On 14th October 2020, The Delhi High Court sought a response from the Centre on separate pleas by two same-sex couples. One couple is seeking to get married under the Special Marriage Act (SMA) and the other is keen on the registration of their wedding in the US under the Foreign Marriage Act (FMA). The celebrated judgement on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code of decriminalising consensual same-sex relations was a much-needed change for India.
But this is just the beginning and we have only embarked on the journey to a progressive, inclusive, diverse and equal society. On the 14th, a bench of Justices R S Endlaw and Asha Menon issued a notice to the Centre and the Delhi government seeking their stand on the plea by two women seeking to get married under the SMA. The court also issued notice to the Centre and the Consulate General of India in New York on the other plea by two men who got married in the US but were denied registration of their marriage under the FMA. The Bench listed both matters for hearing on January 8, 2021.
What Did The Section 377 Verdict Signify?
In 2018, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in its historical judgement of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India decriminalised homosexuality in the country. However, despite this progressive judgement, certain questions incidental to homosexual relationships remained unaddressed by both the Apex Court and the Government.
Although the Act did not explicitly specify “gay sex” or any other consensual intercourse involving those who are not heterosexual, it was based on the idea that anything other than normative heterosexual sex was “against the order of nature” and, therefore, criminal. Technically this covers forms of sex that are not considered “natural” for heterosexuals, like oral or anal sex, as well as all forms of intercourse between homosexuals.
Justice DY Chandrachud said, “Members of the LGBT community are entitled, as all other citizens, to the full range of constitutional rights including the liberties protected by the Constitution. Members of the LGBT community are entitled to the benefit of equal citizenship, without discrimination, and to the equal protection of law.”.
Legalising Same-Sex Marriage Is The Need Of The Hour
While the Section 377 verdict gave everyone and anyone to be with the person of their choice, the freedom to love and marry them remained challenged. India does not recognise same-sex marriages. None of the marital laws expressly recognise same-sex marriages.
Our laws still see members of the LGBTQ+ community only as ‘individuals’ and not as ‘couples’. This leads to homosexual couples having to suppress their feelings of getting married to a partner of their choice. One of the major reasons that homosexuality is still not accepted as ‘normal’ in India is that it lacks the societal seal of approval – marriage. Just like live-in relationships turn from ‘anti-social’ to ‘social’ when the partners get married, same-sex couples are seeking not just equal rights but acceptance. Marriage is still considered a sacred institution in India. Depriving the LGBTQ+ community of the right to get married solely on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is absolutely discriminatory and against the Indian Constitution.
Standing Strong With The LGBTQ+ Community
From Malta to Argentina and Luxembourg to the Netherlands, several countries have legalised same-sex marriage. And while the world is moving towards progress with the acceptance and support of the LGBTQ+ community, India, unfortunately, is moving at a snail’s pace. So how can you help? There are a lot of ways you can offer your support to this community.
- Sign Petitions: No one deserves to be put behind bars just for the sake of love. Sign this petition on change.org today.
- Join Support Groups: Everyone deserves to live a life without fear, to be able to express their opinions freely and have someone to turn to in times of crisis. Discuss, chill and grow with these LGBTQ+ support groups.
- Help Via NGOs: A number of NGOs have come forward with the sole objective of the betterment of this community. Get educated, volunteer and offer help to these NGOs.
- Spread Awareness: The best way to stop discrimination and injustice is to create awareness. Talk to your loved ones, neighbours, colleagues and acquaintances to help destigmatize the LGBTQ+ community.
- Open Your Heart: There may be people from this community who are facing troubles. Lending a helping hand, listen, share with them the tools they need and help them be themselves without fear.
5 Tips To Be a Better LGBTQ+ Ally In India
An ally, straight ally, or heterosexual ally is a heterosexual and cisgender person who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, and LGBT social movements, challenging homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.
- Learn Your LGBTQ+: It is crucial to understand the differences between gender and sexuality—the former is what you were assigned at birth, to which you might relate (cisgender) or you might not, while the latter is your physical, romantic or emotional attraction to another person.
- Use Correct Pronouns: It’s basic decency to know a person’s pronouns (and remember them) and know how to embrace identities and binaries across the spectrum.
- Stop Phobic Behaviour: Whether they are casual remarks or violent behaviour, if you see it happening, step up and set the person straight.
- Realise Your Privilege: If you are a cis-gendered heterosexual, you already have the legal right to marry anyone you want. Being proactive and stepping up to show your support as opposed to merely voicing it in passing goes a long, long way.
- Educate Yourself: Read, listen, watch and get yourself educated about the history, struggles, challenges and wins of this community.