Recognition of same-sex unions in India

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Legal status of same-sex unions
  1. Performed in 12 states and Mexico City, and recognized by all states in such cases
  2. Performed in the Netherlands proper, and partially recognized by Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten in such cases
  3. Neither performed nor recognized in Niue, Tokelau or the Cook Islands
  4. Neither performed nor recognized in Northern Ireland, the dependency of Sark or the Caribbean territories
  5. Neither performed nor recognized in American Samoa or many tribal jurisdictions
  6. Registration schemes open in all jurisdictions except Hualien County, Penghu County, Taitung County and Yunlin County

* Not yet in effect, but automatic deadline set by judicial body for same-sex marriage to become legal

LGBT portal

India does not recognise same-sex marriage or civil unions. Additionally, it does not possess a unified marriage law. Every Indian citizen has the right to choose which civil code will apply to them based on their community or religion. Although marriage is legislated at the federal level, the existence of multiple marriage laws complicates the issue. The following acts cover India's marriage laws:

None of these codified marriage acts explicitly defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Neither do these acts explicitly prohibit same-sex unions.[1] However, the laws have "heteronormative underpinnings" and have been interpreted not to recognise same-sex unions.

The state of Goa is the only Indian state to have a unified marriage law. Every citizen is bound to the same law, regardless of their religion.[2] However, Goa's Uniform Civil Code explicitly defines marriage as being between members of the opposite sex.

As of 2017, a draft of a Uniform Civil Code that would legalise same-sex marriage nationwide has been proposed.[3]


Same-sex sexual activity legal
  Other type of partnership
  Unregistered cohabitation
  Foreign same-sex marriages recognized
  No recognition of same-sex couples
  Restrictions on freedom of expression
Same-sex sexual activity illegal
  Not enforced or unclear
  Life in prison
  Death penalty

Since 1987, when the national press reported the story of two policewomen who married each other by Hindu rites in central India,[4][5] the press has reported many same-sex marriages, all over the country, mostly between lower middle-class young women in small towns and rural areas, who have no contact with any gay movement. Family reactions range from support to disapproval to violent persecution. While police generally harass such couples, Indian courts have uniformly upheld their right, as adults, to live with whomever they wish. In recent years, some of these couples have appeared on television as well. There have also been numerous joint suicides by same-sex couples, mostly female (male-female couples also resort to suicide or to elopement and religious marriage when their families oppose their unions).

In "Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History", author Ruth Vanita analyses dozens of such marriages and suicides that have taken place over the last three decades, and explores their legal, religious and historical aspects. She argues that many of the marriages can arguably be considered legally valid, as under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, any marriage between two Hindus performed according to the customs prevalent in the community of one of the two partners is legally valid. No license is required to marry, and most heterosexual Hindu marriages in India today are performed by religious rites alone, without a marriage license and are never registered with the state. State recognition is not sought by most couples because it confers few benefits. Most couples seek the validation of family and community, and several female couples in rural areas and small towns have received this validation.[6][5]

There have also been a couple of high-profile celebrity same-sex civil partnerships, such as the civil union of designer Wendell Rodricks with his French partner Jerome Marrel, conducted under French law in Goa.

In December 2017, a dual Indian-Vietnamese same-sex couple held a wedding ceremony in Yavatmal in the state of Maharashtra, alongside family, friends and well-wishers.[7] In April 2018, a lesbian couple got married at a mass wedding ceremony in the city of Agra, after one of them dressed as a man. However, some family members discovered, and urged them to separate. Police later intervened.[8]

Legalisation efforts[edit]

Traditionally, India identifies same-sex unions to be a trans-rooted alien culture-bound syndrome and associated social disorder. Hence, LGBT groups are working in the backgrounds for a step by step approach, required to tackle all the problems and rights of LGBT citizens in India. The previous focuses of these groups were to repeal Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and to enact non-discrimination laws. Nevertheless, LGBT rights agencies are optimistic and are working on winning the right to same-sex marriage, inspired by the financial support and progress achieved in several Western countries. In April 2014, Medha Patkar of the Aam Aadmi Party stated that her party supports same-sex marriage.[9]

A single case of legal recognition of a same-sex marriage was granted by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2011.[10]

Uniform Civil Code[edit]

In 2017, a draft of a Uniform Civil Code that would legalise same-sex marriage was proposed.[3] Under the proposed code, marriage is defined as

"the legal union as prescribed under this Act of a man with a woman, a man with another man, a woman with another woman, a transgender with another transgender or a transgender with a man or a woman".

