Queer Activist Harish Iyer Shares Heartfelt Message On LinkedIn After Centre Says Marriage Equality ‘Against Culture’

In his message on LinkedIn, Harish Iyer speaks of how Indian culture as defined currently is actually the Victorian mores by the British, and that laws should be framed to make lives of citizens better.

The Centre has once again opposed the petition for same sex marriage in Supreme Court on Sunday. The Supreme Court had earlier clubbed the various petitions in favour of marriage equality and brought them to the apex court. The BJP government’s affidavit opposing same sex marriage was filed before the Supreme Court in this context.

They have recycled some of their positions from when they opposed the decriminalisation of Section 377. These arguments were blatantly homophobic, transphobic and plain untrue then, as it remains now. The 56-page affidavit claimed that marriage between a biological man and a biological woman is “a holy union, a sacrament and a sanskar”. Further, it also said, “living together as partners and having sexual relationships by same sex individuals is not comparable with the Indian family unit concept of a husband, a wife and children”.

The Centre still sees human rights of queer people as an affront to Indian culture.

But which culture is the Centre protecting?

Indian equal rights activist Harish Iyer posted a video on Linkedin that challenged these ideas. He pointed out that culture is not ahistorical and static. The shape it has assumed today was shaped by time and context. It did not emerge from a vacuum.

India’s adoption of Victorian morality in the colonial period is a proof of how dynamic culture as a phenomenon is. This Victorian morality is a prominent driving force behind homophobia and transphobia in today’s world.

Pre-modern Indian culture did not attack queerness. There are innumerable figurines in ancient and medieval architecture that depict same sex intimacy. There are innumerable trans and nonbinary people in mythology. And there is even a myth about two women in ancient India who gave birth to a child! Ruth Vanita’s or Saleem Kidwai’s books, or other historians’ works, show many more such examples from pre-modern Indian history.

As Harish Iyer said, since culture is inherently a dynamic and ever changing entity, why not contribute towards moulding it to be the most open, accepting and democratic version?

Marriage equality: existing legal provisions need to be amended

The Centre also claimed that a heterosexual marriage unit is “foundational to both the existence and continuance of state” and same sex marriages would cause “complete havoc” to personal laws and societal values. They thus cast aspersions as to whether queer marriages can be “fitted in the present legal framework”, citing domestic violence laws.

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But it is not the people who are supposed to shape their needs to fit the legal framework, the legal framework is supposed to cater to people’s needs and accommodate them. Laws that cover domestic violence or sexual assault and so on need to be redefined anyway to be more inclusive of trans and nonbinary people. And adoption rights, inheritance rights and other such rights that are available to cis-heterosexual married couples should be extended to queer couples. And a heterosexual family unit is foundational to capitalism, patriarchy and casteism. Not the Indian state.

Calling on the allies to stand up for your queer fellow citizens

Marriage equality is a heavily contested issue in the queer community, as well. Marriage, at least in the industrial times, is seen as deeply patriarchal and also contributes towards the reproduction of capitalism and associated inequalities. But the queer citizen should get to choose whether they reject marriage as an institution or embrace it. The choice should be available to them.

As Harish Iyer said in his powerful and positive video,”probably this is the revolution and probably this is the beginning of the end of prejudice.” A revolution cannot be waged alone. Prejudices cannot be dispelled without a widespread commitment to equality and justice. Every ally needs to stand up for the rights of queer people. Every ally needs to do their bit whether championing inclusive policies at the workplace or spreading awareness at social and family settings.

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About the Author


A postgraduate student of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata. Describes herself as an intersectional feminist and an avid reader when she's not busy telling people about her cats. Adores walking around and exploring read more...

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