Gay marriages are neither legally permitted nor recognized in India.
Homosexuality is considered a taboo in Indian society, which remains conservative on matters of sexuality, marriage, and partnerships. In recent times, there has been a great growth in awareness of the LGBT (an initialism that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community and its rights. Urban Indians, particularly the younger lot, are not quite as judgmental or puritan in their views.
Despite a mass movement in support of the radical step over the past two years, however, homosexuality is still considered a criminal offense, according to the Indian legal system.
Article 377 is the controversial Indian law that deals with homosexual relations. It came into force in 1862 and was based on Victorian ideas of morality. The law has been defended by the government of independent India and the conservative society has resisted change. It says: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
Even in cases where the law has not been involved, strict social norms and community restrictions have translated into persecution of gay couples, sometimes even leading to honor killings.
In 2009, the legal system seemed to fall in line with changing social dynamics and the Delhi High Court declared a part of the much-debated Section 377 unconstitutional. The court ruled that “the section denies a gay person a right to full personhood”.
The LGBT community’s celebration, however, remained short-lived as the country’s apex court, the Supreme Court, upturned the ruling in 2013. The Supreme Court of India laid the onus of revising the law on the country’s parliament. Not much has been done in this respect, though.
While these legal and social hurdles continue to be faced by homosexuals in the country, India has moved ahead in its attempts to include transgenders into mainstream society. In 2014, the Supreme Court of the country issued a landmark verdict directing the country’s government to pronounce transgenders a third gender.
The ruling made way for the transgenders to find reservation under the OBC quota (giving them work and education opportunities) and to enjoy all the privileges accorded by the law to other citizens.
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