India’s Supreme Court votes 3-2 Against Same-Sex Marriage

It was announced on Tuesday 17th October that the Supreme Court of India, in a vote of 3-2, had decided not to implement further rights for same sex and LGBTQIA+ individuals. The court decided to move the decision-making to the government who would be instructed to set up a panel to consider the granting of more rights.

As India has a Hindu majority party that has openly opposed the case of further rights for LGBTQIA+ citizens, it is doubtful that any positive changes will occur in the near future. 

The vote at the Supreme Court saw the Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud vote in favour of same sex marriage and further rights. These rights would include the right to adopt a child, this same right was one that was a strong point of contention, along with divorce and succession.

This decision, whilst not unsurprising, comes just five years after the same court overturned a century and a half old law prohibiting queer individuals, acts and relationships. The case known as Suriyo v Union of India was initially brought forward by queer couple Suriya Chakraborty and Abhay Dang. They were amongst twenty other voices heard during the proceedings leading up to the decision.

The couple have publicly stated their disappointment in the decision but have vowed to keep fighting for queer rights;

“…we feel proud that we fought this battle. Though we have lost, we remain hopeful that one day we will have full marriage equality.  Lots of dinner-table conversations were initiated because of this case.”

Despite the recent change in rights in both India and Pakistan, same-sex relationships in India, along with greater South Asia, have received a great deal of criticism. It is worth noting that, despite the open bigotry, queer identity is a strong part of South Asian culture through those known as Hijras (in Pakistan known as knwajasara) – a third gender which encompasses feminine figures of male origin who sacrifice their genitals to their deity for spiritual rewards.

Whilst the decision by the Supreme Court doesn’t bode well for the queer population of India, there is good reason to believe change may happen. As with legalisation of same-sex relationships in 2018 the state of Tamil Nadu last year committed to greater protections for LGBTQIA+ people with a ban on conversion therapy and inclusion of LGTBQIA+ issues in the school curriculums. However, discrimination against non-heteronormative individuals is still present, and any change will require a significant battle.

Chief Justice Chandrachud stated, prior to the decision, that even if same-sex marriage was legalised, the need for change would not stop there;

“Structural changes as well as attitudinal changes are essential. Equality is not achieved with the decriminalisation of homosexuality alone but must extend to all spheres of life including the home, the workplace, and public places. The presence of queer individuals in public spaces must be the norm rather than the exception.”

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