RSS backs Centre’s stance against same-sex marriage
The comments by RSS general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale came a day after the Supreme Court decided that a batch of petitions demanding legal validation for same-sex marriages will be decided by a Constitution bench that will start hearings in April.
New Delhi: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on Tuesday backed the central government’s stance against same-sex marriage and said such unions should only exist between two people from opposite genders, underlining the deep social divide over the complex issue.
The comments by RSS general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale came a day after the Supreme Court decided that a batch of petitions demanding legal validation for same-sex marriages will be decided by a Constitution bench that will start hearings in April. The government has opposed the pleas, and on Tuesday, Union law minister Kiren Rijiju justified the stance, drawing a distinction between legalising homosexuality and recognising same-sex marriages.
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Asked about the Sangh’s stand on same-sex marriage, Hosabale said the RSS agreed with the Centre.
“Marriage is a sacrament in Hindu philosophy of life, not a contract but an institution, not an instrument for enjoyment, and people of same sex cannot marry for their personal interests”, he said, adding that as two individuals from different genders marry for welfare of society not fulfilment of personal or physical sexual enjoyment. “Rather steps should be taken to end the evils like dowry but marriage should take place between a man and woman,” he added.
He was speaking at a press conference in Panipat.
On Sunday, the Centre filed its affidavit in the top court, arguing that legal validation of same-sex marital unions will cause “complete havoc” with the delicate balance of personal laws in the country and that the legislative policy in India recognises marriage as a bond only between a biological man and a biological woman.
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In Delhi at the Lokmat Parliamentarian Awards, Rijiju justified that stand, saying the sanctity and tradition of marriage has to be respected. “A person of any sex can choose to live a particular life. But when you talk about marriage, it is an institution, they are guided by different provisions and laws. A law has to be enacted by the Parliament of India since it represents the people. Marriage is an institution, it has sanctity, and is accompanied by our laws and traditions,” he said.
India decriminalised homosexuality in 2018; over the past two years, a number of people from the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community approached various high courts and the apex court, demanding legal status for their same-sex relationships, and saying their rights were violated by the denial of marriage recognition. In court, the government attempted to draw a distinction between decriminalising same-sex relationships and recognising same-sex marriages. The government told the top court bench that the State was not coming in the way of people’s right to same-sex relationships which was held to be lawful after the 2018 judgment in the Navtej Singh Johar case, but the right to love is completely different from a mechanism to give sanctity to social relationships.
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“Granting sanctity or legal recognition is essentially a function of the State. Since there would be a wide range of issues arising out of such recognition and may render various statutory provisions otiose, it is only for the competent legislature to examine these issues,” solicitor general Tushar Mehta argued.
The comments by Hosabale are important because they represent a key moment in the evolution of the Sangh’s views on same-sex rights. In an interview in January, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat acknowledged that LGBT people existed in India and were accepted by society, specifically saying that such communities also had a right to live. Hosabale himself caused a stir in 2016 when he told the audience at the India Today Conclave that the Sangh didn’t believe homosexuality was a crime. At the time, the court had not read down Section 377, a colonial-era provision that outlawed “unnatural sex”.
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To be sure, several Sangh members have expressed discomfort with same-sex relationships and granting equal marriage, adoption and inheritance rights to LGBT communities. Hosabale himself walked back his 2016 comments days later, calling homosexuality a psychological problem.