Is an individual’s right to love really their own? What role ought society to play? Should this role vary depending on the type of love — inter-caste, inter-faith, same sex?
Exploring modern-day notions of love and the right to express it freely, a recently concluded survey polled 3,293 men and women across India online, in an exercise titled Freedom to Love.
Conducted by I Am Who I Am, a nine-month-old Facebook community whose members advocate freedom to love irrespective of gender, caste or sexual orientation, the online survey found that 95% of respondents express support of same-sex marriage, 94% were in favour of strong laws against ‘honour killings’, and 92% viewed marriages arranged without consent as a violation of individual rights.
“The survey findings reveal that young Indians wish to make their own choices when it comes to love, in a marriage or outside of one,” says Sharif Rangnekar, 47, a Delhi-based communications consultant and founder of I Am Who I Am.
“Interestingly, specific findings also showed how youngsters are not averse to traditions like arranged marriages as such, but they are certain about their rights not being compromised.”
“Such surveys are important because it is important to express love,” adds Prasun Joshi, 35, a gay Delhi-based marketing executive who took the survey. “For instance, as a gay person, I have to think twice before holding a man’s hand or hugging him. I feel caged.”
Sabah Kazi, a single 35-year-old freelance writer from Mumbai who also took the survey, adds that sexual orientation ought to be irrelevant when it comes to freedom of choice. “Just like we have the right to choose where we want to work and what we want to wear, we should also have the freedom to choose our partner, regardless of sexual preference,” she says.
There has been a sea change in the attitude of youngsters; they have become more vocal in expressing their love and asserting their right to choose a life partner, says sociologist Kamala Ganesh. “But I am not sure that ‘liberalism’ extends to areas such as patriarchy, for instance,” Ganesh adds. “So even in a love marriage, a man may still expect dowry or want his wife to look after his parents. This element of conservatism remains.”