In India the recognition of same sex marriage is considered to be a human right and a civil right as well as political, social and religious issue. More than a human right and civil right it is a religious and social acceptance. It is awkward for people to accept homosexuality because of it’s existence since 1861. Numerous surveys indicate that verbal harassment and abuse are nearly universal experiences of gay people. Although physical violence is less common, substantial numbers of gay people report having experienced crimes against their person or property because of their sexual orientation.
The Special Marriage Act was enacted to provide a special form of marriage by any person in India and all Indian nationals in foreign countries irrespective of the religion. Focusing on ‘any person’, that means any person irrespective of their caste, religion and sex .
Section 5 under Hindu Marriage Act,1955 mentions Conditions for a Hindu marriage. A marriage may be solemnized between any two Hindus, if the conditions are fulfilled and the condition does not mention marriage of opposite sex only. InFact the marriage is a valid marriage irrespective of the sexuality of couples.
However with all these issues after two years the rights in marriage of same-sex couple are at our doorstep. Recently a petition was filed in Delhi high court seeking a declaration for rights of same sex couples marriage under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The petition was filed on behalf of the LGBTQ activist, “allowing ‘any two hindus’ to marry without discriminating between homosexuals and hetrosexuals. Despite the fact that there is no bar under any law against gay marriage , the same is being not registered throughout the country”, the activist argued.
The Supreme court has recognised the right to choose sexual identity as a fundamental right as part of the right to privacy and individual autonomy under article 21 of the constitution. It says that without dignity and privacy a person cannot live it’s life freely. It has, through a long history of jurisprudence, passed judgements and aimed at protecting couples and relationships that went against societal norms. These contentions where put through by it’s landmark judgements in NALSA Case(2014) and Navtej Singh Johar case (2018) which legalise homosexuality. Discriminating on the basis of sexuality and not allowing them to choose their life partner is a violation of right to equality.
Right to marry has also been stated under human rights charter within the meaning of the right to start a family. The right to marry is a universal right and is available to everyone irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity. In no way it’s validity can be questioned. Section 8 clause 5 of Hindu Marriage Act, Registration of Hindu marriages says, the validity of any Hindu marriage shall in no way be affected by the omission to make the entry. Somewhere or the other way even our laws does not refuse to accept same sex marriage it is only because of the societal issue that they have been declined to enjoy their right to marry.
Our Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposed the petition and said that a marriage is between husband and wife and the judgement of supreme court on Navtej Singh Johar was only to decriminalise consensual homosexual activity “nothing more and nothing less” and our country’s legal system does not accept same-sex couple marriages. The court had different points on it and understood the issue,said that firstly the couple should try getting themself registered and if in any case they face issues regarding the registration of their marriage, they may reach out to court for help.
Apart from the emotional and social benefits of having one’s union officially recognised ,right to property or inheritance is also one of the practical benefits same sex couple would enjoy. For example a company’s medical insurance covers only husband/wife meaning only hetrosexual couples are recognised then a same sex partner won’t get the benefits of life insurance.
In tamil Nadu, the term bride was redefined by the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court in 2019. The court said, “the term ‘bride’ as per the hindu marriage act would also mean a transexual and not just refer to someoe who has been born as a woman. The term bride cannot have a static and immutable meaning.”
It is definitely not easy for society to accept this but as our generation is evolving, it becomes important that with time our laws should also keep on changing according to the requirement and best for our development. Our constitution provides us liberty to life to live with dignity. Discrimination on such issues would not only harm the community and let them feel as aliens on this earth but also violates our very basic fundamental right. Not only hindu marriage act or special marriage act needs reformation but every law should be reformed which bars same sex couples to enjoy their right to life and liberty to choose their partner.
The majority in our society is yet to open up to the rights of sexual minorities. Hence, measures of mass awareness and public sensitization regarding the rights of sexual minorities are important.
Author: Ashi singh, University of Delhi