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What India Can Learn From Australia's Same Sex Marriage Plebiscite

We need to learn how to have respectful debates.

17/11/2017 9:20 AM IST | Updated 17/11/2017 9:21 AM IST
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NEW DELHI, INDIA - NOVEMBER 12: Indian members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community take part in a pride parade on November 12, 2017 in New Delhi, India

Wednesday, 15 November 2017 was a momentous day for all Australians. On this day, a majority of Australians announced support for marriage reform in this country. Almost 62% of Australians who responded to a nation wide postal plebiscite, voted in favour of 'same-sex marriage' reform. The nation-wide survey attracted a record high participation with almost 81% of eligible Australians having their say.

As someone who participated in this survey and had the opportunity to let my opinion known in this matter, I personally feel there is a deeply harmonious societal messages that transcend the more obvious outcome of the survey.

The clear mandate by a majority of Australians to endorse same sex marriages indicates a step forward for the greater Australian society.

Whilst the clear mandate by a majority of Australians to endorse same sex marriages indicates a step forward for the greater Australian society, it is the respectful manner in which this survey was conducted, and the dignity with which most Australians have accepted and reacted to the results of the survey, is really admirable.

The question of 'same-sex marriage' reform had long been debated in Australia over the past several years. At its very core, 'marriage reform' to include same sex marriages is a deeply sensitive issue that has long divided the Australian population with strong opinions in favour and against the reforms. Various Australian political parties had toyed with idea of marriage reform over the years, yet most of them failed to legislate any changes, eventually, throwing it back to the Australian public to have their say about an issue which was believed to be contentious to the society at large.

The plebiscite attracted furious debate from all quarters leading up to the survey.

The plebiscite attracted furious debate from all quarters leading up to the survey. People were free to communicate and broadcast their opinions in relation to marriage reform and both sides of the camp undertook extensive awareness campaigns to empower, influence, and inform the public.

Some hired planes and etched a cloudy 'Yes' across the skies, while others placed banners stating 'It is ok to say No' along busy streets. Barring the occasional idiot, the entire survey that occurred over a period of few months was relatively peaceful and incident free. People voted in the anonymity and comfort of their homes and posted their opinions to the agency managing the survey.

Then, as the results were announced, those who celebrated the outcome were mindful enough to respect the perspective of 38% Australians who voted against the reform. Those who held a view against same sex marriage, too, seemingly accepted that the nation as a whole had decided against their preference and were prompt to accept the verdict. Curiously though, the media and political commentary post the survey results was focused heavily on protecting the religious and social freedom of all those who do not believe in same sex marriage.

Then, as the results were announced, those who celebrated the outcome were mindful enough to respect the perspective of 38% Australians who voted against the reform.

Effecting major social changes within communities, and countries is a daunting task, especially if those changes pertain to long-standing, and deeply entrenched societal norms of those communities. Countries that have a progressive streak about them, are respectful, inclusive, patient, and extremely empowering while facilitating such changes and this marriage reform survey in Australia is potent example of one such society.

Herein, lies a little lesson for countries like India that flaunt huge communal diversity yet remain ingloriously inept at holding a respectful debate about matters of differing religious, and societal opinions.

The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of HuffPost India. Any omissions or errors are the author's and HuffPost India does not assume any liability or responsibility for them.

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