A partnership is similarly defined as the living together of a man with a woman, a man with another man, a woman with another woman, a transgender with another transgender or a transgender with a man or a woman. It also provides that any two persons who have been in a partnership for more than two years shall have the same rights and obligations as married couples. It also mandates the registration of all marriages. In addition, the draft states that "all married couple and couples in a partnership are entitled to adopt a child. The sexual orientation of the married couple or the partners are not to be a bar to their right to adoption. Non-heterosexual couples will be equally entitled to adopt a child." Finally, the code provides for the repeal of all of India's marriage-related laws (the Hindu Marriage Act, the Hindu Succession Act, the Muslim Personal Law Application Act, the Dissolution of Marriage Act, the Indian Christian Marriage Act and the Parsi Marriage Act, among others)

The draft has been submitted to the Law Commission of India. Whether India should adopt a Uniform Civil Code is a matter of ongoing political debate in India.[11][12] The Bharatiya Janata Party supports it, while the Indian National Congress and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board oppose it.[13]

The Law Commission began soliciting public views and requests on the issue on 19 March 2018, and later extended the deadline for opinions to 6 May 2018.[14] In late May, the Commission began seeking the views of religious groups. Muslim groups oppose a uniform civil code because such a code would ban triple talaq, polygamy and would not be based on Sharia law, unlike the current Muslim Personal Law, which governs Indian Muslims.[15]

2018 Supreme Court rulings[edit]

On 5 February 2018, the Supreme Court ruled, in a case involving caste councils interfering in marriages, that "no one, either individually or collectively, has the right to interfere in a marriage between two consenting adults."[16]

On 6 May 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that a 20-year-old Kerala woman, whose marriage had been annulled, could choose whom she wanted to live with. The Court ruled that "an adult couple has a right to live together without marriage", and held that live-in relationships (cohabitation between unmarried couples) are now recognized by the law.[17]

The Indian Supreme Court, in the case of Shakti Vahini v. Union of India, held that an adult had the fundamental right to marry a person of choice. Thus, activists feel that a joint reading of Shakti Vahini and Navtej Singh Johar could yield the recognition of same-sex unions within the Special Marriages Act. [18]

Public opinion[edit]

Should same-sex marriage be legal? (2016)[19]

  Yes (35%)
  Against (35%)
  Don't know (30%)

According to a 2015 Ipsos poll, 29% of Indians support same-sex marriage, while 18% support other forms of legal recognition.[20] Among the 23 countries polled, India had the fifth lowest support for same-sex marriage, in front of only South Korea (27%), Turkey (27%), Poland (21%) and Russia (11%).

According to a 2016 poll by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, 35% of Indian people were in favour of legalising same-sex marriage, while 35% were opposed to its legalisation.[19] A survey by the Varkey Foundation found that support for same-sex marriage was higher among 18 to 21-year-olds at 53%.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Orinam and Alternative Law Forum's Analysis of Marriage Laws in India".
  2. ^ Uniform Civil Code in Goa
  3. ^ a b "A new UCC for a new India? Progressive draft UCC allows for same-sex marriages - Catchnews". Catchnews. Retrieved 2017-10-12.
  4. ^ "Homosexuality And The Indian". Archived from the original on 2008-05-09.
  5. ^ a b Homosexuality in India: Past and Present
  6. ^ "Lesbians forced to live in anonymity in India". Archived from the original on 2008-12-11.
  7. ^ US-based IIT grad marries gay partner in Maharashtra The Times of India, 13 January 2018
  8. ^ Same sex marriage: Agra sees a different love story
  9. ^ Joe Morgan (2014-04-11). "India 'party of the people' promises to legalise gay sex, marriage". Gay Star News. Retrieved 2014-04-11.
  10. ^ "Lesbian newlyweds flee honor killing threats in India".
  11. ^ Triple Talaq: Ban this un-Islamic practice and bring in a uniform civil code
  12. ^ One Nation, One Law: Why India Urgently Needs A Uniform Civil Code
  13. ^ Uniform Civil Code in India
  14. ^ Deadline for response on Uniform Civil Code extended till May 6
  15. ^ On uniform civil code, Law panel asks Muslim groups: Why deny some rights to women
  16. ^ Nobody has right to interfere if two adults get married, says Supreme Court The Times of India, 6 February 2018
  17. ^ "No marriage needed for adult couple to live together: Supreme Court".
  18. ^ "The 377 Judgment, LGBT Discrimination and Gay Marriage".
  19. ^ a b "ILGA/RIWI Global Attitudes Survey on LGBTI People" (PDF). International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. 31 December 2016.
  20. ^ This Is How Many People Support Same-Sex Marriage In 23 Countries Around The World
  21. ^ "Young people and free speech". The Economist. 15 February 2017.