India is known for its rich culture, traditions, and social values. However, in recent times, the country has witnessed a growing demand for same-sex marriage. While some people see it as a progressive step towards equal rights, others believe that it could erode India’s social and cultural systems. In this article, we will explore the various ways in which same-sex marriage in India can have an impact on its social and cultural systems.
India’s social and cultural systems are deeply rooted in traditional family structures, and marriage between a man and a woman is viewed as the ideal family unit. The family is viewed as the basic unit of society and provides emotional and financial support to its members. In Indian culture, family members are expected to prioritize the interests of the family over their own interests.
What is Same-Sex Marriage:
Same-sex marriage is also known as gay marriage. It is the marriage between two people of the same biological sex and/or gender identity.
What is Marriage:
Marriage is a socially and ritually recognised institution, traditionally between a man and a woman. Marriage is an integral part of every person’s life. It is through marriage that humans have propagated future generations. Marriage is the most important institution of human society. It is a universal phenomenon and has been the backbone of human civilisation. We can say that the Marriage is as old as the institution of the family. Both these institutions are vital for the society.
Family depends upon the Marriage. Marriage regulates sex life of human beings, thereby giving them a chance to procreate, thus aiding the survival of human race. Marriage creates new social relationships and reciprocal rights between the spouses. It establishes the rights and the status of the children when they are born. Each society recognises certain procedures for creating such relationship and rights.The society prescribes rules for prohibitions, preferences, and prescriptions in deciding marriage. It is this institution through which a man sustains the continuity of his race and attains satisfaction in a socially recognised manner. Sociologists and anthropologists have given definitions of marriage.
Some of the important definitions are given below.
Right of all members of family like Right to Respect for private and family life, right to marry and found family, is foundation of justice, freedom, and peace.The right to marry is a component of right to life under art 21 of Constitution of India which says, “No person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”.
What is marriage in Indian Society:
In Indian society, marriage has been considered a sacramental union and forms the basis of the family structure. Although variously defined, in its archaic form, marriage looks as the social union between a male and a female (by birth) forming a social institution for the establishment and regulation of a proper relationship between the sexes.
What IndianCulture says:
According to the Hindu Law, Marriage is a body for the performance of religious duties. It is deemed as a holy union in Hindu Law and also considered to be a union of flesh to flesh and blood to blood. It is a religious sacrament and not a civil contract. The Hindu Marriage Act 1955, Sec.5 provides right to marry under statutory condition.
Hinduism is against Homosexuality and is unacceptable to most Hindus. Hinduism teaches that the ‘natural’ thing is for men and women to marry and have children. On the contrary, those who go against this natural relationship are violating their own dharma.
In Sikhism, The Guru Granth Sahib only mentions marriage in relation to a man and a woman forming a spiritual union.
According to the Muslim law, the Quran states “every person must marry.” Quran asserts that marriage is the only way to satisfy one’s desire. Marriage (nikah) is defined to be a contract which has for its object the procreation and the legalizing of children.
The Quran mentions sex between men several times, in the context of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, in which some city inhabitants demand sexual access to the messengers sent by God to the prophet Lot. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their sin and perversions; hence it is ‘Haram,’ Islam has for centuries been much more tolerant than Christianity.
The biblical emphasis upon the loving union of male and female, as an integral part of God’s creation ordinance, establishing family only by a man and woman.
The Centre in the Supreme Court frowned upon same-sex marriage while invoking the “accepted view” that a marriage between a biological man and woman is a “holy union, a sacrament and a Sanskar” in India.
The Union government has opposed same-sex marriage and said that judicial interference would cause “complete havoc with the delicate balance of personal laws.” It also submitted that the SC had only decriminalised sexual intercourse between same-sex persons in its 2018 judgment, but had not legitimised this “conduct”. The court, while decriminalising homosexuality, had never accepted same-sex marriage as part of the fundamental right to life and dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution.
“The institution of marriage has a sanctity attached to it and in major parts of the country, it is regarded as a sacrament, a holy union, and a Sanskar. In our country, despite statutory recognition of the relationship of marriage between a biological man and a biological woman, marriage necessarily depends upon age-old customs, rituals, practices, cultural ethos, and societal values,” the Centre said in a 56-page affidavit filed on March 12.
The government submitted that statutory recognition of marriage as a union between a ‘man’ and a ‘woman’ is inextricably tied to acceptance of the heterogeneous institution of marriage and acceptance of Indian society based on its own cultural and sociological norms acknowledged by the competent legislatureThe affidavit came in response to the Court’s decision to examine petitions to allow solemnisation of same-sex marriage under the Special Marriage Act.
