Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau: helping homosexuals find love and marriage

Stuck between a physical world whose socio-political atmosphere still does not completely accept homosexual love and dating apps resembling a digital mirror house of bicep and abdomen shots (looking at you, Grindr), where do you go to find a more meaningful and serious relationship? Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau hopes to provide the answer to that.

Founded by Urvi Shah two years ago, the company has come a long way today, acting as matchmaker to around 1600 people. Right off the bat, Shah — over a phone call — explains the loophole in the Indian constitution that she has to make use of. “Before starting the company, we spoke to lawyers extensively. The constitution prohibits unnatural sex, but it doesn’t say anything about marriages,” she says.

However, the couples will have no legal document binding them together. Indian Marriage Acts do not speak about homosexuals. “True, you won’t get a marriage certificate, that is a problem. But if you think about it, marriage is just people in love, unconditionally accepting each other the way they are. I have seen legal marriages that are loveless; what’s the point in that? No paper can define your marriage, “ she says.

The Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau has a team of 26 employees — all homosexuals above 30 — who physically filter like-minded applicants through a confidential form that candidates fill out while signing up. “The form will have details about the person like their height, weight, location and education as well as their preferences — the type of personality they like, whether they are looking for a smoker or non-smoker. The basic filtering is done through a code, and the second stage is manual,” explains Shah.

Happily ever after Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau has a team of 26 employees who filter like-minded applicants; (below) Urvi Shah

Happily ever after Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau has a team of 26 employees who filter like-minded applicants; (below) Urvi Shah  

Turns out, finding love is not cheap: Singing up to the app costs ₹15,000 for Indians and ₹30,000 for foreigners. Shah gets 30% of her clients from countries like the US, Australia, Canada, Russia, Dubai and Sri Lanka. “Sometimes, we get people just looking for a green card to the US, that’s why we have to be careful in our vetting process,” says Shah. Every person is required to submit an ID proof as well.

Once two people have been matched, in the final stage, Shah meets them or speaks to them over phone to make sure they are comfortable, after which the two finally meet, either in real life or through a video-call.

It is a long journey to happily ever after and Shah has become quite close to several of her customers. “I am still in touch with most of them,” she says, recalling how she was invited to one of the couples’ wedding. “It was a very sweet apartment wedding with no elaborate religious ceremonies — very unlike the glam Delhi weddings I’ve seen. Just an intimate guest list of close friends and the parents,” she says.

Though Shah is based out of Ahmedabad, she set up the company in Secunderabad with the help of a former partner who lived there. “My father was uncomfortable with the office being here, given how conservative most of my family is,” she says. Over the years, Shah has received multiple threats demanding the company be shut down. “Once, a person stopped me on the road and said, ‘If you don’t put an end to this, you will have acid on your face’,” she recalls.

The road towards equality is never an easy one but Shah perseveres, “It’s ultimately about two people being in love and fully committed to each other, regardless of their gender.”

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In May 2020, reports have emerged, calling the ethics of Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau into question. According to VICE, whose reporter registered onto the bureau for a year, clients are sent matches infrequently and neither are the fees refunded. The Hindu has reached out to bureau founder Urvi Shah for a comment, with no response so far.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 4:03:20 PM |

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