“I was in denial, as he still is,” a 30-year-old software programmer from the southern state of Kerala, told Al Jazeera adding she has “accepted the fact that I married a gay man and my marriage is over.”
She said she found texts on her husband’s mobile phone describing a sexual encounter with a man. and saw emails with naked photos of her husband sent to his male best friend, who is also married.
A social worker from the western state of Maharashtra said she was o content with her parents’ choice of finding her a husband. But on their honeymoon he avoided physical contact with her, said.
Theirs was an arranged marriage. Arranged marriages are traditional in South Asian society and account for an overwhelming majority of marriages in India. It is common for the partners to not know their spouse-to-be too well.
Family and social pressures are among the most frequently cited reasons for such marriages, experts say, in a country where gay sex is not only stigmatized but illegal.
In 2012, the Indian government estimated that 2.5 million gay men live in the country, which has a population of more than 1.2 billion. However anecdotal suggestion that one in 10 people are LGBT puts that figure much higher.
Many gay men in India marry under intense pressure from their families, according to Anjali Gopalan – executive director of the Naz Foundation, which has led a legal battle to decriminalize same- sex relations in India.
“Most parents tell the men to produce children and be gay in secret,” Gopalan told Al Jazeera, noting there are currently no support groups in the country for the wives of gay men because such matters are considered private.
Even if wives file for divorce, under Indian law means there can be no mention of him being gay as reasons for seeking divorce, said the software engineer from Kerala.
Activists fear that criminalizing same-sex relations will spur more men to conceal their sexual orientation, leading more women into empty and isolating marriages.
Being gay in India is socially unacceptable, besides being a criminal offence.
India retains the Section 377 British colonial-era law that describes same-sex relations as “unnatural” and punishable with life imprisonment.
The Supreme Court past December upholding the validity of Section 377, reversing the 2009 Delhi’s high court ruling that decriminalized it and gave the gay community broad protections and rights.
Currently, a new Supreme Court bench has agreed to re-examine that decision.