When prominent members of the city’s queer community spoke at a public panel discussion on the legalisation of same-sex marriages on Friday, they chose to do it in Marathi.
The idea, they said, was to prove that terms such as queer rights and gay marriage are not merely concepts borrowed from the West, but real desires of people in the city.
Held at Coppergate in Bandra, the discussion was organised by a collective of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organisations as part of the Queer Pride Week, which culminates in the Pride March on Saturday.
“Same-sex marriage makes sense only if it gives the couple the same rights as a heterosexual couple, such as the right to have joint accounts and adopt children,” said Manvendrasingh Gohil, gay rights activist and prince of Rajpipla in Gujarat, the only panellist who did not speak in Marathi.
According to lawyer Vijay Hiremath, legalisation of gay marriages would be a better yardstick for measuring India’s progress than its flourishing economy.
“Marriage is one of the strongest institutions in our culture, and if 10 countries around the world, including Nepal, have legalised it, we can too,” said Hiremath, who pointed out that the United Nations also recognises same-sex marriage as a human right.
While a few members of the audience were concerned about religious acceptance of gay marriage, panellist and activist Ashok Row Kavi believes homosexuals need to be honest about their reasons for demanding legalisation.
“We need gay marriage for its material benefits, such as the power to buy property jointly or get insurance. Why do we need religious rituals?” said Kavi, who believes the fight for same-sex marriages still has a long way to go.
“The Delhi high court has only decriminalised our existence under several conditions, but they still have to recognise our rights,” added Kavi.