A petition has been filed in the Delhi High Court recently demanding the recognition of same sex marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act. The petitioners contended that the Act does not specifically say that marriage is between a man and a woman even though it does make it clear that marriage is between a ‘bridegroom’ and a ‘bride’.
The petitioners also contended that denial of marriage rights to the LGBT community is in violation of the Rights to Equality and Life that are guaranteed in the Indian Constitution. In its first hearing on the matter, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that he was opposed to same-sex marriages and our laws and culture do not recognise such marriages either. The Court, however, said that it could very well be the position of the law but the judges need to have an open mind.
It does appear rather disconcerting that the precise law and its provisions do not appear to matter here. The need to have an ‘open mind’ in the current context is only a euphemism for a quest to legitimise one’s own personal opinions and accord them the sanction of legality. An ‘open mind’ is often the excuse that is relied upon by people across the board to maintain the pretence that the opinions they hold are so inherently superior that everyone will naturally come to hold them if only the rest could think for themselves and were not brainwashed by others.
Without venturing into a philosophical debate around the concept of an ‘open mind’, it is important to make it clear here that it would be an absolute travesty of judicial norms to concede to the demands that have been made by the petitioners. The law is clearly not in their favour and it once again highlights the menace of public interest litigation which have become an avenue to indulge in personal aggrandisement for motivated individuals.
The Religious argument against same-sex marriages
First and foremost, it has to be said quite outright that there is no concept of same-sex marriage in Hinduism. In Hindu marriages, the groom is considered to be a form of Vishnu while the bride is considered Lakshmi. Therefore, it is preposterous to accord sanction to homosexual marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act. Having said that, there are far greater issues to contend here and ones that would have to be contended going forward.
Marriage is, at the end of the day, a social institution. In Hinduism, especially, it is not a mere agreement between two individuals but a union of two families. Procreation and providing for the children born to the couple is one of the preconditions for marriage. Needless to say, without any of this, same-sex marriages can be considered as such only in the most rudimentary application of the word.
Even so, demanding marriage rights for homosexuals under the Hindu Marriage Act appears particularly mischievous. Right to Equality and Right to Life that the petitioners rely on to bolster their argument does not concern only those members of the LGBT community that self-identify as Hindus. If this was indeed about homosexual rights, where is the concern for Christian and Muslim homosexuals?
As has been correctly pointed out by a user on Twitter, the rising clamour for homosexual marriages is merely the consequence of a long march towards secularisation of public life and the decline in perception of marriage as a religious bond and a sacred duty. This is, of course, a western conception of public life and marriage and unfortunately, since vast sections of our cultural elites are westernized, this perception has also gained prominence among people who dictates our laws and control the machinations of the state.
The user, Śrīkānta Kṛṣṇamācārya, further said, “When marriage ceases to be a “religious” bond, it reduces into merely a legal formalization of a romantic relationship. Kids are incidental. Not necessary. With that mindset, it is inevitable that gay unions acquire a certain equivalence with heterosexual relationships.”
“In the new normal, marriage is just a legal stamp on one’s sexual alliance,” he added. He correctly pointed out that the rhetoric on same sex marriages ought to be viewed as part of the long march towards “secularization, materialism, and a general decline of interest in the hereafter”. To be clear, Mr. Kṛṣṇamācārya was not making any value judgements but only making an observation. And his observations were accurate.
But it has to be added at this point that Indian society is not the West, we do not want our society to emulate western norms. We observe the west from a distance and can see for ourselves that the complete disassociation of social institutions from their religious roots has had devastating impact on their social cohesiveness.
Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of Indian society still considers marriage to be a sacred bond between a man and a woman and live their life as per their ancestral norms before the eyes of Gods and Men. Under such circumstances, when Indian society has vastly different conception of marriage than western notions of it, it appears disingenuous on the part of a microscopic minority to completely alter the legal definition of it as per their own convenience.
If members of the LGBT community wish to garner acceptance in society, then they have to accept certain social norms as well. ‘Give and take’ is a part of every social contract and, as we are all well aware, Courts are a horrible place for negotiations. The LGBT community might have their wishes granted in the Court, since they will be heard by ideological compatriots, however, by engaging in such endeavours, they might forever earn the enmity of the larger sections of Indian society, which has historically treated them far better than other cultures around the world.
Dictatorship of the Minority
The most disingenuous part of the petition is that no effort was made at all to convince the masses of the virtues of their argument. In a democracy, people should have the right to have some say on how the state defines important institutions such as marriage. Instead, the petitioners decided to short-circuit the entire process and proceed directly to alter the state’s definition of marriage.
