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To Be Truly Progressive, India Should Legalize Same-Sex Marriages

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New Delhi: LGBT Community members and supporters carry a rainbow-colored banner during the Delhi Queer Pride March in New Delhi on Sunday. PTI Photo by Kamal Singh (PTI11_27_2016_000185B)

Marriage resembles an enormous industry, starting from finding your partner to planning your honeymoon. People love to talk about their marriages, its celebration, food, dress, ornaments and travel altogether; more like a great Indian fest.

But in India (both in rural and urban context) finding a partner for marriage connotes heterosexual binaries only. Followed by the attire, one must be feminine and the other masculine. The same thread follows in the choice of ornaments, tradition, rituals and so on, where gender plays the primary role.

Marriage is the primary social institution to start a family. It strives as a cling to the bell moment to begin the legitimate conjugal life in India. Thinking beyond binary marriages, this moment is missing by default for same-sex couples.

Marriage brings the spectrum of caste, religion, race and now, sex. We have constitutional laws safeguarding inter-caste, inter-religion and inter-race marriages, but they don’t have social acceptance and accreditation. Also, there is a high risk of community enforced violence with newly-wed couples from such marriages.

On September 8, 2018, the Supreme Court of India decriminalized the 158 years old Section 377 of Indian Penal Code, which rejected same-sex relationships for being “unnatural” and a punishable offence under the purview of law. This judgement was a watershed moment for Indian history. The judgement brought hope and ignited the spirit of the LGBTQIA+ community’s age long struggle.

Looking into the facts, India has decriminalized, but has yet to legalize same-sex relationships. Thus, same-sex couples cannot get married to each other, and neither is their marriage legitimate in India.

In India, legitimacy of love is marriage because we lack legal terms to explain love relationships without marriage. Marriage is an accreditation both on the social and legal spectrum.

Again, the legal approval acts as a backbone for fellow citizens, and it acts as a reinforcement of social acceptance.

Our country has a colonial history of bringing social transformation holding the hand of law, like the abolishment of the Sati system in 1829. Although, a huge mass movement was followed for the adequate implementation of the act and the reawakening of citizens.

Firstly, we have to make it very clear that same-sex marriages are just like any other heterosexual marriage. The Constitution of India provides our fundamental right to life with dignity and respect.

We all are citizens of the same country; thus the law is the same for all.

The judgement brought hope and ignited the spirit of the LGBTQIA+ community’s age long struggle.

According to a joint study by the Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention and researchers from Stockholm University, suicide rates have fallen by 46% in the periods of 1989–2002 and 2003–16, after the legalization of same-sex marriage in Denmark and Sweden.

In 1989, Denmark became the first country to accept same-sex relationships, followed by 28 other countries. Consequently, in 2009, Sweden became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage, followed by Denmark in 2012.

Taking this study into consideration, our modern and progressive India must think of a step ahead to encourage sound mental and social health of its citizens.

Additionally, Article 15 (1) of the Constitution of India provides no discrimination of the citizen on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.

Article 21 assures protection of life and personal liberty so that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.

Thus, no one can restrict the court of law to make same-sex marriages legitimate, rather the constitution emphasizes the need to safeguard and make provisions against discrimination.

What You Cannot Do Without a Legitimate Marriage:

  • You cannot establish a blood relation: this is only considered in between the spousal relationship and parent-child relationship.
  • You cannot add a nominee, or be in any legal affairs.
  • You cannot apply for a joint visa, joint bank account, etc.
  • You cannot adopt a child.

Legalizing same sex marriage in India is an ongoing struggle for the Indian LGBTQIA+ community.

Already, two men have filed a petition in the Kerala High Court after getting married in a temple to legitimize their marriage in the court of law.

Thus, there is a ray of hope that all couples in this Indian democracy will live their life with dignity and will enjoy their personal freedom. It will be a stepping stone to harness our new and progressive India.

But the community has to regain its power and lead this movement so that the spark reaches more people, crossing boundaries.

“I wake up every morning seeing my partner still sleeping next to me

I look outside the window to catch some fresh light,

I pray this light gives us the power to fight;

I hope this light ties our wed knot too….”

– An optimist soul.

You must be to comment.
  1. Mirajul Islam

    Nice informations you have mentioned. All know that court have given permission for LGBT but still our Indian society not accept them or see them as like criminal or many more things. Similarly it is difficult to those who want for same sex marriege; our society will not accept them as normal human being. I think we should discuss about this topic in every platform and normalized the matter like in use marriage.

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  2. Mirajul Islam

    Nice informations you have mentioned. All know that court have given permission for LGBT but still our Indian society not accept them or see them as like criminal or many more things. Similarly it is difficult to those who want for same sex marriege;our society will not accept them as normal human being. I think we should discuss about this topic in every platform and normalized the matter like in use marriage.

  3. Mirajul Islam

    Nice informations you have mentioned. All know that court have given permission for LGBT but still our Indian society not accept them or see them as like criminal or many more things. Similarly it is difficult to those who want for same sex marriege; our society will not accept them as normal human being. I think we should discuss about this topic in every platform and normalized the matter like in use marriage.

  4. Diana Chavez

    Wow! Beautiful written. Legalizing same sex marriages in India will be a step forward to dismantling the caste system. The legalization is beyond marriage. It puts forward a path for all to be treated as a human being and let go off social constructs that define us such as race, caste, religion, or sex.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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