Will India Bridge the ‘Rainbow Divide’ Over Same-Sex Relationships

This was originally published on The Quint

– June 26, 2015

Amidst the fluttering rainbow pride flags and people singing the ‘star-spangled banner’ outside the US Supreme Court, there is a petite blonde woman holding up her phone to capture the scene, as she face-times with her grandfather in Ohio. I move slightly closer to hear her conversation. She is crying and so is her grandfather. Jessica Morrison is a USAID worker from Ohio and has been married to Anne Richardson for 5 years. As she talks to me, she says that her grandparents have been her biggest support.

It was toughest with my mother. She had a really hard time coming to terms with it. My family comes from a religious background. It is because of my grandparents that my mother has gradually come to see that my relationship with my wife is just about love.
– Jessica

In a historic decision, the US Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the US Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry. The court ruled 5-4 that the Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law mean that states cannot ban same-sex marriages, making gay marriage legal in all the 50 states.

People from different nationalities including Indians joined the crowd gathered outside the US Supreme Court – cheering and rejoicing. But for India, today’s decision creates what one may call ‘a rainbow divide’ between the world’s oldest and largest democracy. While the US legalised same-sex marriage across the country today, in India under section 377 of the IPC, homosexuality is still criminalised.
I am sure the US Supreme Court decision today will have a ripple effect outside the US too and I am slightly hopeful about a similar positive change back home.
– Ananth Virakthi, a 27-year old gay Indian student studying at the University of Maryland.
But under the present law, would he consider going back home?

It would be easier for me to live a free life here without being judged or facing peer and parental pressure as a gay man, but it certainly would be so much sweeter if I could live that life back home as well. I believe where I decide to live, will be hugely depend on my ability to live an open, honest life as a gay man.
– Ananth Virakthi

India’s archaic law that dates back to the 1860 British colonial law, is not just a cause of worry for Indians from the LGBT community but also for foreigners travelling to India. Jessica who works as a US foreign services officer and has been in a same sex marriage since 2010 tells me that it is a big challenge to find postings in countries that respect their sexual orientation.

Finding those entry points where the host country government will be respectable of the cultural norms and also protect human rights and equality is a priority.
– Jessica

The scenes outside the US Supreme Court are reminiscent of those witnessed in Delhi on July 2009 when the Delhi High Court struck down section 377 and decriminalised homosexuality. But almost four years later in December 2013 the Supreme Court of India overruled the Delhi High Court order, placing the onus on the parliament to amend section 377 of the IPC criminalising homosexuality. Meanwhile, the Modi government has said that it has no plans to amend or repeal section 377 till the Supreme Court settles the matter. A curative petition on decriminalising section 377 of the IPC remains pending in the apex court.

A government led by a Hindu nationalist party and opposed to homosexuality can be anti minority in all senses of the term. For years we won’t see any change, they have a majority they can do whatever they want.
– Samar Khurshid, a journalist and the son of a senior Congress leader who was present outside the US Supreme Court.

At present there are 21 countries where same sex marriage is legalised. Will India follow suit? Well, to many hopeful Indians and global citizens today’s ruling only proves that ultimately #LoveWins .


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