Truly a leader..
F*****True Leader.. Ausumn work
R*****That's the spirit mam.. people never get satisfied.. but u stand with ur thought made u different and great..
S*****Thumbs up !! Mahima
J*****The Supreme Court of India made history by partially scrapping Section 377 and legalising gay sex. We tell you how you can talk about this sensitive issue with your children and educate them. https://www.parentcircle.com/article/sc-verdict-on-gay-rights-how-to-talk-about-it-with-your-child/
S*****This is great step towards freedom:)
S*****Hats off to you...
N*****Very courageous and bold woman. I admire
M*****You are really a true inspiration
S*****Good to hear it. People like you are gem. 💎
S*****Really such a gr8 Initiative.. keep it up dear
S*****What a great Initiative! So proud to have such leaders in our society :)