Recognition of same-sex unions in India

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India does not have a uniform civil code and every citizen has the right to choose the civil code that applies 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 Marriage Laws in India:

None of the codified Marriage Acts enacted by the Union of India explicitly defines marriage 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.


Since 1987, when the national press carried the story of two policewomen who married each other by Hindu rites in central India,[2] 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.[3]

There have also been a couple of high-profile celebrity same-sex civil-partnerships (same-sex marriage was not possible under French law until 2013, only civil-partnerships), such as the civil union of designer Wendell Rodricks with his French partner Jerome Marrel, conducted under French law in Goa, India.

Push for Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages[edit]

Several LGBT rights activists have acknowledged that a step by step approach is required to tackle all the issues and rights of the LGBT citizens of India. At the moment, the focus of the activists remain to repeal the Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, workplace equality and non discrimination. Nevertheless, LGBT rights organisations are optimistic and are working on winning the right to same-sex marriage, inspired by the progress achieved in several countries. In April 2014 Medha Patkar of the Aam Aadmi Party stated that her party supports the legalisation of same-sex marriage.[4]

A single case of legal recognition of same sex marriage was granted by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2011[5]

See also[edit]