This is precisely what ‘Dictatorship of the Minority’ looks like. If we are to live in a democracy, and suffer the consequences of it, then the masses ought to have the right to have some say over the definitions of such sacred institutions. As it is, there is painfully little sway that the masses hold over matters of public policy anyway. If we are going to disenfranchise them on decisions regarding social norms as well, then why should any ordinary citizen of this country feel personally invested to uphold and protect our democracy?
Ideological battles ought to be fought only by elected representatives in the Parliament. Turning the halls of our Courts into a battleground for ideologies, as has been the norm in recent times, betrays popular mandate. It is verily the undermining of democracy itself. And marriage is such a fundamental social institution that even elected representative should have no business meddling with it.
There is another argument to be made, of course. Altering the definition of marriage is a radical reformation of the structure of society. By definition, any manner of radical reformation ought to occur with the consent of the governed. And even if the masses advocate for radical reformation of social structures, then it falls upon the ruling elite to evaluate the evidence at hand and then decide whether such a change is desirable or otherwise. My argument here is, our default position should be an aversion towards radical change.
And that is because social norms and institutions survive because they lend certain advantages to the society they manifest themselves in. If they cease to provide functional benefits to the society concerned, then it would become apparent through significant tensions in a society and in a multitude of other ways, at which point, members of the society will themselves take the initiative to rectify the problems at hand.
Unnecessary tinkering with fundamental social institutions might result in a situation where unforeseen unintended consequences manifest themselves which hazard the continued sustenance of the civilizational way of life itself. And there is no evidence to suggest that marriage, as an institution, has become defunct or needs reformation. It is impossible for any social institution to satisfy every single individual in a society. Personal grievance of a microscopic minority is no good reason to advocate the alteration of the legal definition of marriage.
Where does it end?
When homosexuality was decriminalised in the country, I was supportive of the decision and welcomed it. However, events since then have forced me to reconsider my support. LGBT activism in India borrows its ideological inspiration from that in the West and, quite clearly, the worst aspects of western activism is fast taking root in India.
In a series of reports, we exposed the manner in which our children are being exposed to the toxic ideology of gender identity politics and efforts are being made to turn our children into foot-soldiers of the ideology. One such NGO, Nazariya QFRG, advertised a colouring book for students that included depictions of nude women masturbating and wearing dildos in it.
Such organisations are brainwashing our children and the politics of gender pronouns, which is receiving a blow-back even in the West, is fast gaining ground in India. We have already seen the manner in which the adverse impact it has on the growth and psychological health of our children. In western countries, it is legal now for prepubescent children to receive gender assignment therapy that includes the injection of life altering drugs.
Children as young as 14, sometimes even younger than that, can now receive hormone therapy that prevents the normal growth of their puberty merely because they feel they are a ‘girl trapped in a boy’s body’ or vice versa. The extent of the adverse impact such ideologies have on children has become abundantly clear in recent times.
Lisa Littman, an American Academic, said that ‘socially-awkward’ girls self-identified as transgender after being drawn together in chat rooms where they reinforced each other’s beliefs about their identity. She was ostracised by the academia for observing this particular trend. And all of this has happened with the advocacy and explicit endorsement of the LGBT Community.
Furthermore, LGBT activism has been extremely unfavourable towards women. Biological men are now being permitted to participate in sports categories meant for women merely because they claim to be women. Their biological features lend them an automatic advantage over the feminine gender and as a consequence, if this is further normalised, then women will be marginalised in sports categories created explicitly for them.
Also, people who are onboard with this ideology believe that men can menstruate and give birth to children. Women are being called ‘menstruators’, which is an extremely derogatory term. Therefore, under such circumstances, since the people advocating for same sex marriages in India belong to the western school of LGBT activism, we have to ask, where does this end?
It is not an unjustified argument to demand that this particular brand of activism be put to an end before it reaches that point and junk efforts to legalise same sex marriage so that it serves as a discouragement to such forms of activism. It also needs to be mentioned here that the overwhelming majority of LGBT activists cast Hinduism in extremely poor light.
Hinduphobic imagery can be frequently observed at all pride rallies while the activists associate themselves with the worst elements of the Muslim community. And yet, when time comes to demand legalisation of same sex marriages, it is the Hindu Marriage Act that they seek to amend. There does appear to be inconsistencies regarding the matter within the fold of LGBT activists.
Thus, given the religious sanction against same sex marriages in Hinduism and the Hindu Marriage Act which specifically recognises that a marriage is between a bridegroom and a bride, combined with the fact that conceding to the demands of the petitioners would tantamount to a dictatorship of the minority and undermine the very institution of Democracy itself, the petition ought to be junked outright.
Furthermore, the brand of activism that produces such petitions leads us to a very dark place that we must avoid at all cost. That should also be borne in mind while adjudicating upon such petitions.