Harish Iyer

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Harish Iyer
Harish iyer.jpeg
Born Harish Padma Vishwanath Iyer
(1979-04-16) 16 April 1979 (age 36)
Barrackpore, West Bengal, India
Occupation Columnist, activist, blogger
Nationality Indian
Alma mater Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies St. Xavier's College, Mumbai, Guru Nanak Khalsa College, South Indian Education Society High School

Harish Iyer, also known as “Aham”,[1] hiyer and "Harrish Iyer"(born 16 April 1979), is an activist for a number of socio-cultural and environmental issues.[2][3] He is an equal rights activist, known for his campaigns for the rights of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community, children, women, animals as well as survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA).[4] Pink Pages named him one of India's seven most influential gay and lesbian people[5] and one of the ten individuals to be awarded the Zindagi Live Awards for his work in creating awareness on child sexual abuse.[6] On 29 June 2013, The Guardian, the British national daily named him in the list of the 100 most influential LGBT people in the world for 2013. He is listed at number 71, and was the only Indian national in this list.[7] Harish Iyer was also one of the most vocal opponents of the recriminalisation of homosexuality in India. He has engaged in several awareness campaigns to educate the general population about the adverse impact of such a regressive decision. He has also condemned the move via media advocacy. He has not only written articles and letters on the subject, but also appeared on top national television news shows to highlight the plight of the LGBT community in India in wake of the decision.

Harish was once again catapulted into the spotlight in May 2015 when his mother Padma Iyer placed what may be India's first gay matrimonial advertisement.[8] While many top Indian newspapers refused to carry the advertisement, it was finally carried by MidDay.[9] The ad attracted a lot of controversy for mentioning 'Iyer preferred'. Both Harish and Padma received a lot of flak online and were accused of encouraging caste based discrimination.[10] However, they later clarified that the allegedly objectionable preference was mentioned 'in jest' only to show how similar an LGBT matrimonial ad could be to an ad for a heterosexual alliance.

Media advocacy[edit]

Iyer was featured on Indian movie star Aamir Khan's talk show Satyamev Jayate in an episode on the issue of child sexual abuse.[11] In the show, he gave a frank and detailed account of his horrific experiences of childhood sexual abuse.[12] Prior to Satyamev Jayate, he was seen in the panel of NDTV's popular talk show We The People, which is anchored by Barkha Dutt, and in Richa Anirudh's Hindi talk show Zindagi Live. British actor Stephen Fry elatedly tweeted "You're a hell of a guy!" after interviewing Harish for his BBC2 documentary "OUT THERE".[13]

In March 2015, Harish wrote a moving eulogy to his dear friend and Kolkata Park Street rape survivor Suzette Jordan after she succumbed to meningoencephalitis. Harish and Suzette had grown close after meeting at the Tehelka THiNK conference in Goa in 2014. Harish's letter raised several questions about the manner in which Suzette's trial was progressing and the indignities that she was subject to in court. He called for greater sensitivity in dealing with rape cases.[14]


Iyer routinely uses social media (blogs, Facebook and Twitter) to campaign for causes dear to him. He is best known for turning his personal blog as a helpline during the 26/11 Terror Attacks.[15] Iyer later organised an animal aided therapy workshop along with Animal Angels in Mumbai to help citizens recuperate.[16]

In 2009, Iyer and Shobhaa De initiated a campaign called S.I.T.A. (Sensitivity in True Action) Sena campaign to condemn the attack on women in a Bangalore pub by the right wing socio-political group Sri Ram Sene.[17] Through the campaign they urged women to arm themselves with whistles and blow it on eve teasers.[18] In August 2013, when the news of the gang-rape of a young photojournalist was published, in keeping with his quirky protests, Iyer marched on Mumbai's streets wearing bright red lipstick with a placard that read "Don't look at my lipstick. Listen to me".[19]

In 2014, he appeared in a PETA ad campaign encouraging consumers to go vegetarian.[20]

In popular culture[edit]

His life inspired two films, director Onir's I Am and Ranadeep Bhattacharya and Judhajit Bagchi directed Amen. In I Am, Actor Sanjay Suri plays Abhimanyu, a child sexual abuse survivor, the character inspired by Harish's life[21] and that of Hyderabad based fashion designer Ganesh Nallari. In Amen, actor Karan Mehra plays Harry (Harish Iyer),[22] a young man who is confident about his sexuality but still has the ghosts of his childhood memories of sexual abuse haunting him.

