Model-actor Sushant Divgikar reacts strongly while commenting on the government's recent directive to Delhi High Court that same-sex marriage is not comparable to the Indian family unit.
"The year is 2021. Watches record our steps, cloud is the new photo album, cars park themselves, rovers fly on Mars and, yet, despite all of these advancements, when it comes to human decency, the nation still reeks of the dark ages and we are putting one another's dignity up for vote," Divgikar told IANS.
He added: "One 1 in six Gen Z adults are LGBT and this number is only growing, and this is a reality we need to embrace. Same-sex relations and gender fluidity have featured prominently in ancient Indian texts and sculptures and yet many LGBTQ Indians find it difficult to come out and find acceptance in the traditional set-up, and are met with violence, contempt and discrimination."
Last month, the government stated it in an affidavit filed in reply to a petition by same-sex couples seeking enforcement of fundamental right of choice of partner. "Despite the decriminalisation of Section 377 of the IPC, the petitioners cannot claim a fundamental right for same-sex marriage being recognised under the laws of the country," the affidavit stated.
It said that the fundamental right under Article 21 cannot be expanded to include the fundamental right for same sex marriage. Divgikar, who is a popular drag personality and has appeared and performed as Rani Ko-He-nur on stage, feels if the concerned authorities have a problem with calling it "marriage" then we needn't call it marriage.
"Call it a civil union or a 'partnership', but equal rights must be given to individuals who choose same sex partners to live with. We all deserve a life of dignity and respect," he said.
Divgikar added: "We are regular taxpayers and are not law breakers. We are not asking for special rights but basic human rights. I just believe that same sex partners must be accounted for. It's unfair to say the least, to imagine that same sex or LGBT couples must not be given partnership rights only based on their sexual orientation and gender identity."
He noted that currently the right to begin a family is only available to "heterosexual cisgender men and women, and LGBT don't adhere to the 'Indian family unit'.
"Shouldn't starting a family be rested on a parameter of being emotionally, physically, financially and mentally prepared for it? Do we forget that everyone under the constitution of this great country deserves a life of dignity regardless of the gender, colour, caste or sexual orientation?" Divgikar asked.
He said that even though Section 377 has been decriminalised, the stigma and the roving eyes still follow. "In most Indian families, being anything other than cisgender and heteronormative is taboo. This societal acceptance might delay marriage equality and the perks that come with it -- adoption of children, opening of joint bank accounts or healthcare insurances, acquisition of property, or in short, enjoy rights that heterosexual married couples in India take for granted," Divgikar said.
He added: "Until of course gender and sexual orientation discrimination is completely outlawed, the fight that started with de-criminalising Section 377 must not end. It is a battle half won, and must now expand to a full realisation of civil rights."
Divgikar said that the entertainment industry can play a significant role in raising awareness, changing perceptions and normalising the concept of LGBT.
"I'd like to see filmmakers like Karan Johar and Rohit Shetty became part of the culture change wave that can lead to some of the real-world wins. We need films that celebrate LGBT as normal and also as beautiful. 'Modern Family' in the United States is a great example," he said.