Stating that same-sex relationships and heterosexual relationships are clearly distinct classes which cannot be treated identically, the Centre said that living together as partners by same-sex individuals was not comparable with the Indian family unit concept of husband, wife and children. It said that western decisions sans any basis in Indian constitutional law jurisprudence could not be imported in this context.
The government also argued that statutory recognition of heterosexual marriage was the norm throughout history and were “foundational to both the existence and continuance of the state”. There was a “compelling interest” for the society and the state to limit recognition to heterosexual marriages only.
There can be no fundamental right to recognise a particular form of social relationship.
Statutory recognition of marriage as a union between a “man” and a “woman” is intrinsically linked to the recognition of heterogeneous institution of marriage and the acceptance of the Indian society based on its cultural and societal values, which are recognised by the competent legislature.
Considerations of societal morality are relevant in considering the validity of the legislature.
Further, it is for the legislature to judge and enforce such societal morality and public acceptance based upon Indian ethos.
Considering its social value, the State has a compelling interest in granting recognition to heterosexual marriage, only to the exclusion of other forms of marriage/unions.
Statutory recognition of marriage limited to heterosexual marriage is the norm throughout history and are foundational to both the existence and continuance of the State.
While there may be various other forms of marriage or unions or personal understandings of relationships between individuals in a society, the State limits recognition to the heterosexual form.
The State DOES NOT recognise these other forms of marriages or unions or personal understandings of relationships between individuals in a society, but the same are not unlawful.
While other forms of union may exist in society, which would not be unlawful, it is open for a society to give legal recognition to the form of union, which a society considers to be the “quintessential building block” of its existence.
On not granting legal recognition to same-sex marriage – In terms of Article 14, same-sex relationships and heterosexual relationships are clearly distinct classes, which cannot be treated identically.
Hence, there is an intelligible differentia (normative basis) that distinguishes those within the classification (heterosexual couples) from those left out (same-sex couples).
Citizens have a right to association under Article 19, but there is no concomitant right that such associations must necessarily be granted legal recognition by the State.
The right to life and liberty under Article 21 cannot be read to include within it any implicit approval of same-sex marriage.
The SC’s judgment decriminalising same-sex relationships cannot be treated as conferring a fundamental right to be recognised in a marriage under Indian personal laws, whether codified or otherwise.
Even if such a right is claimed under Article 21, it can be curtailed by “a competent legislature on permissible constitutional grounds”, including “legitimate State interest”.
The government’s affidavit states that the issue of same-sex marriage is a matter of “legislative policy” and that any decision on the matter should be made by the parliament, not the courts.
The affidavit also argues that legalizing same-sex marriage could have “far-reaching consequences” for Indian society, and that any change in the law should be made only after “wide-ranging” consultations with all stakeholders.
The UP government has opposed recognition of same-sex marriage in the Allahabad HC on the ground that such “marriages are against Indian culture, traditions, customs and values and be invalid as per the Indian Laws.
What is that the Supreme Court looking at?
A five-judge Constitution bench, presided by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, said that it would “steer clear of personal laws” and can examine if the right can be conferred under the Special Marriage Act (SMA), 1954. The bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul, Ravindra Bhat, Hima Kohli and P S Narasimha, indicated that it may only confine to the interpretation of the Special Marriage Act (SMA) to include the term “person” instead of man and woman.
“We are not willing to go into personal law issues. Remit will thus have to be restricted only to the extent we are willing to consider the issue,” it told the counsels appearing for petitioners and respondents, which include the Centre, religious bodies, and individuals.
While the government, through Special Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, questioned the maintainability of petitions, the CJI said that the hearing’s scope would be limited to developing a notion of a “civil union” that finds legal recognition under the Special Marriage Act.
Views of Bar Council of India:
Various Laws that Regulate Marriages in India:
These laws govern the various aspects of marriages in India, including the conditions of a valid marriage, registration of marriages, grounds for divorce, and other related matters.
What is Special Marriage Act 1955:
Impact of the Same-Sex Marriage on Indian Social and Cultural Systems:
Individual Impact: Some individuals may feel uncomfortable with the idea of same-sex marriage due to cultural or religious beliefs. Legalizing same-sex marriage may also create conflicts between individuals who hold different beliefs on the matter, leading to increased tension and division.
Family Impact: Legalizing same-sex marriage could lead to family conflicts and estrangement, particularly if families are not accepting of LGBTQ+ relationships. This could result in a breakdown of family units and cause emotional harm to family members.
