Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government opposes recognizing same-sex marriages

The Indian government is reportedly pushing back activists’ attempt to legalize same-sex marriage.

Officials have asked the court to dismiss LGBT couples’ challenges to the current legal framework, reported Reuters news agency, which saw an application filed with the Supreme Court on Sunday.

The Department of Justice believes that while societal relationships can take different forms, legal recognition of marriage should be reserved for heterosexual relationships only, and that the state has a legitimate interest in maintaining this.

“Cohabitation as partners and sexual relations of same-sex individuals … is not comparable to the Indian concept of family unity of husband, wife and children,” the ministry argued in papers submitted to Reuters news agency, but which were not made public.

The court cannot be asked to “change the country’s entire legislative policy, which is deeply embedded in religious and social norms,” ​​it said.

India’s top court decriminalized homosexuality in a historic ruling in 2018, overturning a colonial-era ban on gay sex after years of activism and lobbying.

The latest case is seen as a major milestone in the development of LGBT rights in India, home to 1.4 billion people.

The topic is still highly sensitive: Talking openly about homosexuality is still taboo for many in the socially conservative country.

At least 15 lawsuits, some by gay couples, asking the court to recognize same-sex marriages have been filed in recent months, setting the stage for this legal confrontation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

Which other countries have legalized same-sex marriage?

Same-sex marriage is not as widespread in Asia as it is in the West.

Taiwan was the first in the region to recognize such marriage, while other countries like Malaysia still criminalize same-sex acts.

Singapore ended a ban on gay sex last year but took steps to outlaw same-sex marriages.

Japan is the only country among the Group of Seven (G7) nations that does not legally recognize same-sex partnerships, although the public largely supports the recognition.

In India, the issue has fueled tensions in the media and in parliament, where in December a member of Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party called on the government to take a firm stand against petitions submitted to the Supreme Court.

LGBTQ+ activists argue that while the 2018 ruling upheld their constitutional rights, it’s unjust that they still lack legal protections for their marriages – a fundamental right enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

“We can’t do so many things in the process of living together and building a life together,” one of the litigants in the current case, businessman Uday Raj Anand, told Reuters in December.

In Sunday’s filing, the government argued that the 2018 ruling could not mean recognizing a fundamental legal right to same-sex marriage under the country’s laws.

The intention behind the current marriage law “was limited to the recognition of a legal relationship of marriage between a man and a woman, represented as husband and wife”.

The government has argued that changes to the legal structure should be left to the elected parliament, not the court.

The cases are due to be heard in the Supreme Court on Monday.

If India were to legalize same-sex marriage, it would become the 33rd country to do so, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

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