Mother seeks a groom for her son in India's first gay marriage advert

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A 57-year-old mother has placed India's first gay matrimonial advertisement, seeking a groom for her son, but it was not an easy task in a country where homosexuality is illegal, said her son on Wednesday.

Mumbai resident Padma Iyer hit the headlines when her advertisement appeared in a daily newspaper on Tuesday - mimicking the style of traditional matrimonials placed by parents which fill the pages of India's newspapers.

"Seeking 25-40, well-placed, animal-loving, vegetarian GROOM for my SON (36, 5'11") who works with an NGO," said the advertisement in the Mumbai tabloid Mid-Day.

News reports about the advert went viral on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, with many users commending Iyer for breaking taboos in the largely conservative country.

Homosexuality was re-criminalised in India in 2013 in a decision by the Supreme Court that shocked human rights groups and prompted the United Nations to call it a "significant step backwards for India".

Under a 155-year-old British colonial law called Section 377, "carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal" - widely interpreted to refer to gay sex - is punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

Iyer's son, Harish, who is a prominent human rights activist, said the matrimonial was prompted by the normal wish any mother has to see her son settle down. He has already received six responses to the advert.

However, he added, it was a challenge to find a newspaper to publish it.

In an opinion piece, Iyer said he was angry when the advert was rejected by two newspapers - the country's most popular national English daily The Times of India and the Mumbai tabloid DNA - over legal issues.

The Hindustan Times, another major English daily, did not respond to his email to place the advert on behalf on his mother, he added.

"I feel it's time we accept that we are biased and try and change our outlook," he wrote on the NDTV website.

Many of the country's sexual minorities - especially transgender people who are more visible - live on fringes of society, are forced into sex work, and face discrimination in employment and basic services such as health and education.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court ruled that Section 377 violated constitutional guarantees for equality, privacy and freedom of expression, ending the ban on same sex relationships and sparking a new era in openness about homosexuality.

But the decision was challenged by religious groups, and the Supreme Court threw out that decision four years later saying that only parliament could change Section 377.

Activists say that since the ban on gay sex was reinstated 17 months ago, there has been a surge in reports of gangs, as well as the police, intimidating, harassing, raping, blackmailing and extorting money from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

There are no official figures on the number of cases. Most go unreported, say activists, as victims are too scared to report crimes to the police fearing Section 377 will be used against them.

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla, editing by Alex Whiting)

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Mother seeks a groom for her son in India's first gay marriage advert
Ruth Hackford-Peer, right, and Kim Hackford-Peer, standing next to her, are married by Rev. Curtis Price, left, while hugging their two children Riley Hackford-Peer, back middle, and Casey Hackford-Peer, bottom middle, in the lobby of the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office in Salt Lake City on Friday, Dec. 20, 2013. A federal judge ruled on Friday that Utah's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. (AP Photo/Kim Raff)
FILE - In this Friday, Dec. 20, 2013 file photo, Chris Serrano, left, and Clifton Webb embrace after being married, as people wait in line to get licenses outside of the marriage division of the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office in Salt Lake City. A federal judge on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 is set to consider a request from the state of Utah to block gay weddings that have been taking place since Friday when the state's same-sex marriage ban was overturned. (AP Photo/Kim Raff, File)
FILE - In this Friday, Dec. 20, 2013 file photo, Chris Serrano, left, and Clifton Webb kiss after being married, as people wait in line to get licenses outside of the marriage division of the Salt Lake County Clerk's Office in Salt Lake City. The last six months of 2013 have provided a frenzy of court decisions and laws in favor of gay marriage, punctuated by a ruling in heavily Mormon Utah that has allowed hundreds of same-sex couples to wed in the last week. The U.S. Supreme Court opened the floodgates with its June ruling that overturned a 1996 ban on gay marriage, and the change has been swift. Judges in Utah, New Mexico and Ohio have all ruled in favor of gay marriage in the past week. (AP Photo/Kim Raff, File)
John Jensen, left, and his partner, Jared Resor, talk to the media after the Ogden clerk and auditor's office canceled a special Saturday opening to issue marriage licenses in Ogden, Utah, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013. A federal judge on Friday struck down Utah's ban on same-sex marriage, saying the law violates the U.S. Constitution. (AP photo/George Frey)
FILE - In this Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 file photo, Shaun Campbell, left, and Tony Singh are congratulated by guests after their wedding at the Sheraton Waikiki in Honolulu. Hawaii became the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage. The last six months of 2013 have provided a frenzy of court decisions and laws in favor of gay marriage, punctuated by a ruling in heavily Mormon Utah that has allowed hundreds of same-sex couples to wed in the last week. The U.S. Supreme Court opened the floodgates with its June ruling that overturned a 1996 ban on gay marriage, and the change has been swift. Judges in Utah, New Mexico and Ohio have all ruled in favor of gay marriage in the past week. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia, File)
PROVO, UT - DECEMBER 20: Raylynn Marvel (L) and Patsy Carter leave the offices of the Utah County Clerk and Auditor office after being rejected for a marriage license on July 20, 2013 in Provo, Utah. A Federal Judge on December 20, struck down Utah's ban on same sex marriage saying the law violates the U.S. Constitution. While the ban was lifted and officials were reportedly issuing licenses in Salt Lake City, officials in Provo were denying applicants. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY - OCTOBER 3: A car flies the gay pride flag in protest past the Mormon Conference center during the 179th Semi-Annual General Conference of the Mormon church on October 3, 2009 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Several thousand Mormons are gathering for two days to hear guidance from church leaders. Many gay-rights organizations have criticized the church because of its stance on Proposition 8 in California and its opposition to gay marriage. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
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