Seeking dismissals of petitions praying for the recognition of same-sex marriages under existing laws, the Centre on Thursday told the Delhi High Court that a marriage in India necessarily depends upon “age-old customs, rituals, practices, cultural ethos and societal values”, and that in reading down the provision of Section 377 of the IPC covering homosexuality, the Supreme Court had only decriminalized “a particular human behaviour” but “neither intended to, nor did in fact, legitimise the human conduct in question”.
Whether or not a government recognises same-sex marriage, and however a government chooses to define marriage, no government can tell people whom to love nor can it exert exclusive control over marriage or people's understanding of marriage. After all, the state has no right to interfere with the wedding of two souls, to put it figuratively.
One must read Ruth Vanita's 'Same-sex marriage and Hindu traditions ' as well as her dissertation, 'Sappho and the Virgin Mary: Same-sex love and the English literary imagination'. The author has argued that not just same-sex love was permissible in ancient and Vedic India, same-sex marriages also took place. Today's Sanskrit-challenged and ever-belligerent neo-Hindus are quite ignorant of the ancient Hindu India's radical and revolutionary outlook with regard to sex, society and sensual indulgence.
One of the hundred Kauravas, Parinav, was gay and in love with the son of a Brahmin named Ajitashru. Their marriage was solemnised by Gandhari and Vidur. Imagine, more than 3,000 years ago, two gays tied the knot and society, particularly the mother, participated in their marriage! Vedic India's great female philosopher Ghosha was in love with a beautiful and intelligent young woman, Sunetra, and they furthered their loving association into marriage with the blessings of the sage Yagyavalkya.
Emperor Ashok's daughter Sanghmitra, who was sent by Ashok along with her brother Mahendra to spread Buddhism, fell for a woman somewhere in South East Asia. She was 24 years older than Sanghmitra. But they chose to marry when Emperor Ashok consented.
Marriage is not a strict and lapidary heteronormative tradition to legalise or validate a liaison between a biological male and a biological woman. Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi of Balkh defined his soulful relationship with Shams Tabriz as that of a 'couple' sent to the evanescent world by the Almighty himself ('She azdam mizraan yaa'n aafil jahan rooh'st'). It's worthwhile to mention that their 'proximity' was not liked by Rumi's son, who got Shams killed.
The state has no right to regulate ingrained behavioural patterns, norms and instincts. How two adult and gender-unspecified individuals want to live their lives by living together or marrying is none of the state's business. Looking at a marriage only from the procreational perspective is a monomania the state is afflicted with. Marriage is sanctioning and cementing a relationship, regardless of the gender/s of the individuals.
Despite the SC decriminalising homosexuality in 2018, Indian society is still not very comfortable with the whole idea of same-sex love and marriage. In fact, we're still squeamish about it. That two men/two women can live like a husband and a wife is an outlandish idea to most of the people in India and in all regressive societies. The state has no role in individuals' sexual preferences, orientations and their choice of partners in a marital alliance.
The greatest living genius Yuval Noah Harari and his partner live like a couple and the government of Israel has no issue.
It's time to decriminalise homosexuality comprehensively and not in parts. Let two gays or lesbians live in a marital bond. Love has never destroyed lives, but silly religious perceptions about sex and soi disant sanity have certainly complicated human lives and desires. Let not the State act as a dampener or a wet blanket in this regard.
The writer is an advanced research scholar of Semitic languages, civilisations and cultures.