India’s government has indicated that it will push back against attempts to legalize same-sex marriage.
This comes after the country’s Supreme Court made history by repealing Section 377, a law which had effectively criminalized homosexuality in India.
The court’s decision on Thursday (6 September) thereby decriminalized same-sex relationships in the world’s most populous country.
In response to calls to legalize same-sex marriage, an anonymous government official said: ‘Decriminalisation of same-sex acts was fine but the government would oppose any demand to legalize same-sex marriage,’ The Hindustan Times reported.
‘Equality is a fundamental right’
LGBTI activists have been celebrating the ruling to repeal Section 377, a goal which some had spent decades working towards.
But some activists felt that this was not enough, and that by recognizing LGBTI rights then the court’s ruling should also entail full equality for India’s LGBTI community.
‘If equality of LGBTQ persons is now a fundamental right, then right to marry, bequeath property, share insurance (medical and life) are all part of this. We are asking for rights respect and dignity and it is unconstitutional and impudent to deny that,’ said LGBTI rights supporter, Sunil Mehra.
However, the government were quick to make clear that there were no plans to legalize same-sex marriage.
Following the repeal of Section 377, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the hardline and ultra-nationalist wing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), dismissed the idea of marriage equality in India.
‘Same-sex marriages are not compatible with norms of nature, so we don’t support them. Bharatiya society doesn’t have the tradition of recognizing such relations,’ an RSS spokesperson said.
Biggest decriminalization verdict in history
The historic decision to repeal Section 377 was met with elation by LGBTI rights supporters throughout the world.
In a country with a population of 1.3 billion and an estimated LGBTI population of 78 million, the ruling by India’s Supreme Court was the biggest decriminalization verdict in history.
The court ruled that Section 377 on the grounds that it was was unconstitutional and violated rights to privacy. The law, which had been introduced when India was still under British colonial rule, prohibited ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal.’
Moves to repeal Section 377 have been ongoing for decades, though in recent months the calls to repeal the law had gained increased momentum. Numerous celebrities and public figures had also added their voices calling for the repeal of the law and in support of LGBTI rights.
However, there had been calls from animal rights activists had called for the law to be modified rather than fully repealed as it protected animals from sexual abuse.