Vivek and Pavan had been living together as a couple for two years in Pune. “He had a sense of humour and a baritone voice a heady mix,” says Vivek.
On their second anniversary, they had a party for a select group of friends which went on past midnight. “I was having trouble staying awake to chat,” recalls Vivek. He fell asleep, but woke up to find his clothes being removed.
“I'm a teetotaler, so I wasn't drunk and this was not a joke,” he trails off recounting the brutal nightmare, as Pavan pinned him down while the others raped him. “While I was being violated, all I could think of was, ‘this was someone I loved and trusted!' And yet, here he was holding me down laughing..taunting me about how I was actually enjoying it.”
A traumatised Vivek is seeing a therapist. But why didn't he go to the police? "And tell them what? So I feel raped and humiliated again?” he retorts.
Shaji met Anindyo at a party in Mumbai three years ago.
Their mutual attraction soon turned into a live-in arrangement. “We seemed so happy," says Shaji. Things started becoming sour when Anindyo began to have work troubles at his ad agency.
“He began screaming at me over minor things. Just when I was dismissing it as a phase, he started getting suspicious, wanting to monitor my Facebook account and phone. When I objected he pushed me hard against the wall and punched me in the face."
From then on, the violence only became more frequent. Shaji went to the police but didn't know what lay in store. "I was told that I was being punished for seeking 'unnatural' sex,” he says. Today, his family wants little to do with him.
He now lives with a friend till he finds another place.
Ashok Row Kavi of Humsafar Trust, an NGO that champions gay rights, believes cases like these cannot be addressed without legal and social sanction for gay marriages and unions.
“Today, even if you want redressal, what laws will you use to do so?” he asks. “We have a long way to go in terms of a legal framework for a civil union, or other laws like in the West, under which people can actually move court and seek justice.”
He adds that there is not much they can do except counsel as there are no specific mechanisms in place. He remembers cases where people were cheated of property, money and savings when the relationship soured.
"Since there is little by way of support systems like those for women in distress, the condition of men caught in these circumstances can be particularly bad."
Astoundingly, such violence in LGBT relationships is neither rare nor isolated. A 2011 Family Planning Association of India (FPAI) study titled, ‘Measurement of Violence faced by key populations among MSM (men who have sex with men) and TGs (transgendered) found widespread physical, emotional as well as verbal abuse in both communties.
Dr Kalpana Apte, director of training, FPAI, who worked on the study opines, “Because of the space society accords them, the MSM and TGs are often the most vulnerable. Fear of being caught and the desperation to seek company away from societal gaze means they are often more susceptible to violence.”
She cites the case of a person brutally abused with cigarette butts on his private parts, leaving him with anal syphilis, but who didn't seek justice in fear of the sense of shame and a system devoid of redress.
“The first question that comes to mind is who in his right senses will seek intimacy with a potentially abusive partner? But this is only a typical response from an outsider to the community. Luckily, this man at least found Medicare.
We need to think of what we will do in terms of social support and trauma counselling, With little India-specific research on such cases available, it can seem daunting.”
(Some names have been changed)