Married in Public, Gay in Private
By Sutapa Deb, Wednesday August 19, 2009
Not many people would have paid attention to an item buried in the newspaper about a murder most foul in the crowded textile city of Kanpur - a murder apparently prompted by a surreptitious relationship.
Rajendra Kumar Dwivedi was 38-years-old and married to Shakuntala for 15 years. The couple had no children.
Dwivedi had not held a regular job for some time. Four years ago he struck up an unlikely friendship with a man from a different economic and social background. He was the Deputy Chief Medical officer of Allahabad, Dr K D Raj Srivastava. The doctor was married and had a 28-year-old son.
Dwivedi's family says it was an adulterous gay relationship, but neither men were out of the closet.
Dwivedi died of head injuries on July 20 after he was allegedly beaten by the doctor's son
While the police are investigating the case, the doctor and his son are absconding.
The murder pointed to a disturbing and hidden phenomenon of men who engage in sexual activity with other men, regardless of the fact that they are married to women and have children. None of these men are known socially as gays or bisexuals.
There is now a supportive and vibrant gay movement in the country, yet only a small population is visible and identified as gay.
Many men who have sexual relations with other men do not consider themselves as gay nor are they labelled so by others.
The meaning of gay is often mistakenly associated with the stereotype of men who are effiminate or transgenders.
There is a diverse group that is not taken into account. Now public health professionals have started using the term MSM to refer to all men who have sex with other men, whether they identify themselves as gay, bisexual, transgender or heterosexual.
Though there are no precise numbers of MSM, the numbers are believed to be surprisingly large.
Many live as heterosexuals among their community, marry and have children.
Those who were not married, would eventually get married.
Little data is available, but there is anecdotal evidence from MSM who visit cruising sites, gay bars and gay parties to meet others.
The issue of being married in public, gay in private raises a range of ethical concerns, particularly those involving their wives.
But as we speak to a crosssection of MSM, we find an unwillingness to explore these concerns in depth. It stems from their understanding that THEY are the victims...having been pushed underground by a society that has stigmatised male to male sexual relations.
Last month the Delhi High Court overturned Section 377 of the IPC, which criminalised gay sex between consenting adults. It was a victory but the reality on the ground is slow to change and negativity around MSMs continues to exist..
They say that to belong to the mainstream, the straight world, and to maintain bonds with their families and community, they are compelled to marry.
In South Asia, marriage is compulsory for social and religious reasons. Some choose to marry since in a patriarchial society, there is convenience in marriage. It also provides the perfect cover.
With MSM leading double lives, a majority of wives remain unaware of these clandestine encounters for years.
Little is known of what they go through when they learn their trust has been betrayed.
We find MSM are candid about their personal lives, but reluctant to allow us to meet their wives, even in cases where they are out of the closet to them.
Watch our special show, Married in Public, Gay in Private, Friday at 9:30 pm (IST) on NDTV 24x7.
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