Community Impact: Legalizing same-sex marriage may lead to social tension and division within communities, particularly in conservative or religious communities. This could result in discrimination and marginalization of the LGBTQ+ community, leading to negative mental health impacts and decreased quality of life.
Society Impact: Legalizing same-sex marriage could lead to a breakdown of traditional family structures, which could have negative implications for society as a whole. This could include decreased birth rates, changes in cultural norms, and a shift in societal values.
National Impact: Legalizing same-sex marriage could lead to a backlash from conservative or religious groups, resulting in increased polarization and division within the nation. This could lead to a decrease in national unity and cohesion, potentially affecting economic and social development.
Former Judges Views:
Leads to Erosion of Social and Cultural Values:
India is a religiously diverse country, and religion plays a significant role in the lives of its people. Same-sex marriage could be seen as a challenge to traditional religious beliefs, which could lead to social unrest. Many religious leaders in India have already expressed their opposition to same-sex marriage, arguing that it goes against the teachings of their respective religions. This could lead to a conflict between those who support same-sex marriage and those who oppose it, which could further divide Indian society.
Traditional family structures:
Family is the bedrock of our society. As India climbs up the world ladder, it will be the safety net of the family that will help our children take the country to greater heights and help achieve its destiny as the economic and cultural superpower of the world.
Marriage is an important institution in Indian society, and it is viewed as a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Same-sex marriage, however, challenges this traditional notion of marriage, which could lead to the erosion of traditional family structures. In Indian society, the family is the basic unit of society, and it is viewed as the cornerstone of Indian culture. The family provides emotional and financial support to its members and helps maintain social order. Same-sex marriage could disrupt this traditional family structure, which could have a negative impact on Indian society.
Impact on children:
One of the main arguments against same-sex marriage is that it could have a negative impact on children. Traditional family structures are seen as the ideal environment for raising children, and same-sex marriage could disrupt this ideal. Some people argue that children raised by same-sex couples could be subjected to confusion and may not receive the same level of emotional and social support as children raised by opposite-sex couples. This argument is often used to justify the ban on same-sex marriage, and it could further erode Indian society’s social and cultural systems.
Legal and constitutional implications:
The legalization of same-sex marriage could have legal and constitutional implications in India. The Indian constitution recognizes marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and any attempt to change this definition could be seen as a violation of the constitution. Moreover, India’s legal system is based on British common law, which does not recognize same-sex marriage. The legalization of same-sex marriage would require a significant overhaul of India’s legal system, which could have a negative impact on Indian society’s social and cultural systems.
Impact on population growth:
Another argument against same-sex marriage is that it could have a negative impact on population growth. In Indian society, marriage is viewed to procreate and carry on the family lineage. Same-sex marriage, however, does not have the same procreative potential as opposite-sex marriage. Some people argue that the legalization of same-sex marriage could lead to a decline in population growth, which could have long-term implications for Indian society.
Views of Sociologists:
First things first, the state has a legitimate interest in maintaining a societal equilibrium and in ensuring that new practices do not lead to the breakdown of our cultural ethos and societal values. The judiciary, or more precisely two judges, however, learned, and respected, cannot usurp this role. Any policy intervention that impacts the direction of our social institutions needs a thorough debate in Parliament and the society at large. Marriages are, after all, the most personal public institution and clearly straddle the divide between the individual and the state.
Citing the fundamental rights enshrined under Article 21 of our Constitution to allow same-sex marriage is a deeply-flawed argument because marital relations are more than personal: Humans are social beings whose humanity is expressed through their relationships with others. Entering a marriage, therefore, is to enter a relationship that has public significance as well.
To attempt to infer that a marriage between “two persons” in the Special Marriages Act, includes couples of the same sex is fallacious because the same Act states that males should have attained the age of 21 years and females 18 years for marriage. As per the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and various family laws and penal statutes, marriage is clearly defined as the union of a “man” and a “woman”. These laws without ambiguity refer to opposite sexes as “husband” and “wife” — a biological man marrying a biological woman. Muslim Personal Law also clearly defines mahr or other properties of a Muslim “woman” to be given to her at the time of divorce.
Many statutory enactments will become unworkable and legislative intention will be defeated if we were to ignore this fundamental fact. Sections of the Indian Penal Code provide special rights to women who are part of the legally-recognised relationship of marriage. The Dowry Prohibition Act refers to dowry as being for the benefit of the “wife” while the Indian Evidence Act concerns itself with the abetment of suicide by a married “woman.” The Code of Criminal Procedure talks about the maintenance of “wives,” and the Domestic Violence Act defines the aggrieved person as any “woman”. There are numerous other issues related to the institution of marriage such as those for adoption, divorce, succession, the wife’s right to stay in a marital home, etc., that will go awry if the definition of husband and wife is anything other than a biological man and a biological woman.
