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Why India Is Not Yet Ready For Gay Marriage

07/07/2015 8:27 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Gay rights activists display a rainbow-colored banner as they march in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013. The demonstrators urged an end to all forms of discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgenders in India, four years after a colonial-era law that criminalized gay sex was overturned.(AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

As the world's oldest democracy legalises gay marriage nationwide, it is time for the world's largest democracy to perform some much needed introspection - are we, as a people, society, and country ready to legalise gay marriage?

The short, and sad, answer is no.

The problem isn't the Indian judiciary. I personally believe that, barring a few decisions (including Section 377), the Indian judiciary is, by far, India's most forward looking institution, easily beating even Narendra Modi in terms of progressiveness and liberalism, and eclipsing many politicians in terms of egalitarianism and justice.

No, the problem lies deep down in that falsely glorified, pathetically hollow, yet nonetheless beautiful concept we call Indian society.

We as a society are simply, if not regrettably, far from ready to legalise gay marriage.

The Indian Supreme Court is not stupid. If it were to pass a nationwide gay marriage legalisation ruling tomorrow, it knows that there will be far more push back than support. It knows that the lower courts will ignore it, and it knows that India's bureaucracy - filled with conservatives - will happily reject it. The Supreme Court also knows that Parliament will throw a tantrum that it cannot ignore.

"We as a society are simply, if not regrettably, far from ready to legalise gay marriage."

Not to mention the fierce resistance from conservative states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh - whose mismanagement is famous nationwide, but whose population sizes offer too much political value for politicians to ignore. Furthermore, the fact that this country is under the rule of the BJP - a party that has openly rejected LGBT rights on several occasions - does not help in the slightest.

But ignoring the political implications (the Supreme Court has not been frightened by a politician since Indira Gandhi), the SC knows very well why it won't legalise gay marriage - Indian society won't digest it.

india gay

Let's face it - our society needs a massive makeover. Conservatism and right wing hate mongering are eroding the base of our nation's founding principles - equality, justice, and a fair life for everyone, regardless of sexuality, creed, and identity.

From a civilisation that championed pluralism, liberalism, and equality in diversity long before Western philosophers like John Stuart Mill and Thomas Paine penned down their political treatises, we have fallen to a civilisation that is mocked by the nations we share this world with for our most primeval ideologies, and our obsession with preserving a culture that has been grossly misinterpreted.

"The loud mouthed conservatives who flaunt their love of Indian culture as a pathetic excuse to debase the LGBT community know very little about what they proudly (and ignorantly) speak of. "

I say misinterpreted as I mean it - the loud mouthed conservatives who flaunt their love of Indian culture as a pathetic excuse to debase the LGBT community know very little about what they proudly (and ignorantly) speak of.

Shortly after the Indian Supreme Court upheld Section 377, Maulana Madni, of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind said -

"If these same sex couples adopt children, the child will grow up with a skewed version of a family. Society will disintegrate. If we are to look at countries in the West who have allowed same-sex marriages, you will find the mental tensions they suffer from."

Om Prakash Singhal, the Vice President of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) agreed with his Muslim brothers (note the oxymoron in that phrase) and said,

"This is a right decision, we welcome it. Homosexuality is against Indian culture, against nature and against science. We are regressing, going back to when we were almost like animals. The SC had protected our culture."

What's funny is that homosexuality in India has been accepted within Indian culture for thousands of years. It gives me pride to see that India accepted homosexuality centuries before the West, but it does highlight my shame to know that India today, under the leadership of men who talk too much and know too little, continues to oppress the rights of the LGBT community.

Most historians agree that homosexuality was largely accepted by Hinduism across the Indian subcontinent (in part because of the Rigveda- Vikriti Evam Prakriti (the unnatural is also natural) up until British colonialism dominated India in the 18th century and introduced Section 377 in 1861.

"India was the birthplace of Asian democracy - a modern Asian Athens - but now we have begun worshipping conservative demagogues and calling for a theocracy."

Is this what the great conservative leaders of India want to preserve? Is this what Hindu and Muslim radicals seek to enshrine? A 150 year old law imposed upon our society by the British that goes against thousands of years of historical precedence?

But these icons of Indian conservatism's pungent renaissance still draw crowds in the hundreds of thousands, and still have a place in the political minds of a great number of Indians. If anyone criticises them, they are abused with labels of "Adarsh liberal", or "Khangressi" or other creative humiliations. Men like Baba Ramdev can openly claim that they can "cure" homosexuality through Yoga, but God forbid an Indian liberal stands up to defend the rights of the LGBT community.

We're a country that's jumped from being a land of intelligent discourse to one where sane criticism is abhorred and quashed. India was the birthplace of Asian democracy - a modern Asian Athens - but now we have begun worshipping conservative demagogues and calling for a theocracy.

"If we cannot stand by the principles that our founding fathers fought and died for - liberal thought, social equity, and secularism - we lose the right to call ourselves a nation, let alone a great nation."

And that is why we won't have gay marriage in India soon - at least for another generation. Because we are blinded by the love of a civilisation we don't even understand. We march to protect ideas that our religions never prescribed, and we beat our chests to protest ideals that our religions embellished. We label those who stick to our country's founding principles as "anti-nationals" and we deify those who gleefully step on the rights of others.

Perhaps Sir Winston Churchill was right all those years ago. Perhaps India truly is nothing more than a geographical term, as meaningless as the equator. If we cannot defend the principles that our founding fathers fought and died for - liberalism, social equity, and secularism - we lose the right to call ourselves a nation, let alone a great nation.

It's 2015. India as a global power should be ready for gay marriage, but India as a society of 1.2 billion is still not ready to accept a philosophy that is more Indian than anything else - Vikriti Evam Prakriti.

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