A book by Payal Shah Karwa called The Bad Touch featuring the biographic account of Iyer has been published.[23]

Harish Iyer has spoken at TEDx, an independently organised TED conference thrice, first at TEDxMasala on the topic "What if we had the culture of speaking about sex",[24] then at TEDx Gitam University on the topic "Rising From The Ashes : From Abuse To Hope".[25] and finally at TEDx XLRI, Jamshedpur. Given his oratory skills and his ability to emote, Iyer finds a mention in the list of fiery motivational speakers in India.[26]

Iyer spoke at Tehelka's THiNK conference for the year 2013. Other prominent speakers at the same event included Robert De Niro, Amitabh Bachchan, A R Rahman, Shekhar Kapur, Girish Karnad and Medha Patkar.[27][28] He participated in a special panel discussion with fellow rape survivors.[29] He is also the recipient of the 2015 Karmaveer Puraskar. [30]


  1. ^ "Coming Out Is A Process Not An Impulsive Decision". An Indian Gay Interview. gaysifamily. Retrieved 1 December 2012. 
  2. ^ "Harish Iyer's introduction on Pink Pages". Pink-Pages.co.in. Retrieved 1 December 2012. 
  3. ^ "Gender is but a biological accident". Harish Iyer a freelance columnist with tehelka. Tehelka. Retrieved 1 December 2012. 
  4. ^ Bhamgara, Kaizad. "Fighting For Gay Pride". Burrp. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  5. ^ "The Solid Seven: India’s most influential Gays & Lesbians". Pink Pages. Retrieved 21 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "Zindagi Live Awards". CNN IBN. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  7. ^ "The 100 most influential LGBT people of 2013". The Guardian (London). 29 June 2013. Retrieved 29 June 2013. 
  8. ^ "Indian matrimonial ad seeks groom for gay activist". 
  9. ^ "I'm gay, my ma placed an ad looking for a groom for me". 
  10. ^ "Prejudice disguised as politeness". 
  11. ^ Srivastava, Priyanka (1 June 2012). "Common man rising: Sob stories and tales of courage have become staple TRP pushers on reality TV". London: Mail Today. Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  12. ^ M Singh, L Romal. "I feel like a star already". DNA. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  13. ^ Fry, Stephen. "You're a hell of a guy!". tweet. @stephenfry. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  14. ^ "India killed Suzette Jordan". 
  15. ^ Whiteman, Hilary (28 November 2008). "Blogging in the wake of terror". CNN. 
  16. ^ Utpat, Aditi (21 December 2008). "Animal therapy to help 26/11 victims recuperate". The Times of India. 
  17. ^ Somaiyaji, Gurudarshan (1 March 2009). "Now, Sita Sena to counter Rama Sene". DNA (Daily News & Analysis). 
  18. ^ Paul, Aditya (20 April 2009). "Blow whistle on eve-teasers, literally, blogger tells women". The Indian Express. Retrieved 26 August 2013. 
  19. ^ Chang, Arlene. "Mumbai gangrape: It’s time to reclaim our city, say protesters". FirstPost.com. Retrieved 26 August 2013. 
  20. ^ "LGBT Activist Harish Iyer Shares His Love for Cocks in Cheeky New PETA Video," The India Republic, 26 June 2014.
  21. ^ "Onir Dares Film World". smashits.com. Retrieved 1 December 2012. 
  22. ^ "Karan Mehra bases his role as a homosexual on activist Harish Iyer". Mid Day. Retrieved 23 October 2012. 
  23. ^ "Share, Don't Shame". BlogAdda. Retrieved 13 December 2012. 
  24. ^ TEDx. "What if we had a culture of speaking about sex ?". Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  25. ^ TEDx. "Rising from the ashes: From abuse to hope". 
  26. ^ http://topyaps.com/8-fiery-motivational-speakers-india
  27. ^ Davidson, Kumam. "Activist Harish Iyer To Speak at Tehelka's Think Conference". Gaylaxy.com. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  28. ^ "SPEAKERS 2013". THiNK. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  29. ^ "SESSIONS 2013". www.THiNKWorks.in. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  30. ^ Joshi, Pranav. "Equal Rights Activist Harish Iyer wins Rex Karamveer Global Fellowship Award". DNAINDIA.com. Retrieved 25 September 2015.