Even in the oft-cited judgment of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India (2018), which led to the decriminalisation of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, the Supreme Court has clarified that an individual also has a right to a union under Article 21 of the Constitution. It has also been clarified that the reference to “union” does not mean the union of marriage. Therefore, while there exists no statutory bar to the cohabitation of same-sex couples, there cannot exist any fundamental right to claim a statutory recognition of relationships such as same-sex marriage under Indian laws.
The social order in our Country is religion based which views procreation as an obligation for the execution of various religious ceremonies.
Additionally, our society is very community oriented and individualism is not encouraged in the least, any expression of homosexuality is seen as an attempt to renounce tradition and promote individualism, thereby posing a threat to the order in Indian society. It is opined that if homosexual marriages are legalized it will destroy the concept of a traditional family and the sanctity of marriage will be lost.
Views of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on adoption by same-sex couples:
Growing up in same-sex families stressful for children:
The NCPCR has referred to studies that have found that children raised by heterosexual couples are emotionally more stable, and has argued that allowing same sex-couples to adopt is akin to “endangering the children,” the Live Law report said.
Sources in the Commission had earlier that it has submitted “international studies and articles’’ showing that children “growing up in same-sex families have higher probability of suffering from mental and psychological issues, which could affect their growth and development.”
Child cannot be a subject in an experiment:
According to the Live Law report, the NCPCR has submitted that “Giving children to be raised by persons having issues would be like exposing children to struggle just for experimentation and the same is not in the interest of children as every individual has same human rights and it applies to children for being raised safely.”
Therefore, the NCPCR has asked that “children may be saved by this Hon’ble Court from being subjected to experimentation or being treated as ‘subject.”
Understanding of ‘gender roles’ will be affected:
According to the NCPCR, children raised by same-sex parents will have limited exposure to “traditional gender roles,” and this will impact their understanding of “gender roles and gender identity,” the Live Law report said.This, the NCPCR has said, will limit the overall growth of their personality.
In conclusion, the debate over same-sex marriage in India is complex and multifaceted, it could erode India’s social and cultural systems. The impact of same-sex marriage on Indian society’s social and cultural systems could be far-reaching, and it is important to carefully consider all the implications before deciding. Ultimately, any decision regarding same-sex marriage in India should be made after careful consideration of its impact on Indian society’s social and cultural systems.
The legalization of same-sex marriage in India could have significant implications for Indian society’s social and cultural systems. It could challenge the traditional family structures and religious beliefs that have formed the basisof Indian culture for centuries. It could also have an impact on population growth, as marriage is viewed as a means of procreation and carrying on the family lineage.
Of late, there is a movement towards disturbing the most fundamental element of our families — marriage. Through a flurry of judicial pleas, many are seeking to sanctify same-sex marriage under the garb of equality and freedom. This needs to be addressed head-on and urgently, not by the judiciary but by the legislature.
Marriage is one of the universal social institutions established by the human society to control and regulate the life of man. It is a cornerstone of a society. It is in the family that children learn to become citizens; it is in the family that children learn about relationships; it is in the family that children learn about what is expected of them in society, how to act and how to be. Central to the nuclear family is the traditional idea of marriage, consisting of one man and one woman in a monogamous and permanent relationship. We need to promote and protect marriage to secure a healthier society. Marriage has legitimate recognition to get united. Society accepts union of two souls because primary object of marriage is to beget and bear offspring, and to them until they are able to take care of themselves.
If same-sex marriage were to be accepted in India, there could be various conflicts in different domains, including:
In addition, the acceptance of same-sex marriage may also challenge gender roles and norms in India, which could lead to further conflicts. For example, traditional gender roles dictate that men and women have specific roles in a marriage, and the idea of same-sex marriages may challenge these gender norms.Overall, the acceptance of same-sex marriage in India may challenge deeply ingrained social norms and values, leading to social and cultural conflicts.
DR .B. RAMASWAMY
LLM, MPhil, PGCL, PGIPR, PGAN, PhD.Central Govt Sr Standing Counsel :Income Tax, Madras High Court.Ministry of Education EdCIL – Supreme Court.AIU- Supreme Court.AGP -Puducherry for Madras High court .Panel Member – Arbitrator , Delhi High court