New Delhi: In 2014, in a landmark judgement, transgender people were given official recognition as the” third gender” in India. In 2017, Supreme Court recognised sexual orientation as protected under a fundamental right to privacy. Later in 2018, India passed the landmark ruling and decriminalised homosexuality in the country. In 2022, the top court ruled that unmarried partners or same-sex couples were entitled to welfare benefits. Cut to 2023, Supreme Court is hearing petition seeking legal validation of same-sex marriages. This crucial ruling will decide the fate of marital and allied rights for lesbian and gay couples in our country. Currently, the petition is being opposed by the Centre. In yesterday’s (April 18) hearing, the government stated in court that only the Parliament can decide on the creation of a new social relationship. Centre has also urged the Supreme Court that all states and Union Territories be made parties to the proceedings on the pleas seeking legal validation for same-sex marriages. While the case is being heard and we wait for the final ruling, NDTV speaks with LGBTQ community activists to know why this judgement holds so much importance and why it is the time for India to legalise same sex marriages. Here’s what we discussed:
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Explaining the concept of marriage, Raga D Silva, LGBTQ Influencer and Author of Untold Lies says,
A marriage is the union, not just between the biological man and a woman, but it is a union between two people. It is time, we accept that change and it is time we as a society relearn this language.
Further talking about the personal life, Raga D Silva added,
I am legally married to my same sex partner, since I am living in the UK. We have been married for 16 years and have raised two beautiful twin daughters. I don’t understand, how to some people this is defined as unnatural. Love is the most natural thing, it should not be defined or tagged as unnatural. Instead of defining something unnatural, we should sit back and redefine the phenomena of marriage. We have forgotten that marriage is the union of two people and not defined by genders.
Talking about the concept of same sex marriage and why it is high time India should move ahead, Sayantika Majumdar and Nikita Prakash, Same Sex Couple, who are using social media to break the stereotypes set for lesbian partners and spread awareness said,
More than hope, we feel it is long overdue in India. It is the right time, as Indian citizens we should have the same rights as every individual in this country. It is our basic right. Marriage should not be restricted to the concept of gender, in fact the concept of gender in itself is so fluid. Our law validates marriage as the union of people and we feel, it should not be a privilege for certain sexual orientations and genders. Right now, it is only limited to a privilege in our country and that is wrong. It is not about just about marriage, it is also about all the other rights and laws that straight people get to enjoy with marriage, which we as same sex couples are denied and that is very unfair.
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Nikita Prakash reiterated the same thought and further said that in our country there is still a lot of stigma that is associated with LGBTQ community. She adds,
I feel privileged enough to talk about the issues right in the open, however this is not the reality. Many in our country are hidden and their voices are unheard. They are not getting the opportunity to come out and talk about it, they all are still hidden in their own closet and that is because there is so much stigma around. Luckily the decriminalisation of 377 has helped us gain some space and given us the courage to be more visible, but for people in rural areas this is a completely different concept. They feel it is an elite issue all together.
Sayantika Majumdar also said that in India things have evolved legally over the years. She said,
Like the concept of banning dowry, even the concept of marriage has evolved and if we can come all the way forward then why can’t we do the same for same sex marriages.
Arguing that same sex marriage is not a new and elite concept, Tanushree Bhalla, Petitioner and Activist said,
We are not a 1000 years old civilisation, in fact we are a 7000 years old civilisation and maybe beyond that and there are enough examples in our mythology, theology, and in Mahabharata, where we have seen same sex marriages. It is not at all a modern concept, nor is it an elite issue. It is high time we move ahead and legalise the same sex marriage.
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An apex body of psychiatrists in India – The Indian Psychiatric Society had also supported the right to marriage for LGBTQ community. It said,
The IPS would like to reiterate that these individuals be treated like all citizens of the country, and once a citizen (they) can enjoy all civil rights like education, employment, housing, income, government or military service, access to healthcare, property rights, marriage, adoption, survivorship benefits, to name a few. There is no evidence to indicate that individuals on the LGBTQA spectrum cannot partake any of the above. On the contrary, discrimination which prevents the above may lead to mental health issues.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.