LGBTQ Advocates Disappointed
In a highly anticipated ruling, India’s highest court has deferred a decision on the legalisation of same-sex marriages, leaving LGBTQ rights advocates disappointed. The five judges presiding over the case concluded that only the Indian parliament possesses the authority to make such a significant decision.
It marked a pivotal moment for LGBTQ activists in India, as they eagerly awaited the top court’s verdict on the legality of same-sex marriages. However, the decision they hoped for did not materialise. The five-judge panel unanimously ruled that the power to legalise same-sex marriage rested with the Indian parliament.
“We Lack the Jurisdiction,” Justices Said
In a live broadcast of the judgment, the justices stated that the court lacked the jurisdiction to legalise same-sex unions. Nonetheless, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul expressed a personal opinion on the matter, emphasising the need to address the historical injustice by recognising both non-heterosexual and heterosexual unions as equal.
Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud acknowledged that same-sex relationships are an integral part of India’s history, seemingly countering the government’s solicitor general, who had labelled same-sex marriage as urban elitist in a submission opposing legalisation. Experts however argue that distinctions exist between same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage, which the activists expect the court to rule on as part of India’s culture. Earlier this year, 21 activists brought their plea before the Supreme Court, arguing that they were subjected to discrimination due to their inability to legally marry.
Combat Discrimination Against Same-Sex Couples
While the government has not officially responded to the ruling, aligned groups have celebrated it. Vishnu Gupta, leader of the Hindu Sena, echoed the court’s decision, asserting that marriage should remain exclusively between a man and a woman.
The court did issue an order for the government to establish a committee to investigate ways to combat discrimination against same-sex couples. However, it remains unclear when this committee will be formed. Prominent LGBTQ advocate Anish Gawande emphasised that the upcoming election year may hinder government action on this matter.
Gawande underscored India’s progress on LGBTQ rights, particularly the Supreme Court’s decision five years ago to overturn a colonial-era law that criminalised gay sex. Nevertheless, the future advancement of same-sex marriage rights appears to be in the hands of a government that has thus far resisted such changes.
Like India, Like Nigeria
The documented widespread condemnation of gay marriage in India mirrors recent developments in Nigeria that pose challenges to the LGBTQ community. Police in the southern Delta State arrested numerous individuals accused of violating the country’s anti-gay law, the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act 2013_Nigeria, by allegedly participating in a same-sex wedding. This event highlights the harsh consequences and legal prohibitions that persist in certain parts of the world.
Nigeria’s Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, enacted in 2014, not only criminalises same-sex marriage but also public displays of same-sex relationships, carrying prison sentences of up to 14 and 10 years, respectively. The law (“An Act to prohibit a marriage contract or civil union entered into between persons of same sex, solemnisation of same; and for related matters”) also penalises the establishment, support, and participation in gay organisations with up to 10 years in prison.
The police’s use of this law in 2019 to prosecute 47 men accused of same-sex public displays of affection in Lagos State serves as a reminder of the challenges that LGBTQ individuals still face in certain parts of the world, where they are fighting for their rights and recognition.