Love and marriage

Married couples only: Conservative India’s moral policing extends to Airbnb

Some hosts whose properties are listed on the popular app refuse two people of the opposite sex unless they are married or related.

A number of Airbnb listings in India use a version of this caveat: married couples only.

In essence, the hosts do not accommodate couples of the opposite sex unless they are married or are siblings or close relatives (often requiring documentary evidence). The refusal is usually based on cultural sensitivities or stems from the fear of harassment by the cops or the moral police, a peculiar south Asian vigilantism against anything deemed immoral.

For instance, businessman S Nisar, who rents out a property in Chennai, fears getting unwittingly involved in illicit activities. “Actually, if we allow unmarried couples, there is a risk that we, at our place, are allowing prostitution,” Nisar told Quartz over Airbnb’s messaging portal. A manager at Mumbai’s Hotel Flora Fountain cited “harassment by local authorities and police” as the reason for not taking bookings from unmarried couples on Airbnb. Earlier this month, Buzzfeed found a “married only” policy on dozens of listings.

The Hotel Association of India, an umbrella organisation overseeing nearly 300 hotels across the country, says that no law bars unmarried couples from sharing a room. In fact, the Supreme Court of India made it explicit that heterosexual relations among consenting adults was not an offence if it was not adulterous. But there’s no stopping the cops who regularly raid hotels, bars, and nightclubs – often based on mere rumours and baseless complaints – to harass unmarried couples.

A Quora user from Hyderabad wrote that she and her boyfriend were dragged out of their hotel room and tormented by the police; they ended up paying Rs 5,000 as bribe to be let off the hook. Two years ago, the Mumbai police raided a series of suburban hotels and accused over 40 couples of “public indecency” and subjected them to a fine of Rs 1,200 each.

So, hotels and hosts remain cautious. Even online aggregators like Cleartrip and MakeMyTrip specify that hotels reserve the right to deny entry to unmarried couples.

Airbnb has a non-discrimination policy as per which hosts can’t refuse guests based on their race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or other reasons. However, these guidelines are strictly followed only in the US and the European Union, Airbnb notes. The San Francisco-based room-booking portal recognises that “some countries or communities may allow or even require people to make accommodation distinctions based on, for example, marital status, national origin, gender or sexual orientation.”

While the portal accommodates the hosts’ concerns, it makes sure they are reasonable. “In some very rare cases, hosts may have reasonable concerns, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, the host removes this restriction or we remove the host from our community,” an Airbnb spokesperson told Quartz. If hosting an unmarried couple could subject the host or guest to the risk of arrest or physical harm, they may not be allowed, the San Francisco-headquartered firm said.

To play safe, some hosts seek government-issued IDs from guests. But not everyone wants to work his or her way around. Blame cultural conservatism for that.

Closed minds

At Thelma Kariappa’s estate in Kodagu in southern India’s Karnataka, house rules regarding unmarried couples are not up for debate. They help “avoid local ‘unmarried’ couples misusing our accommodation or mistaking it for ‘love hotels’ that can be found in some parts of the world,” Kariappa said. “This is a small town of India,” she told Quartz, referring to Kodagu’s Madikeri hill station where her estate is located.

Badrinath S, another Puducherry host listed on Airbnb, said, “Our traditions do not encourage unmarried couples.” He even asked if it was “ethical” to do so.

Vigilantes often roam the streets of Indian cities and towns, targeting even young boys and girls found together in public places. For instance, Valentine’s Day is a guaranteed red rag for such thuggery – actions range from stern warnings to spot weddings to ruthless thrashings.

Given such circumstances, finding rooms is a far cry. Yet, some doors have been opening in recent times.

A few startups have begun offering guaranteed privacy and safety for the unmarried.

For instance StayUncle, headquartered in New Delhi, helps such couples rent hotel rooms for between eight and 10 hours. (The company’s first angel investment of a “couple of lakhs” came from Ajay Naqvi, AirBnB’s country marketing manager till August 2016.) Gurgaon-based hotel aggregator OYO Rooms has also launched a “relationship mode” that only lists hotels that welcome unmarried couples.

This article first appeared on Quartz.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Inspiration for the lazy, the casual and the gourmet home chefs alike

Discover, or rediscover the daily delight in food, one ingredient at a time.

It is known that home chefs can be arranged in a pyramid - the lazy ones at the bottom, the casual cooks in the middle and the gourmet experts at the top. While the challenges differ with each level, great solutions exist to make every meal an experience, regardless of the kind of cook you are. This guide to creating delightful food has something for everyone.

The lazy, hassled home chefs

You can ease into cooking by putting together meals that require minimal technique. Salads are a good place to start. Experiment with seasonal and exotic fruits and vegetables, tender vegetables and herbs, and artisanal breads as sides for a fresh, healthy and surprisingly gourmet experience.

Don’t be dismayed if you’re a non-vegetarian. There are still meals that require next-to-no prep. Think sausages that can easily be fried or grilled and cold cuts that pack a flavour punch. Health-conscious people can look for additive-free, preservative-free meat, bromate free bread and produce from free-range farms for assurance of quality. For variety, you can even put together a great Middle Eastern platter with fresh hummus and other dips.

For the casual cooks looking to impress

So, you can cook a decent meal but are looking to give your food that X-factor? To liven up regular dishes, experiment with superfoods which make your meals nutritious and novel. Try combinations like oats chila, quinoa or couscous upmas or a sprinkle of chia seeds in your breakfast pudding. Look for quality imports and efficient distribution for maximum retention of nutrients in superfoods.

Skilled enough to host people? An upgrade from basic ingredients is the most visible sign of your culinary progression. Experiment with exotic herbs like parsley, rosemary and sage as garnishing for intriguing flavours in your soups and salads. For lip-smacking desserts, use exotic fruits like kiwi, dragon fruit, acai berries and rambutan – your guests will be delighted.

For the perfectionist gourmet chefs

You’re quite the culinary expert in your circles, but want to leap to the next level? At the core of a successful gourmet creation lie the best ingredients. Seek a delicatessen which gives you only the freshest and most diverse range of ingredients. You’ll notice the difference in flavours as you move from garlic powder to actual garlic, and from chilli powder to real paprika in your preparations.

From the basic to the exotic, whatever ingredients you seek to implement the tips we just gave you are available at Godrej Nature’s Basket, the best store for fresh, quality ingredients. As the video below shows, their online and offline stores source and serves a wide variety of foods - fruits & vegetables, authentic delicatessen, the finest meats, irresistible bakery products, ready-to-cook sauces, healthy snacks and more.


Health-conscious people can also be assured of unmatched quality. You can choose from pesticide free offerings, organic fruits and vegetables, steroid-free meats, first catch of the day fish and seafood, bromate free bread and the best dairy and cheese from all over the world.

With their collection of hors d’oeuvre, artisanal breads, confectionary and desserts, there’s really no limit to what you can achieve daily in your kitchen. What’s more, all these high-quality products come at great, affordable prices.

To elevate your cooking and discover a world where food is a delight every day, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Nature’s Basket and not by the Scroll editorial team.