A “manipulative” matrimony agency, scammed several LGBTQIA+ Asians, who are looking for love. This fake gay marriage bureau, made money on the hopes of gay people, who longed to find their forever. Read on, for the full story.
A Fake Marriage Bureau:
Urvi Shah is the founder of the Gay Arranged Marriage Bureau. They claim to be India’s only and first ever LGBTQIA+ matrimonial service providers. This gay marriage bureau promise their clients to find them a perfect mate, even with other LGBTQIA+ Asians around the globe. All this, for a lumpy price of 900 dollars i.e, 67,574.25 in Indian rupees.
This matrimony service has been promoted, endorsed and celebrated by various multimedia platforms. Manvendrasingh Gohil, the prince of Rajpipla who is gay, is also a consultant on their board.
All this sounds fine right? Well, here’s the problem – there is no proof of any sort, that this Gay Arranged Marriage Bureau exists in real life. The several happy couple testimonials are fake. So called “potential match profiles” are the ones, which have been replicated a thousand times on the internet. Furthermore, the Bureau’s location given out to the masses is, nothing but a bus stop in Delhi.
“It shows a complete and total disrespect for our community,” Reeta said to PinkNews. “It completely underestimates the power that we have globally. What I would like this documentary to do is show that we are a community, we have a lot of clout. We’re not disparate, vulnerable people around the world that can be capitalised upon. And if this is something you choose to do, then you will be outed for it. And your organisation will be closed down. Because the last thing I want is for anybody else to sign up to the service and to go through that experience.”
Reeta who was disowned by her conservative Punjabi folks, signed up to this gay marriage bureau service sometime last year. This was because, she longed for a forever – full of culture and love – with a partner.
However, she was still sceptical about this whole deal at the beginning. Shah promised her with sincere words apparently, that the Bureau will search matches for her, just like parents who do it the traditional way.
“[Shah] impressed me because she talked about the fact that they were acting sort of on behalf of parents, which I think is really beautiful, because so many of us don’t have that family support, including me. I haven’t had that family support for coming up to 14 years. So there’s that personal touch, because they get to know you and they have a view of who they can match you with… it really struck a personal and emotional chord for me”, Rita told PinkNews.
Only two possible matches, after 11 months:
3700 people signed up globally, out of which 2400 were from India only – claimed Shah. But Reeta, 11 months of excuses later, got only two possible profiles. And neither of them were credible or even mere matches.
Reeta got in touch with another Asian LGBTQIA+, Keith. He was dealing with similar experiences as Reeta. However, a search on Google solidified their suspicions. Google showed that these “match” profiles were pasted over the several dating websites on the internet. They had even plagiarized the content – word to word.
The Bureau used a poster of the couple Anu Hazra and Neeral Sheth. Reeta contacted them and they insisted to have never used this service. Reeta got in touch with various other “success stories” of this Bureau. And they all insisted the same. Not even one of them had heard of this Bureau. Furthermore, they were in the dark, regarding their images used as posters too.
“I was absolutely livid,” Reeta told to PinkNews. “What we’re looking at is a woman who has decided to capitalise on a really vulnerable community, take their money, and promised them that she can find them love. And we’re not talking about a hookup. We’re talking about somebody that wants to spend their life with somebody, who may not be out to their parents, but feels like if I meet somebody who’s a good match, if I find someone [within this tradition of arranged marriage], that’s how I might be able to sell it to my family.
“These are people’s lives and they’re sitting there hoping that they’re going to meet somebody and getting these profiles through wondering if that’s their person.”
Shah’s deception is borderline psychotic:
A deep understanding of such vulnerability of the LGBTQIA+ and demeaning it by taking advantage was Shah’s strategy. This sort of deceiving acts are specifically – more than anything – psychotic.
“The dark side of it really started to come through,” Reeta said, reminiscing the way Shah said she understands and empathises with her struggles. Shah even claimed that she had LGBTQIA+ staff who are closeted, working for her.
“To be able to say those particular things but also at the same time, to be sourcing and sending fake profiles, the duplicity of that is really alarming. There are loads of ways to scam people on the internet if you want to, but I think on a human level, this is one of the worst ways to do it. That was the most horrifying thing about it.”, added Reeta.
Reeta was determined to confront Shah, and after months of trying, she finally did. However, Reeta did not get the closure she was looking for. Shah profusely apologised for her “ignorance” and she is yet to face the consequences and repercussions.
This won’t be the last time:
Since the Bureau claimed to have a strong 3700 global LGBTQIA+ clients, it is fairly impossible to find out how much money they stole. For all we know, these clients could be a “fabrication”. However, Reeta suspects that this won’t be the last and there might be “many more stories to come”, such as this. This could be one of the side effects of LGBTQIA+ acceptance rates growing in India.
“It’s a really fantastic exciting time for us as a community in terms of reaching this completely new and very powerful space. But that does then draw more attention to us that potentially attracts more scammers,” she told.
Reeta asked LGBTQIA+ Asians to smarten up when it comes to services like these, that make money off vulnerabilities. She also said more work should be put into safeguarding LGBTQIA+ dating websites and apps. However, this experience hasn’t led to her losing hope in true love. Good news is, she has since found her forever, totally on her terms.
“I believe that everyone deserves love. I think it’s a basic human right. And at the moment, it’s the LGBT+ community that seems to be the only faction of humanity that are being denied that right,” she added. “And I think that the more that we can celebrate the stories of love that we have in our community, the better really to give people hope.”