A Supreme Court case into the fate of same-sex marriage in India is nearing an end.
The case, which began on April 18th will consider whether the Special Marriage Act 1954 should be amended to allow marriages of same-sex couples.
Lawyer for the petitioning couples, Vrinda Grover, told Voa News that the Indian Constitution gives all citizens the right to marry a person of their choice.
“What we are canvassing before this court is a new imagination of marriage and family whose foundation is love, care and respect,” she said.
Homosexuality was decriminalised in the same court in 2018, however the highly religious country has been reluctant to take the next step.
If the verdict is in favor of legalising same-sex marriage, India would join the ranks of 34 other countries that have already taken this historic step, triggering a wave of transformative changes throughout Indian society.
In the largely conservative nation of 1.4 billion people, marriage is a highly revered and significant part of Indian culture, according to reports on the ABC
Statistics from the latest national census, show 98 per cent of the population in India practice religion. Hinduism is the largest religion in India, as almost eight out of 10 (79.8 per cent) people identify as Hindu. This not only dominates India’s religious landscape but also contributes to 94 per cent of the world’s Hindu population.
Without the legal recognition of being married, queer couples who hold commitment ceremonies, are being denied basic rights enjoyed by most heterosexual couples, such as the ability to take out joint health or life insurance policies, the ABC said in an explainer.
While the 2018 ruling may have affirmed individual constitutional rights for LGBTQ+ people, the lack of legal support for same-sex marriage means a large group may be deprived of these rights.
Social activist and founder of non-profit organisation SheQu, Kamalika Dasgupta told the ABC that she often feels unsafe in her country.
“It was quite frightening when I was growing up there. I used to always hide my sexuality,” she said.
Those who are denied the right to be legally recognised as a married couple feel like “second-class citizens.”
The Ipsos LGBTQ+ 2021 Global Study revealed that over half (58 per cent) of the country’s population believe that same-sex couples should be allowed some sort of legal recognition and 66 per cent of those people believe they should also have the right to adopt children.
This was a dramatic increase in support compared to just a year earlier in 2020, where 37 per cent of people believed same-sex marriage should be accepted. In 2014, only 14 per cent supported the idea.
If the verdict reflects the survey results, significant changes could be on the horizon for India. Irrespective of the outcome, it is expected that the ramifications will be felt by the estimated 135 million queer-identifying people living in India.
Credit: Emilia Campbell and Zara Koschitzke.