Before I could even comprehend real and important concepts, such as death, heartbreak, success or failure – I knew I wasn’t allowed to marry a Dalit man, or a Muslim man, or a man ‘belonging’ to any other religion – although acknowledgment of religions beyond Islam and Hinduism was rare.
I was 8 at the time, maybe 10, and as a 28-year-old woman now, I am in disbelief that of all things, this made it to the list of lessons my family wanted their little child to learn.
This is not about me, I promise. I just want to put into perspective how deeply problematic are the motives for marrying in this country. They are transactional, reminders of a deal.
No surprise then that a vast majority of people are opposing marriage equality, even in 2023. A deal can only happen between people who exist, and while we have come a long way, there is a good reason to believe that the Indian society still doesn’t believe in the existence of queer love, which significantly impacts the law. This is a straight attack on the existence of queer persons, who, ironically, want to marry to honor their love.
This forms the basis of the recent Supreme Court hearings, but for a second, I want to focus on the bigger belief of the majority of Indian traditionalists. The widespread delusion that marriages, the ones that are recognised in this country, are a “divine union”. They are absolutely not.
Of course there are (delightful and reassuring) exceptions to this, but largely speaking, marriages are tools to either attain or build on existing privileges associated with gender, caste, religion, financial status…the list goes on.
A report published in 2020 suggested that the inter-caste marriages in India have not seen a rise in percentage in the last 4 decades. This means that we are becoming more casteist with time. Another survey on inter-religion marriages paints an equally grim picture.
Here, I would be remiss not to note that in many cases, couples are forced to marry within their community, which makes them victims as well. The larger point, though, remains the same. People who are most aggressively fighting against same-sex marriages are the ones who claim to believe in Gods’ will. I fail to understand how and why Gods would be so willing to give men virtual control over women and for the privileged to continue being privileged.
It’s also interesting – and paradoxical – how conversations about queer marriages are the closest we have gotten to discussing the actual divinity in romantic relationships. These couples want to be together simply out of love, and are demanding legal rights that matrimony guarantees.
All of this is not to say, though, that a marriage should compulsorily be spiritual – a lot of people don’t even believe in God, a right they should be afforded. It could very well be a deal; but the terms of the deal should be set by individuals getting married and they shouldn’t perpetuate discrimination.
A marriage could also be a compromise, because people live complicated lives and it is only for them to decide what they owe and to whom.
Marriage could be a safety net for people who are tired from spending time outside it.
Everyone does not find love and romance in the same person, marriage could mean companionship to them, and for those who never found it, marriage can be a way to obtain support.
So, maybe, the institution is not so much about pleasing the Gods. Maybe, after all, it is about keeping our hearts safe. Or maybe there are no rules to this thing.
In India, today, people in heterosexual relationships can decide what their marriage means to them…but they are the only ones. It is absurd how one person would enjoy this freedom and another would not.
It’s the freedom to make a promise, which, sometimes, is all that love is. But how to explain this to the courts?!